The Natural

Part of Patrick’s problem was that he always shot for par when he had a chance for bird. His form was elegant, his focus, obscene. His was the kind of game other guys on the tour would have severed a toe for, or a pinky maybe. He was “The Natural,” and a lock, most agreed, to turn pro before he’d be old enough to drink. But one thing about him—he didn’t have the stones. That’s what his tour-mates said. He couldn’t seal the deal, couldn’t shut the door. And Patrick wouldn’t go in for the kill, not even when there was blood in the water. It wasn’t in his nature.

Some of the guys on the tour benefited from this directly. Most knew Patrick well enough that, on a given Sunday, they had a 50-50 chance of winning if he was up by fewer than five strokes. Sniffle a little during the putt-around, float a sob story on the third hole about how much the kids missed them or how the wife had called last night, pissed off again that the account was overdrawn…and Patrick was done. In fact, a handful of them knew that anytime anyone drew within two strokes by the turn on Sunday, it was game over. Second-place check for The Natural. No doubt.

When the day came that “The Natural” got his tour card, everyone was at the party. Some of them even felt bad when Patrick smiled as they stiffed him on the bill.