After leaving the Sonia Sanchez talk at NYU, Jason and Terry go to have drinks at Fat Black Pussycat on West 3rd Street. Once inside, they order a pitcher of beer and grab a table. Every flat screen is showing March Madness 2017. It just so happens that the nearby screen is showing the only Sweet 16 game that matters to them, so they tune in. After Kentucky defeats UCLA, they order two shots of vodka for a sweet taste of victory before stepping outside for some fresh air.
Looking up West 3rd, Jason sees a familiar face in a sea of people. He takes a drag of his cigarette and notices another guy in the street holding a wedge iron with what appears to be a dozen small milk cartons in front of him on the ground. Suddenly it dawns on him who the familiar face is.
Holy shit! It’s Tiger Hood. No, not Tiger Woods. Tiger. Hood. He plays golf like Tiger Woods, but only in the hood. Hence the name. I saw a documentary about him a while back. It was dope. Yo, let’s go up there.
It was Summer 2014. Jason was at the deadCenter Film Festival in Oklahoma City perusing the film guide when he stumbled across a full-page ad for the documentary short film Tiger Hood. It was a captivating title, but the description at the top of the page is what really piqued his interest.
It stated something to the effect that the film’s subject was known for playing golf in the streets of New York City using a wedge iron, small milk cartons stuffed with newspaper for golf balls, and a small box for a hole. The hustle was so brilliant that Jason almost couldn’t believe what he was reading. But then again he could, given the high correlation between hustling and the Big Apple.
Then came a problem. There were only two screenings of the collection of documentary shorts featuring Tiger Hood. The time for one of them didn’t work for Jason, and the other was sold out with the option of arriving early and going on standby. He was so intrigued by the description that he decided to wait in the queue for almost two hours. But he managed to get a $20 standby ticket, and the last one to boot. Later on that day, he called a friend and told of this experience. That was the last time he spoke of Tiger Hood—that is, until this summery spring evening in the Village.
They walk up West 3rd, and Jason asks Tiger Hood whether he could try his hand at street golf.
You gotta pay like you weigh, man. Eh, watch out! You don’t see this man tryna swing? I can’t afford no accidents. Look here, man, don’t swing till I tell you to. Like I was saying, you gotta pay like you weigh. Earlier today, Usher had about 60 people out here. He was decent. Nothing spectacular. And last week, that one funny muthafucka who played in Central Intelligence was out here. Yeah, Kevin Hart. He had a herd of people watching his midget ass. Enough to get me a steak dinner that night. All right, man, coast is clear. But yeah, I do this damn near seven days a week. Gotta pay the bills somehow. Rent’s too goddamn high. Whatcha say ya name was? That’s right. You up next, Jason. Just bless the bucket first. You gotta― Eh, miss! Don’t stand there. That’s the fairway. You damn right I’m watching. Just bend ya knees some.
Jason walks to the bucket on the curb and donates to the cause. Terry’s standing on the sidewalk with his arms crossed over his chest. The other guy, now clearly annoyed, hands Jason the wedge.
Here, take this piece of shit. I keep losing the grip on it. You’re all welcome… for that piss poor performance.
He takes a curious bow before walking off with his entourage down West 3rd. After picking up all ten cartons, not a one on the fairway, Tiger Hood places them all in a nice linear sequence. Jason approaches the one at the front of the line, squares up and hits it. His first swing is average at best.
Relax ya shoulders some, young blood. You got this. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Hood Masters.
His next three swings land near the fairway. Tiger Hood is only slightly impressed. Yet he’s happy to see a crowd gathering in the street. One lady starts video recording while others stare and stare. Some passersby gape as Jason gets good distance on his next two swings, both landing on the fairway a few yards shy of the box. He then lines up to hit the seventh carton, shoulders relaxed.
Eh, don’t forget to bend ya knees, young blood. Yeah, like that. And follow through on ya release this time.
He bends his knees and places the wedge low before the carton so that enough air can get under it. His seventh swing is accurate, follow through and all. The seventh carton travels through the air like none before it, landing on the fairway no more than a yard from the box, rolling to perfection.
The crowd erupts with applause and cheers while four taxi drivers, gridlocked at the intersection of West 3rd and MacDougal, honk their horns at pedestrians in the street. Tiger Hood is all smiles, knowing that the number of people in the crowd is now triple what it was five minutes ago. Jason then turns and winks at Terry who’s still on the sidewalk, now clapping his hands in excitement.
I see you. Out here swingin’ like Tiger Woods in ’97. Does he get a red jacket for winning the Hood Masters?
Tiger Hood starts laughing, excitement written all over his face. Observing upwards of 100 people in the crowd now, he encourages them all to bless the bucket. Many of them do. Jason looks at the remaining three cartons, pleased with his latest effort, impressed by how high the seventh one flew, but unhappy that it didn’t exactly land in the box. As soon as he approaches the eighth one, a random guy from across the street runs to Jason’s side, nearly body slamming him in the process.
