Imagine the following scene: I’m walking on 23rd street toward my car. There’s glass everywhere, and I carefully plot each step around it. I look up. My rear passenger side window is busted. Really. I try to stay calm and assess the scene. Ok, my phone charger is gone. A bag of coins I use for parking is as well, and my car’s insurance and owner’s manual are torn up on the sidewalk.
A woman with her dog hurries by. Does she think I’m breaking into my own car?
Shoot, shoot, shoot. Clubs! Where are my clubs? I pop open the trunk. Oh. My. God. My prized Texas Mid-Amateur participant headcover; that new HZRDUS shaft I’ve been trying to work myself into; the set I shot my career-best 70 with. Everything is gone.
Here’s the thing about stealing gear from someone who’s worked in the golf industry – you can run with my clubs, but you can’t really hide them. I know my equipment very, very well, and I am determined to track it all down. I call every golf store in the area, and I obsessively check – and recheck – ads on eBay and Craigslist. Three weeks later, just when I think I’m the victim of an elaborate, underground, golf-club-stealing crime ring, there they are – listed for $2,000 and mere blocks from the scene of the crime. As panicked as I am, there’s no chance that my jumbo grip, 1-inch over, and 3-degree upright sticks will command $2,000 on the open market. Still though, I need to work fast!
I immediately call the local police precinct to explain the situation. Even with a filed police report in hand, I sense there isn’t much they can do. After a day without hearing back, I catch a break. Through a friend, I am put in touch with another police officer. He’s a golfer and a member at a course I know well, so there’s instant rapport between us. He essentially tells me where to go, who to talk to, and what to say.
Meanwhile, I start a dialogue with the person who has my clubs. At this point, all I know is that they’re still available, he wants two grand, and he can meet up at 7pm.
Following the golfing officer’s advice, I head down to the police station. After an hour or so of waiting, form filling, and transfers, two officers come out. Unfortunately, they aren’t golfers. “We’d love to help,” they say. “There’s just one problem; we don’t have any plain clothes officers working right now. So, if you want to do this, you need to meet the seller yourself. Confirm it’s your property, and then we’ll move in.”
I’m not one to be confrontational. Unless you tee up in front of the box – which for some reason really bothers me – I tend to mind my own business. In golf and in life. Not once did I consider having to face this person, so it was a major snag in my plan. I also don’t live in the best part of town, and masterminding an undercover sting operation a few blocks from my apartment wasn’t a great look.
The officers do what they can to quell my uneasiness, and I ultimately decide to play along.
I suit up. Baggy jeans, a hoodie, and the most nondescript hat I can find – ironically, a Fisher’s Island Club hat I borrowed/stole from a buddy who played there. 20 minutes later, I’m on a street corner waiting for someone to surface from a run-down San Francisco Victorian. The cops are nearby, and we’re in communication over text. A few moments later, a guy wheels a fully-loaded travel case towards me. We shake hands and he introduces himself. He starts telling me a story about how he got the clubs a few months before. For two of the most drawn-out minutes of my life, I stand there quietly. Listening. Trying to understand what would possess anyone to break into a car and take something from someone they know nothing about. And then, just when I think the cops found something better to do, two police cars rush in. Handcuffs clip together, and that’s that.
All my stuff is there. Even a bag-tag with my name on it hangs in plain sight. I walk the officers through every detail (the burden is on me to prove ownership). “There’s a dent on the 60-degree wedge half way up the grip; my left shoe is missing a spike; there are golf balls from my bachelor party, but the personalized logo is a bit crude, so maybe don’t include that in your report!” They loved the detail.
I ride with the officers to the precinct to give a full statement. A few days later, I’m called by the District Attorney’s office; they’re prosecuting for possession of stolen property and need me to testify. The city wins, and my clubs are returned from evidence a few weeks later.
Believe me, a lot of effort was expended here. When I’m standing over that 6-foot putt for 69 and my first ever round in the sixties, hopefully I’ll say it was worth all the trouble and drain the putt.