Today was a beautiful sunny and warm Spring day in Summerville, South Carolina and I played golf at The Summerville Country Club's Miler Golf Course in the noon blitz. It was a round that I will remember for quite some time, not because of the nice weather and not because of anything related to my golf game, but because it was the first blitz that I have played in since the death of a regular blitz golfer, Tommy Scruggs. Now Tommy had been sick for a couple of months and had been absent from the golf course during his illness, but up until his death I think several of us expected to show up at the first tee one day to find Tommy serving in his usual capacity as starter and ranger, or possibly to have him drive up to us on a really hot and humid day with a cooler full of ice to refresh us. But the news last Thursday that Tommy had lost his battle with that bitch of a disease, cancer, changed all of those hopes and expectations.
Tommy was a true Southern Gentleman, one of the first persons that I met on the golf course shortly after moving to Summerville from West Virginia. The first time that I ever played the Miler Course, Tommy was the ranger. Not only did he give me thorough directions on how to proceed around the course, at a couple of times throughout my round he showed up on his golf cart to check in on me. The second time back to the course a couple of weeks later he remembered my name and shortly after greeting me at the first tee, he invited me to come out and "join up with the blitz." Now I was just a fee player at this semi-private golf club and I had no idea what he was inviting me to do, so I asked him about the blitz. And he told me, in his trademark aw shucks fashion, that it was "just a bunch of us old guys that get together every weekday around noon and play golf." Well I took Tommy up on his invitation and was I ever glad that I did.
In no time at all, I was also a fairly regular Miler blitz participant and consequently I have met and developed some great "golf course friends" all because of the hospitality of a man named Tommy Scruggs. Tommy was a likeable guy who told me one day about growing up in Mississippi and how he came about ending up in Summerville. He smiled that smile telling me about his "wild days" and some of the trouble he used to get into. Tommy was always sure to strike up a conversation with both of my sons when I would take them with me to the golf course, and I always enjoyed telling them about Tommy's Bridge.
Now there are probably thousands of noteworthy bridges on various golf courses around the world. In fact two of the most famous golf course bridges are known to golfers world-wide. St. Andrews in Scotland has the Swilcan Bridge, and Augusta National is home to the Hogan Bridge.
These functional landmarks are almost universally recognized by just about anybody who plays the game. Well, Miler has a noteworthy bridge as well, maybe not as world renowned as the two aforementioned bridges, but famous in a local sense just the same. The eighteenth hole at Miler is a fairly short par five hole with a large lake at the end of the landing area off of the tee that happens to also serve as the elbow of a nearly ninety-degree dog leg. There is a small wooden bridge that leads from the landing zone to the approach side of the eighteenth fairway. The hole demands a fairly precise drive in order to place one in the position of hitting their second shot cleanly across the lake, hit the ball too long off of the tee and you are in the lake, hit the ball too short off of the tee and you are forced to lay up short of the lake on your second shot leaving a tough third shot up the hill to the elevated green. There is one other option to laying up on your second shot, and as legend has it, this option was exercised quite liberally by one Tommy Scruggs. The little bridge has come to be called Tommy's Bridge because of the propensity for Tommy to hit an accurate and low second shot that would skip a couple of times on the bermuda grass fairway before riding over the hazard on the wooden bridge. One of the first times I played in the blitz one of the golfers in my group equaled the task and was reminded by another golfer that he owed Tommy a one-dollar toll for using his bridge. At the end of one of my rounds after skipping a shot across the bridge I met up with Tommy in the club house and handed him a dollar bill, he just smiled his trademark smile and said, "you used my bridge huh?"
Through the years I have had several old golfing buddies change their memberships to that great golf course in the sky. Tommy isn't the first, and sadly he won't be the last. He seemed like a guy who didn't know a stranger and I can't imagine him having any enemies. I am sure that every time I play the 18th hole at Miler I will think of Tommy Scruggs. And I will be ever grateful that he invited me to "join up with a bunch of old guys and get together and play some golf."