Out of BoundsJim Plautz / Mystery & Detective
OUT OF BOUNDS
Match Play Championship
Another Sports Thriller
Created in USA by Custom Sports Novels
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Out of bounds is a gripping novel of Corporate Finance, Drugs, and Politics, told in a backdrop of a highly competitive Golf Tournament. What starts out to be a two-day, 36 hole Match Play Club Championship between former friends, becomes a high stakes, life and death struggle with far-reaching consequences. The author has created a cast of intriguing, real life characters and themes.
Dave Bradford was an 18-handicap player when he moved to Florida five years ago. His current 6-handicap and spot in the finals of the Club Championship is a testimony to hard work, and the tutelage of his friend and mentor, Ken Reid. Buzz Peters, his opponent, is a self-confident, and sometimes arrogant, four handicap golfer. Many believe he is closer to a scratch golfer. Once good friends, Dave and Buzz are now bitter rivals. The reader gains insight into the mind games that are part of a match play tournament.
Bradford is a CPA by background, and uses this training to develop a highly profitable Equipment Leasing and Commercial Mortgage business. This expertise is key to Mario Hernandez’ plan to finance construction of a resort and casino in Mexico, particularly when a $90M drug shipment is mysteriously lost and Mario needs a new financing source. Dave hires Ken Reid and Chris Lewis, a Harvard MBA, to work on Mario’s projects. They find a group of investors based in Zurich, Switzerland who will lend the money. Sven Johansen heads up the Swiss group assisted by Dagfin Jensen, his Chief Financial Officer. Hector Armas of the FBI works with the DEA to uncover the source of the Swiss money.
Mario Hernandez lives the good life in Miami with a beautiful home, yacht and money. Mario is business partners with Fred Shelton in a string of “Shells Restaurants”, but also is partners with Columbian drug figure, Romano Montoya. Romano and Mario have plans to build a string of casinos and resorts as a way to hide their massive drug profits. Joe Martinez, Florida D.A., interrupts these plans with the help of DEA agent Steve Wilson and an unknown informer. Bill Martin, a successful businessman and long time friend of Joe Martinez, uses all means available to finance Martinez’ campaign for Governor.
Mary Cadence, Dave’s fiancée and soon to be stepmother to Dave’s two children, Peter and Lisa, helps out in the business and is the backbone of the family. They are good friends with Fred and Judy Shelton; Buzz Peters and his fiancée, Jill; Mario and Gigi Hernandez; and Bill and Ginny Martin. These friendships are put to the test when Mary is taken hostage.
PAR 4, 380 Yards
Don’t whiff. This was the most important day of his life, at least his sports life, and all he could think of was “don’t whiff”. Ken’s lectures about positive thinking were forgotten – all he could think of was making contact and not embarrassing himself. Hit the ball at least 100 yards.
Dave Bradford stood over the ball and fought to control his emotions. A myriad of thoughts raced through his mind. Perspiration beaded on his forehead and soaked into his glove. Every noise was amplified and every movement registered in his brain. He wanted to scream, “stand still and shut up,” but knew it was just nerves. He couldn’t concentrate. This was the finals of the Club Championship, but Bradford’s thoughts wandered. Playing with Buzz rekindled a lot of bad memories.
Two weeks from today he and Mary were scheduled to exchange wedding vows on Captiva Island, one of the most idyllic spots on Florida’s West coast. Everything was set. They had reserved 125 rooms for four days at the Tween Waters Inn; the Chapel and Old Captiva House restaurant had been reserved, wedding favors had been ordered and a myriad of other details had been addressed. Bradford smiled, realizing how lucky he was. It wasn’t long ago when their relationships was on the rocks, partially a result of today’s opponent.
Bradford struggled to regain focus. What would Tiger do? He smiled inwardly, as he visualized Tiger sweating over a 36 hole, Club Championship match. Better yet, what would his friend and mentor, Ken Reid, tell him to do when the golf demons crept into his mind?
