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Passage in Paradise

But to my surprise, Russell was the only person who wanted to play every day. Paul wrenched his back. Sam loved it all and improved dramatically during the week, but even he needed a break. Russell couldn't get enough. After he finished the Prince, playing every shot "down," no matter how tough the trap or rough, I said, "There isn't a harder course in the world, under worse conditions, than the one you just played. You can go anywhere now."

After that he gained confidence, shooting 108, 106 and 104. Once, on a par four, he hit the stick with his second shot. On a stretch of seven holes on the last day, he hit five greens in regulation. "How many strokes is he giving you?" a guy in another group asked me. The better Russ played, the better Sam played, too. Surviving the Prince had made them real golfers in their own minds.

The biggest shock, however, came after we returned home. One day, with one of his friends watching, Russell beat me at Ping-Pong, which had never happened. Then he beat me at a game of Horse, at the driveway basketball hoop. Finally, one day after school, he said, "How many points do you think I scored in our basketball scrimmage today?" He couldn't wait for a guess. "Seventeen!" he said, the word exploding from him. "Seventeen baskets! Thirty-four points!"

He must have seen from my face that this seemed impossible.

"Dad," he said, "everybody was feeding me, and I was on fire."

Now when I ask if he scored in practice, he'll say, "Four," or "Six," casually, like it's no big deal. Even he knows thirty-four may not come again. Yet the coach vows it's true. It happened. But the coach doesn't know why.

We do, don't we?

For a Tee Time, call ...

The Kiele course, at Kauai Lagoons Resort

Poipu Bay Resort Golf Club

The Prince and Makai courses, at Princeville Resort

Worth a look...

The Kiahuna Golf Club (808-742-9595) on the south shore. This crafty, short (6,400 yards) Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout is fun, but it's inland. Wailua Golf Course (808-245-8092) is a superior public track along the beach that has held many tournaments and provides a serious, windy test. However, its holes, though pretty, have a visual sameness.

Stay away from...

The Nicklaus-designed Lagoons course, at Kauai Lagoons. What a high-ticket heist! It's right next to the airport, and worse than the nearby planes is the gunfire. Yes, gunfire. Beach birds are a hazard to jet engines, so the birds have to be scared away about once a minute--by a machine that mimics gunfire. Why not just play golf in the middle of a gang war in the Bronx?Hey, Jack, at least issue earplugs.


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