What a mess. What a big, fat, embarrassing mess. And it had such a promising beginning.
Pat McGeen, full-time plastics salesman and part-time duffer, hit a hole-in-one during a charity golf outing. Not only that but he hit it on number 7, where a $28,000 red Jeep Cherokee Laredo was parked, the prize for his perfect shot.
OK, he admits, it wasn't perfect. In fact, it was a little sloppy. ''The ball hit the left side of the green, bounced right and rolled into the cup.'' He says his foursome, after jumping around and shouting, realized they needed witnesses.
In this sport, I understand that it is not unheard of, well, to lose count of strokes.
Anyway, a golfer ahead of them reached into the cup, pulled out a ball and yelled, ''Can you identify this?'' Pat said there would be eight magic marker dots on it. There were.
Back at the clubhouse, former Bengal Jim Breech autographed Pat's golf card. Pam McMullen, the tournament director, took his picture.
''Besides generating money for mental health, something like this is an opportunity to spread the word, give people a good feeling about the cause,'' Pam says. The event, in its third year, aims to raise ''in the $3,000 to $10,000 range.''
The cause is mental health care for children and it involves a half dozen agencies in the Alliance for Children. Good cause. Good people. Good Lord, how things went awry.
The Jeep on the green that day was just a prop, Pat was told. He could go out to Steve Castrucci's dealership and pick out the color he wanted. Pat couldn't wait to tell his wife, Diane, a teacher at Winton Woods High School.
''We were flying,'' he says.
The Castrucci people probably were happy, too. They'd just sold a Jeep to an insurance company, TSI Sports, Inc., in Atlanta. For $400 or $500, says TSI vice president Paul Schwartz, his firm takes the risk on thousands of potential holes-in-one, direct mail winners and other ''giveaways where there are any odds.''
The insurance VP says they sell hole-in-one policies based on the number of players, the value of the prize and the number of yards. He adds delicately that there appears to be ''some extenuating circumstances'' in the matter of Mr. Pat McGeen and the Drive for Mental Health Community Golf Tournament at Glenview Golf Course on July 25.
Somebody parked the vehicle on the wrong green. Claim denied. Yipe. By now, this is not news to Pat McGeen. Sitting at his home in Montgomery, his broad face is a study in misery. Instantly likeable. A good smile, nice eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses. No dopey hair sculpture over his honest bald head.
His face is ruddy. Maybe it's always that way, but it could be because he's mad. The last time he called to check on his Jeep, he was shocked to be referred to an attorney ''who told me three times that if I tried to sue it would cost me more than the car was worth.''
Kendall Van Conas, a California attorney, just last week successfully sued for a Toyota Paseo, won and disputed in nearly identical circumstances. It did not cost her client, a high school janitor, more than the car was worth. And in the interest of saving time and money, the lawyer says she would gladly pass along her research to the McGeens if they need it.
It appears that they will not.
Tom Palmer, chairman of the event, called me from Steve Castrucci's office to say they're ''working on a plan to get Pat his car. We're optimistic.''
I suppose it's very complicated. Several tourney sponsors will be asked to share in the cost. They may put the bite on the city, which owns the course. (Like the city hasn't had enough trouble already over its golf courses.) There is one simple thing. Pat McGeen paid $80 to enter a golf tourney which offered up a big prize.
Just because it's a good cause and your heart is pure doesn't mean that you don't have to keep your word. So Pat McGeen wants his Jeep. Red will be just fine.
Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a commentator on NPR.