Ken would say; “clear your mind and trust your routine.” Ken had hammered this into Bradford at every practice session. “Dave, develop a routine and do it before each shot; every shot, even on the practice range. Something that you can use to block out everything but the shot in front of you; a routine that allows your muscles to relax and your mind to focus; a routine that allows you to block out the golf demons.”
He stepped away from the ball and noticed a slight smirk on his opponent’s face, but paid no heed. Bradford executed the routine that he had practiced every day for three months; step behind the ball and visualize the shot; clear his mind and address the ball; take one easy practice swing and let it rip. The result was beautiful.
Okay, maybe he didn’t get it all. The drive was a little off the toe of the club, and from the high, left-to-right trajectory, his body was probably way out front when he made contact. But, to him, it was beautiful; 220 yards and in the fairway! Life is good!
Dave smiled as his thoughts drifted back five years ago to when he moved to Tampa to begin a new life. He was only 35 and had just started a new business. His two kids, Peter and Lisa, didn’t want to leave Milwaukee, but had adjusted well. Bradford’s parents lived in St Petersburg and helped immensely. It was tough being a single dad. Their mother, Susan, had passed away six months years earlier after a long, losing battle with cancer. It had been a tough time for everyone and they couldn’t have coped without his parents’ support.
Bradford met Mary Cadence a year later and she made an immediate impression on him – literally, she had made an immediate impression upon him. It was a semi-final match of a Susan G. Komen charity mixed doubles tennis tournament that Dave had agreed to play in. Dave had been paired up with Hilda, a 55 year old woman with a good serve and decent forehand. Dave considered himself a pretty good player although he hadn’t played much since he lost his wife. Saturday they had breezed through their first round match and won a close match to reach the semis. Sunday morning they were paired against Mary and her partner, Angelo.
It didn’t take long to see that they were overmatched. Angelo aced Dave twice in the first game and Mary was dynamite at the net. She also had a kick serve that Dave couldn’t handle. Bradford and Hilda lost the first set 6-1 and trailed 4-2 in the second when it happened. Hilda was serving to Angelo at 15-30 when Dave decided to poach. The return was hit hard and Dave had little time to react. He lunged at the last split second got his racquet out in front of him and was rewarded when he felt the ball strike squarely in the middle of the strings. He was a little bit late and could only watch as the ball veered directly at Mary’s chest.
Mary was playing a typical doubles position, just inside the service line and half way between the doubles line and service line. She wasn’t as tight to the net as a beginner might play, but was positioned close enough to pounce on a weak volley, and back far enough to protect against a lob. Mary had demonstrated earlier that she could put away the overhead.
Dave wasn’t thinking about any of this as his volley veered towards Mary. He feared the worst. He knew he had hit the ball hard and inadvertently broken the cardinal rule of club-level, mixed doubles. The man doesn’t take cheap shots at the woman. To his credit, Dave’s thoughts were only for her safety as he waited for the sickening sound of ball hitting flesh. Dave had been nailed himself a couple times and knew it would hurt.
Events unfurled in slow motion in Dave’s mind, but fortunately not in Mary’s. Her mid-sized Prince racket was held high in front with the strings facing to the sides. She used a continental grip making it easier to switch from forehand to backhand and to quickly react to volleys to either side. Her eyes were straight ahead, waiting to pick up the flight of the service return when the ball came past her left shoulder. She heard the pop of her partner’s return and her muscles tensed. She also saw the guy beginning his poach and reacted instinctively. Countless lessons as a kid and years of experience taught her what to expect. Good players are more difficult to read, but this guy wasn’t a good player. He wasn’t bad, but wasn’t about to do anything fancy like softening his grip to hit a drop shot. No, this guy would slam the ball hard up the middle or angled at her feet. She automatically changed her body position slightly to the left and changed to a backhand grip. She was ready.
