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Fish & Chips

A fellow who introduced himself as Spencer moped along, his brooding frown appropriate for a heathland course like Crosswater. When he hit a poor shot, he made public declarations to no one in particular. A bad slice off the second tee brought, "The difference between golf and baseball is that in baseball you don't have to play the foul balls." When his putt bounced along the green, he said simply, "I scrilled." When he hooked hard off the fifth tee, called Little Deschutes, and sent his ball into the same, he told himself, "Swing thought," but didn't say what it was.

He sliced again from the sixth tee—a 635-yard, two-forced-carry par five called Cupp Crossin'—and announced that "poor golfers carry past mistakes with them and create more mistakes as they go." When his shot from the edge of the eighth fairway splashed down into the river, he shrugged and said, "Fish and chips."

"Exactly," I replied.

Making short work of the ninth hole, fittingly called Bachelor, I managed to par this front-tee 327-yard par four. Excusing myself from my dark vortex .of a golf partner, I hiked over to the Deschutes River, assembled my beloved five-piece Winston travel rod and tied on a Coal Car, the classic Deschutes fly on which I'd caught my first steelhead two years earlier. With downhearted proclamations fading like a bad memory, I cast and recast into that impending Oregon night while the clouds became magenta trout leaping over little lavender golf balls and the long, slow trumpet solo from Copland's "Outdoor Overture" played joyfully in my head.

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