Up at Bat: Judy Carmichael

Judy Carmichael
Judy Carmichael

A Perfect Day in the Hamptons

I moved to Sag Harbor in 1992 to get a bit of a life beyond my career and become the athletic girl I’d always wanted to be. Along with sports, my other passion is eating. My golfing and dining buddy, Jim, grew up in Sag Harbor and was a waiter for years at the American Hotel so he knows fine cuisine. This man orders food better than anyone I know.

I should add here that we’re both a bit competitive.

We played a beautiful course on the North Fork and afterwards decided on a little restaurant Jim knew on Shelter Island. After the oysters, we pondered our next move over espresso and a rare grappa served only at this particular haunt.

“I used to play pool at a place near here,” says Jim. “I wonder if it’s still open.”

“I love pool!” (My brother and I were a bit of a hustling team in our youth.) After I’d triumphed and won a few bucks, I asked, “Now what? I wish there were another sport we could do.”

“There’s always the Whale’s Tale Mini-Golf,” he said. “They’re open late.”

Jim is taller, stronger and younger than I am, and, well, a man, but other than that, we’re even. Still, mini-golf is the great equalizer. This is a game that depends on finesse, control and the ability to hold back a giggle when aiming at a clown’s mouth. I was born for this.

In short, it was harrowing. Jim pulled ahead, I pulled ahead, and so it went. The place was mainly populated with children who couldn’t understand why two adults were betting on every hole and holding things up. We finished in a tie and Jim insisted on a sudden-death playoff.

“We can’t keep going, Jim. People are getting pissed off.”

“I’ll have you in two.”

We continued playing despite the increasingly irritated families around us.

“Jim, we really should stop. This is embarrassing.”

“Where’s your competitive spirit?”

I perform for a living and happily compete under pressure, but infuriated moms with golf clubs in their hands made me nervous.

Finally, I faced the tenth, a dogleg left with a windmill straight ahead. With the fog rolling in, the fake grass was damp, so I planned on a slow roll. I was confident. If I could tap the ball through the windmill on the right and bounce left, I might get a hole in one and end this.

“Mommy, what’s wrong with those two people? I saw them already play once and now they’re playing again.”

That was it. I flubbed the shot. I’ve never really forgiven myself. I’m usually cool, but now I realize that an angry mother with a weapon and a whining child is my limit.

After years away, Jim returned to Sag Harbor for a visit and took me to the American Hotel for a reunion dinner.

“You know Jim, someone asked me the other day to describe my fantasy of a perfect day. I told them I’d already lived my perfect day.”

“Funny you should say that. I was just telling my wife about a perfect day, years ago. Do you remember the time we played golf on the North Fork, had those amazing oysters on Shelter Island, shot pool at some dive and finally had that killer competition at the Whale’s Tale Mini-Golf?”

Judy Carmichael is a Grammy-nominated jazz pianist/vocalist/songwriter and past outfielder in the Artists & Writers game. Her memoir,Swinger! A Jazz Girl’s Adventures from Hollywood to Harlem is available locally at Kramoris Gallery in Sag Harbor and at www.judycarmichael.com.  Judy’s radio show/podcast, Jazz Inspired, is celebrating its 21styear on NPR and airs locally on WLIW 88.3FM Sundays at 7 p.m. www.jazzinspired.com




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