Dave feared the worst and was momentarily caught off guard when the woman dropped her left foot behind her, leaned backwards to allow her racquet to get in front and volleyed behind him to the open court. He marveled at her athleticism before realizing the point was not over. He still had a chance. Bradford was more of an athlete than a tennis player and stopped on a time, reversed direction and lunged for the ball. He did well to get his racquet on it but was disappointed to see the ball pop weakly into the air. Mary closed in for an easy overhead. What happened next is a matter of interpretation and still a continuous bone of contention.
“You just stood there, like a deer in headlights,” Mary argues. “Then at the last second you moved to your left.”
“You were just mad because you thought I tried to hit you with the volley,” Bradford responds.
“That may be true, but I wouldn’t have hit you if you hadn’t moved, at least not there.”
Nobody disagrees about what happened. It might have been a solid overhead mixed with a little revenge, but the ball caught Bradford square on his noggin leaving a Penn 2 logo imprinted on his forehead. He collapsed like a giant redwood felled by one might swing of Paul Bunyan’s axe. He landed with a thud and for the next 30 seconds saw nothing but stars. Bradford slowly regained full consciousness and looked up at Mary, standing over him with tears glistening in her eyes.
“Are you okay?”
Bradford tried to make a joke, but all he could do was mumble incoherently. His only thoughts were how beautiful this woman was.
“You got me,” Dave said sheepishly.
The following week Bradford asked Mary to a movie and the two have been an item ever since. Three months later Mary began to spend most weekends at the Bradfords, an arrangement that soon evolved into a full time gig. Dave’s kids, Pete (12) and Lisa (10), accepted Mary and grew to love her almost as much as he does. That was important to him. The kids need a mother but it was too soon for Dave to consider marriage. He had fallen in love with Mary, but his memories of Susan were still too vivid. They agreed to wait.
Six months later he had a heart to heart talk with Pete and Lisa. He wanted to make sure they understood that Mary was not a replacement for their mother and that she would always have a special place in his heart.
“Are you kids okay with Mary and me getting married?”
“Dad, it’s about time.”
The following weekend Dave proposed to Mary on a beautiful beach on Captiva Island.
Mary said yes.
Buzz Peters strutted confidently to the tee and set up for his drive. He looked like a golfer. At 6’-2”, 220 pounds, he could nail a golf ball. Club champion for the last two years, plays to a four handicap, but he always seems to shoot 70 or 71 if there was money on the game. There was a “Buzz” at every club. But, to his credit, he was quite a golfer. Bradford had played with him several times in a Saturday foursome, and was always impressed with his game. He seemed to have every shot. The last time they played together Peters shot 73 despite taking two penalty shots, eight strokes better than Bradford’s 81. If Peters had a weakness, it was his supreme confidence in his ability; some club members called it arrogance. No shot was impossible.
Buzz took little time over his tee shot; one small waggle and he launched a long draw that landed near Bradford’s drive, and took off. Florida fairways are hard in October. The summer rainy season with almost daily afternoon thundershowers was over. The ball rolled more than 60 yards after bounding wildly off the firm fairway. The advantage of a draw versus a slice, he thought, but in the back of his mind knew it was more than that. However, it was no time to get negative.
Buzz high-fived his friends as he walked off the tee and said something that Bradford couldn’t quite pick up. A couple of them laughed and glanced his way. That was Buzz.
Bradford got into his golf cart, alone with his thoughts. Mary wasn’t here today; she was playing Buzz’ fiancée, Jill, in the finals of the club tennis championship. He did have a dozen friends in the small crowd; mostly club members that were pulling for him. Their support was appreciated.
Players are basically alone on a golf course. Pros have a caddie to help them read putts, calculate yardages to the pin, and provide support. Caddies even make sure that there are only 14 clubs in their bag, although Ian Woosman found out the hard way that isn’t always the case. He was assessed a 2-stroke penalty at the British Open for a 15th club. He had taken two drivers to the practice tee and the extra club was not removed. Woosman handled the situation gracefully, but was soon looking for a new caddie.
