It was a glorious summer afternoon, one day past The Fourth. Arnie Alms got off his shift and did what he so often does. He called a buddy, grabbed his golf bag and headed to the first tee.
At 71, he's played golf most of his life. He tagged along with his father, a frequent if not fantastic player, as a teenager. Arnie might have played in high school, but it wasn't among the sports offered at Eagle Point. One time in PE, the kids were handed sand wedges and allowed on the football field to hit shots. Oh, the pelts of turf that must have flown.
Arnie has refined his game since. He had a 16 handicap two weeks ago. Now it's 17.
"So you know which way it's going," he laughs. "As I've gotten older, I think those guys sneak out there and make the course longer when I'm not looking."
For the record, Arnie Alms is not the gentleman's name. His wish was for anonymity. More on that later.
It was a glorious summer afternoon, one day past The Fourth. Andrew Norum hustled to the golf course. At 28, he's a newcomer to the game, taking it up just recently after a hitch of five-plus years in the Army. Those who remember how he starred in nearly every sport at Crater High a decade earlier would not be surprised to learn the strapping, fit Norum was a Green Beret. The best of the best.
He got out in November and is going to school on the GI Bill. He and his wife, Jennifer, are raising a very young family as he studies to become a teacher. He's already delved into coaching at the scholastic level.
Their two boys are Lukas, 3, and Eli, all of seven weeks.
"My wife is awesome," says Norum, "especially with our new arrival. She's been great support and has encouraged me to stop being busy and go after my dream of being a teacher."
He can't do the things he once did athletically, and golf seems a pursuit that will stand time's test.
Norum will admit, the best of the best does not accurately depict his play.
But he has figured this out: Golf is a very humbling game.
"It's a game that can never be won, only played," he says, quite astutely.
That's what he did one beautiful summer day.
Norum went out as a single at Stewart Meadows on July 5. The pro shop attendant put him with two gentleman about to tee off. He was not even half their ages, but that mattered not during the course of a pleasant round.
"He was just a really nice young man," says Arnie Alms. "He was very polite. Some of these young guys aren't this way."
They learned a little about each other. Arnie discovered Norum is a veteran, that he's just learning the game and that finances are such that he can't devote as much time to it as he might like.
Norum could have shared that he was bitten by the golf bug only after he got clubs that fit him. He first had his father, Mike's, equipment. Mike is 5-foot-8, Andrew 6-4. When Andrew played with buddies, they called him "Play School," because the clubs looked like toys in his hands.
Norum has since gotten longer clubs. Hence, his smitten-ness.
Arnie, who never did serve in the military, appreciates that Norum did. When they were drafting men Arnie's age, he was married. When they drafted married men, he had kids.
Norum enlisted on his own. After graduating from Crater, he attended Southern Oregon University for a year, then quit because he couldn't afford tuition. He roofed for a couple years, then joined the Army in 2007.
He went through three years of intense training and became a staff sergeant in the 1st Special Forces Group. He did not see combat. His group operated in eastern Asia. One memorable assignment was in the Philippines training Filipino battalions in Cotabato City.
Asked to spell it, his training surfaced:
"Charlie, Oscar, Tango, Alpha "¦"
"I'm sorry," he says. "That's just how it comes out. I feel sorry for people when I do it like that."
Arnie wouldn't have minded. He took a liking to the kid during their round.
On the ninth hole, and aware of Norum's fledgling interest in the game, Arnie told him of a special at the course. For $150, one could play unlimited rounds for a month.
Norum thought that sounded wonderful, but his financial priorities wouldn't allow it.
As they finished the last hole, Arnie's mind was at work.
He thought he should buy Norum the deal. Then he thought that was silly. Then he thought, "But if I think of it, it's a thing I ought to be doing."
He recalled a friend who 40 years earlier came upon a man at a service station outside Reno, Nev. The man was broke and hawking his watch. Not because he lost money gambling, he just didn't have enough.
"It still bothers me that I didn't buy him some gas," Arnie's friend told him.
"God has given me some money," says Arnie. "I can go play golf when I want, so why not help somebody else?"
The three men holed out and shook hands. Norum doffed his cap, a show of respect to his partners.
Before Norum pulled out of the parking lot, Arnie called to him.
"I thought he needed help moving something," says Norum. "Then he takes me to the front desk and says, 'I'd like to pay for this gentleman's membership for a month.'"
Norum's jaw dropped. All he remembers saying is, "Uh."
Arnie remembers Norum saying he didn't have to do that.
Once done, Norum thanked Arnie "about eight times before I left the clubhouse."
He's thanked him since by taking advantage. There have only been two days he didn't play, and that was because of visiting family.
Jennifer, by the way, is fine with it, but there are stipulations.
"I get up at 5:45 in the morning, and I'm usually waiting when they open the gates," says Norum. "I usually only get nine holes in so I can get back home before the family wakes up."
Breakfast is waiting when they do.
Arnie invited Norum to Applegate Christian Fellowship and told him where he sits but hasn't yet seen his new friend.
"He's probably out playing golf," Arnie chuckles.
So why the pseudonym for the generous gentleman? He didn't do the deed for publicity. He'd be fine if it hadn't gone beyond the three men at the counter. I told him I'd make up a name.
Arnie is a revered golf name only because of Arnold Palmer. Alms, particularly among Christians, is the act of giving. Mr. X or John Doe seemed a bit insignificant.
Norum hears stories from military buddies who have had their meals paid for and such.
"I don't ever expect that," he says, "and I don't ever recall getting that while I was in the military.
"I've got to tell you, this was the biggest gesture anybody has ever given me."
A glorious day indeed.
Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com