Rubin: I remember playing golf with Arthur Hills; I hope he was able to forget playing golf with me

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

I will never forget my round of golf with Arthur Hills. I hope for his sake he was able to forget his round with Neal Rubin.

This would have been in the early 2000s at Red Hawk Golf Club in East Tawas, one of my favorite courses in Michigan. Red Hawk is beautiful, challenging, underpriced and too often, like the rest of the Sunrise Coast, forgotten, which the local chamber of commerce was trying to fix by inviting media from all over the state for a visit.

Hills, the renowned and revered course designer from Toledo who died Tuesday at 91, was there because Red Hawk was one of his creations. I was there because my wife was involved with the promotion.

Arthur Hills designed more than 20 courses in Michigan, and renovated Oakland Hills multiple times.

I’d been an Arthur Hills fan since playing a few of his picturesque and creative courses in Hilton Head, South Carolina, early in what passes for my golf career. There was a drawing at the event to have Hills round out your foursome, and I prefer to believe there was no sleight of hand involved when I won.

He was in his 70s and had the posture of a 20-year-old Marine. He used a slender golf bag with an assortment of irons and only two woods, both made by Cleveland. A former golf captain at Michigan State, he had a smooth, compact, efficient swing, and he hit everything dead straight.

I didn’t.

I was a high handicapper back then. I’m also a high handicapper today, the only difference being that I have a slightly better idea now of all the things I can’t stop doing wrong.

Take my incompetence factor, multiply it by a choke factor and throw in an impromptu case of the yips, and that was my round. My scorecard looked like a Keno ticket. Ground balls, foul balls, scuffed balls … the only thing I typically have going for me on the golf course is low expectations, but this was humiliating.

Or, if you were Arthur Hills, excruciating.

He was not at all an unpleasant man, but nor was he a backslapper telling the latest golf jokes to his newfound pals. The other two members of our group were better than me but less than good, and he surely realized early that there was nothing he could do to help. Even the fellow who designed the course can’t tell you to place your drive left-center on No. 8 when you’re just hoping to keep it in the correct ZIP Code area.

It occurred to me late in the round that he might never have played with a worse golfer than I was that day.

I strongly suspect that the same thing occurred to him much earlier.

Fortunately, the experience did not make him give up golf.

Inexplicably, I stuck with it, too.

So rest in peace, Arthur Hills, and if you remembered that round at all, I only hope you couldn’t recall my name.

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Twitter: @nealrubin_dn