The pro-caddie relationship is different with each player and caddie, but there is one constant; SUPPORT. Watch the caddies on TV, and notice the last thing they say before the pro hits the next shot. It’s a positive comment, isn’t it; Yep, I agree; an easy nine-iron will do it; and so on. You never hear something like; Good luck; watch out for the water on the left, remember last week when you sliced it into the woods, don’t over swing. Don’t look up too soon.
If the caddies don’t say it, why does every 15 handicap “think it” before each shot? Sure, part of it is that the 15-handicapper gets a lot more negative feedback than a professional. “If they hit all the bad shots that we do, their caddies would warn them too.” That’s the rationale.
That’s our excuse. Ken would say; it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think negative thoughts and they will happen. “Clear your mind and trust your routine.” Today will be a major test of this philosophy. Bradford wanted so much to be positive and enjoy the day, but so much was happening in his life. It was difficult to concentrate. This afternoon he had a 4:00 flight to Cabo San Lucas for a critical meeting. He hoped Ken had been successful in Zurich.
“Hey Dave, I do believe you are away,” someone shouted, and brought Bradford back to the task at hand. It was Buzz, who was standing near his drive, which was at least 50 yards closer to the green. “We can measure and ask for a ruling but you are away,” Buzz continued sarcastically.
Bradford was irritated but kept his composure. Part of him wanted to reply in kind, but he knew that would be playing into Buzz’ hand. The constant needling was his way. In fact, he probably didn’t even realize how irritating it was to most people; this type of humor was so much a part of him. Stay focused!
“I’ll play,” Bradford replied, and proceeded to evaluate his options. Luckily this was a short 380-yard hole and the short drive had not hurt too much. The white, 150 yard, fairway marker, was approximately 20 yards ahead. The pin placement was “front-left”, leaving approximately 160 yards to the pin. Despite a slight left-to-right wind, the bunkers on the right should not be in play, unless he hit a bad slice. “There I go again, thinking bad thoughts.”
Although Bradford had reduced his handicap from 15 to six in the past year, he was still not a good long iron player. The Wilson Fat Shafts had helped, but he still tended to “pick” the ball off the fairway rather than hit down and through the ball. He selected six iron and went into his routine, part of which is to visualize a successful shot.
Half way into the back swing, the golf demons took over. Instead of a clear mind, there was a conflict between “slow-slow-slow” and “do you have enough club” and “trap on the right.” The result was an abbreviated back swing and a quick downward move to the ball. He came out of the shot early and the result was all too familiar; short and right. He was lucky it was short of the sand trap, about 10 yards short of the green. He still had a chance for par.
Buzz had 110 yards to the pin, and selected a wedge, probably a sand wedge. He struck it cleanly, creating a divot that pros would be proud of. The ball landed 10 feet long, took the spin, and curled back towards the pin. For an instant it looked good but the ball missed the pin by inches and ended up five feet below the hole; a makeable birdie putt. Wow, he’s good!
Bradford’s attitude slowly improved. He realized that all he could do was play his own game; if Buzz was on his game, good for him. He was the better golfer and would probably win. However, this was match play, not “stroke play.” Bradford only needed to win more holes, not beat Buzz’ total score. Match play is a great equalizer. Higher handicap golfers hit more bad shots, and end up with sevens and eights. This only costs you one hole in this format. In stroke play, a triple bogey might cost you the match.
The chip was from about 40 feet, and relatively easy. With the pin up front, Bradford decided to land a pitching wedge just over the fringe and let it run to the hole. Up and down for par. This was the strength of his game.
He executed the shot and for a moment it looked like it was going in. The ball landed perfectly, released and stopped inches short of the hole. He tapped in for his par 4 and some polite applause from his friends. As he waited for Buzz to putt, Bradford wondered; “did I hit a good “chip shot” because I was confident, or was I confident because I have hit so many good chips before? Ken says that golf is at least 80% mental. He might be right.”
Buzz had a straight in putt for birdie. It would be surprising if he missed. He didn’t. Bradford was “down one,” with 35 to play as the small group made their way to the second tee. Bradford’s thoughts drifted. “I wish Ken were here.”
