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Men of My Tribe: My Golf Partner - Blanche Martin

To my dismay, when I first met Blanche I didn’t know who he was, or anything about him. It was shortly after Bro. Morgan passed I believe, I know it was fall. The golf season had ended, but I was out at the golf range hitting a bucket of balls. This old guy was their, talking up a storm. He showed me his “9” wood. Said it was all he could hit these days. I showed him my hybrid 3/ 4 irons, they looked the same. He said it was the only way he could get any distance anymore. I said it was the only way I could hit it straight. I have a problem going from woods to irons and back again. I can hit woods, or irons, but not both in the same round.
We exchanged pleasantries and pledged to go out one day and play a round or two. That was the last time we spoke that season. I ran into him again in the spring standing in line at the credit union. We were glad to see each other and I said I started to call, he said the same. He had forgotten my name, and I had forgotten his number. He gave his card, his picture on it grinning from ear-to-ear. He was a dentist, one of the first black dentist in the area (actually he was the 2nd). I gave him my name again, I told him my middle name is the same as his last name, that helped a lot.
I called him up, and we played a few rounds that summer. We had a great time. He kept me laughing, I could hardly hit the ball. We took a cart because he had had knee surgery back in the early ‘60’s when he played football. This didn’t bother me a bit, having bad knees myself.
For those of you who don’t know, or don’t recognize the name, Dr. Martin played football at Michigan State in the late 50’s. He played a little pro ball with the Jets and the Chargers before becoming a dentist.
He’s a real remarkable man, one of those renaissance people you hear about. He was big and strong and fast and as smart as anyone. He could’ve been anything that he wanted to be from Astronaut to Zoologist, he’s just that intelligent and gifted. Now he’s in his mid-to-late 70’s, diabetic w/bad knees and lots of memories, but he can still hit a ball near as far as I can.
We played a few times over the course of the year, but didn’t keep in contact over the winter (what do golf buddies talk about in the winter?).
Spring came and the Postal Golf League changed some of the rules over the winter, particularly the one that prohibited non-postal employees. Which was real fortunate for me because my former golf partner, Bill, who had retired the year before was moving to Florida! This left me without a partner. I asked around work, offering to pay for the whole season with no takers. A season of free golf! And I couldn’t find a partner. Makes me wonder about some of my co-workers and our relationships. I’m not very good, but I had been most improved golfer w/Bill as my partner. We came within a stone’s throw of winning the Fun Night Scramble.
That’s when I contacted Blanche. I asked him if he could play regularly on Thursday nights. I told him I’d pay his entrée fee for the whole season if he could. He jumped on it. He was a great partner. A lot of the retired guys new he was better than I did. They had grown up listening to him on the radio. It was like having a hero for a partner! My game still stunk, but we had a great time. Blanche never failed to impress. His golf game had gone south, but we sang old hymns, and he told stories. He’d hit a bad shot and go: “I don’t know what’s happened to my game. I used love to hit irons. But back in the day …”
Yeah, he had his day, they weren’t too far gone. He still beat me on a regular basis, and watch out when he starts a sentence with “I had a buddy once …” it’s going to be a doesy! Or his other favorite: “Me and this o’l gal …”. He loves to tell his stories, and I love listening to them. I think that’s what he likes about me the most, I like listening to his stories.
I told him that had Bubba Smith died, he told me later that summer that he cried for about an hour. He and Bubba where real close. I figured they knew each other, but I didn’t realize how close they were. I figured Blanche had been a dentist by the time Bubba came along, but he had stayed in contact with the team and had kind of mentored Bubba. He said that his Secretary/assistant like Bubba so he fixed her up with him. Said he called him a couple of days later and told him that she had to get back to work, he couldn’t afford to pay her to lay around with him all day. They were that close.
He’s lived quite the life. He’s buried 3 wives, cheated on all of them except the last one, and doesn‘t know why, 1 son, and his mother. A some point it sounds like Job from the bible: God gave him so much, took it away, and gave it back more.
I feel blessed in that way, Blanche as my golf partner, one of my other friends is a former Globetrotter, and another is a Silver Medalist in the ‘84 Olympics. It’s nice to know these people, call them friends, and have them in your life, but sometimes it makes it look like I haven’t done anything with what God has given me, but then you realize that with all God has given them, they’re still right here with me.




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