Oh my goodness, dude! That was fucking awesome. How’d you do that? You play golf for real, don’t you?
Jason responds in the negative while raising one of his eyebrows at the awkwardness. Tiger Hood directs the random guy to step aside and urges Jason to carry on. Jason, still taken aback, lines up to hit the eighth carton, shoulders tense and knees straight. He’s clearly too distracted to focus.
Feeling somewhat drained from all the pomp and circumstance, Jason starts thinking that maybe close is good enough, that he should just call it quits right now. He also catches a snippet of Terry’s conversation with Tiger Hood about the prospect of people sporting red jackets after winning the Hood Masters. Needing to hurry up, he takes a deep breath, tunes out all distractions, and swings.
Eh, don’t sweat it, young blood. You got two more chances. Just relax ya mind. Breathe easy. You got this.
Nor does the ninth carton land on the fairway. Not even close. And during the follow through, his release isn’t up to par and he loses his balance, all but hitting a lady behind him with the wedge.
After immediately apologizing to her, Jason takes another deep breath while tilting his head to the sky. All he can hear in his head is Tiger Hood’s voice: You don’t see this man tryna swing? I can’t afford no accidents. But lucky for Jason, the lady’s got a quick reflex. Despite being in a sudden panic after narrowly escaping her death, she quickly readjusts her top, straightens her hair, and walks onto the sidewalk. She sticks around because she wants to witness his last swing. Jason exhales before calling for Tiger Hood who’s now on the other side, bucket in tow, taking donations for the cause.
Remember what I said, young blood? Just relax and breathe easy. Don’t be in a rush for nothin’. You gotta let the game come to you. I know you heard me tell that other cat I can’t afford no accidents. I ain’t insured like that. But, say, man, look here, you got a nice swing. No doubt about that. But you gotta learn to master ya technique. And always watch ya six out here. Street golf is fun. It’s exciting. But it’s also dangerous. And risky too. I swear I was just tellin’ ya partna how I sometimes play against them Wall Street cats for some serious dough. Like $20 a shot. And they like to gamble, so, you know. Here, take my card. Come and see me sometime. When there’s less traffic and fewer distractions. I’ll show you a thing or two. No, thank you, young blood. I’m already lookin’ forward to my steak dinner tonight. Don’t forget, you got one more chance.
After placing the card in his pocket, Jason offers his last chance to the lady he almost took out with the wedge on accident. She hesitates at first, then accepts once he explains the proper ways to hold and swing the wedge. Many people in the crowd taking notice of this start dispersing little by little.
Before lining up to hit the last carton, she smiles while looking back at Jason who’s standing on the sidewalk with his arms crossed over his chest. She thinks he’s watching, but he isn’t. He’s lost in a daydream about street golf and how difficult yet fun it is and how someone could create an entertaining hustle using throwaways and how uniquely remarkable Tiger Hood was when he saw it three years ago and how the documentary pales in comparison to the real Tiger Hood even so.
She finally swings, giving it her best shot, but the carton doesn’t travel far from the tee. Shrugging her shoulders, she returns the wedge to Tiger Hood, drops a dollar in the bucket, and thanks Jason for the entertainment and the opportunity. They chat for about five minutes and exchange names and numbers before she scurries up MacDougal. Jason and Terry dap up and decide to mosey on down to Village Underground to have more drinks. All the while, Jason is daydreaming again, this time about how much he appreciates Tiger Hood for bringing street golf to New York City so that people like himself and his new acquaintance Jasmine can experience the challenge of playing it.
Once inside, they order another pitcher of beer and grab another table. Before sitting down, Terry runs back to the bar and returns with two more vodka shots for another sweet taste of victory.
Mind if I do the honors this time? Good lookin’ out. Yo, what we witnessed tonight captured everything this city’s about. From the crowd to the energy… from the pressure to the excitement… from the randomness to the awkwardness. It was everything and more. At first, I couldn’t believe there was a dude actually playing street golf in New York City. Then I saw that documentary, and it blew my mind. But tonight, bro, was on a whole other level. And I’m glad you were there to witness it, ’cause I can’t remember the last time people cheered for me like that. Word. I didn’t get that joint in, but I legit had the whole crowd rockin’. And I got ol’ girl’s math. Which was totally unexpected. But I knew something was up when she didn’t leave. Yo, check it. Tiger Hood’s got something special. I can’t deny that. But you’re right―the winner of the Hood Masters should definitely get a red jacket. That’d be dope as fuck. So, with all of that being said, let’s bless up to Ms. Sonia Sanchez, them Wildcats, New York City… and last but not least, the legendary Tiger Hood. Salud!