The tall American gave the hostess their names and asked for a table for four with a view of the marina. He was dressed poorly for a Friday night in the nicest restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, even for an American. Blue jeans, golf shirt and tennis shoes were not acceptable. A sport jacket didn’t change his overall, grungy look. The young lady was dressed well and was quite attractive, but he… shabby was the word.
The hostess was about to inform him that it would be at least a 90 minute wait when the man placed a crisp $50 bill on her reservations book.
The hostess hesitated, but reacted predictably. “We can have a table within 15-20 minutes; would you care to wait in the bar?”
“That will be fine.” The man turned to the attractive lady. “Come on, Chris; let me buy you a drink and bring you up to date. We have something to celebrate.”
The hostess watched the couple head for the lounge and hoped she had made the right decision. The $50 was nice, but she had an uneasy feeling.
Chris followed him to the lounge. She wasn’t sure this was a good idea. “Ken, let’s be careful. I suggest we keep a clear head and see what Alberto and Pedro have to say. They might have more bad news. There will be plenty of time to celebrate later.”
“Double scotch and water, bartender, and a glass of chardonnay for the lady. We’ll be at the table in the corner.” Ken wasn’t heeding Chris’ warning.
Ken pulled a two-page outline from his briefcase as they waited for the waitress to bring their drinks. “Chris, relax; there is nothing to worry about. Take a look at this. Our friends in Zurich have given us everything we asked for, and more. Mario will be ecstatic when he sees this.”
Chris looked over Ken’s summary of the meeting while the waitress served the drinks. She couldn’t believe what she was reading. Ken had just returned from a 2-day meeting with Mario’s financial partners in Zurich, people that Bradford’s firm had brought to the table. The project was two months behind schedule and over budget. They needed more money and more time to repay the original loan. Without the additional funding, the Phase II would need to be aborted. There would be hell to pay with Mario and his Miami partners.
“This can’t be right, Ken. Are you telling me that they will give us the $240 million to complete the three Phase II projects plus another $200 million to start Phase III – wow?”
“That’s right, and all they are asking is to increase their stake in the deal from 33% to 49%. Mario’s group keeps control. By the way, our 1% commission is a cool $4.4 million; not a bad weekend’s work for a small-town country boy.”
Chris ignored Ken’s small-town country boy description; she knew better. Ken was raised in Chicago and had a Wharton MBA. Still, she couldn’t believe what Ken was saying. She had been working with the Swiss auditors the entire week and there had been nothing but bad news. After three months of operations the casino was making money, but it appeared someone was skimming profits off the top. The Swiss audit team would recommend tomorrow that all future funding be delayed until they did a complete audit. Dinner tonight with the casino people was initially intended to be a glum evening, providing an opportunity to devise a strategy for tomorrow’s meeting. Ken’s information changed everything.
“Was Sven aware of the audit results when he made this commitment?” Chris couldn’t help remembering how adamant Sven had been that evening at Petermann’s Kunststuben in Zurich; “no more funding until we see some results.”
“Yep, that’s why I asked Alberto and Pedro to join us tonight. They’ll have a chance to present the offer to Mario before tomorrow’s 2:00 PM meeting. In fact, speak of the devil, here they are now.”
“Alberto, Pedro, buenas noches amigos. It’s great to see you again.”
“Your Spanish still needs a little work, Ken, but we don’t mind as long as you bring the beautiful Senorita with you.” They shook hands and gave Chris a warm hug.
At that moment the hostess appeared and informed them their table was ready. Chris was fond of both Alberto and Pedro, but was still apprehensive as they walked to the table. It struck her that Ken wasn’t as happy as he should have been after coming back with such great news. He had not shaved and it was clear that something was bothering him. He was wired on something and it wasn’t drugs. What had happened in Zurich that he wasn’t mentioning? She wished she had the opportunity to talk with Ken privately.
Chris would never get that opportunity.
Par 4, 430 yards
Dinner at the Country Club