I am the only person I know who has achieved a trifecta in beer games. I had a perfect hand in cribbage, shot a hole in one in golf and threw a ton-eighty in darts. I know people who have achieved one or another of these. I even know people who have shot more than one 180 on the same darts night. But no one who has done all three. And each of them I’ve only ever done once.
A perfect hand in cribbage comes when you have been dealt three fives, the jack of the off-suit and two other cards. You discard the two cards into the crib then cut the deck and turn up the other 5, which is the same suit as the jack in your hand. That’s the hand that can’t get any better It’s worth 29 points when all the combinations are added up. The odds of getting one are just over 200,000:1.
I got mine while working my last midnight shift at MTD Products in Kitchener. I was working as a maintenance mechanic millwright in the metal stamping press shop. The company prided itself on being the world’s largest manufacturer of outdoor power equipment: gas powered lawn mowers, garden tractors and snow throwers.
In the maintenance department, on the graveyard shift, there wasn’t a lot to do. There were two millwrights with the primary purpose of attending to a breakdown as soon as it happened. Given a choice, the company would rather see the repair people sitting idle and the production people being productive.
There were routine jobs we had to do, such as checking safety systems, lubricating machinery, and doing some preventive maintenance on punch presses that were not being used that night, or working on projects handed over from the previous shift. Other than that, what we did in the privacy of the maintenance room was up to us. So we sat at the work bench and played a lot of two-handed cribbage.
In early April 1991 I was about to leave MTD on a union leave of absence to go to the Workers Health and Safety Centre in Toronto. Verne and I were having a slack graveyard shift and had extended our 20-minute lunch break by at least another thirty and a lot of cribbage. It was Verne’s deal. When I picked up my cards, I had three fives, the jack of spades and two others that I tossed into his crib. I cut the deck and he turned up the five of spades. The perfect cribbage hand, but without the beer.
The Kitchener Working Centre and St. John’s Kitchen put on an annual golf tournament every August. MTD always donated a snow thrower as a raffle prize, and my local union did most of the tournament organizing. Although I was never much of a golfer, I always played this tournament. My shortages on the ability side were balanced by an excess of enthusiasm on the playing side. The same foursome played together every year.
On August 14 1998, we went to Rockway Golf Club, the site of the upcoming contest, for a practice round. I was feeling pretty good about my game and admitted to 47 strokes on the par 34 front nine. One of us had to leave and go back to his office after nine holes. The other three soldiered on without him.
I added another eight strokes on the par 4 tenth hole, then we came to eleven. 130 yard. Par 3. All carry.
The secret to winning golf is club selection. It is a magnificent feeling to stand at your ball with the right club for the distance you need, and to strike the ball perfectly and watch as it traces an arc across the sky and comes to rest just where you wanted it to. Or so the books say. I seldom had that experience. Nine times out of ten, when it came to club selection I would take the wrong one.
As I stood on the tee block, staring down the fairway, I noticed the other two had pulled out their pitching wedges. I knew from experience that it didn’t matter what I did. The ball would go where the ball would go.
I chose my six iron and teed up the ball. As I swung down, the club head bounced on the dirt, came up and caught the ball somewhere just below its equator. Just as I was hitting it, I looked up so that I could watch and admire as the ball sailed across the blue sky towards the hole.
I never did see it, because I wasn’t looking in the right place. I was still imagining its flight when the other two started hooting and hollering and laughing.
They told me that as it flew forward, the ball never rose more than five feet above the ground. It flew like that for a long way, landed, bounced, landed again and rolled onto the green’s downward slope into the cup.
It was just as if it had eyes, they said between bursts of laughter. My hole in one. I still have the ball and the score card. The Top Flite Magna was never struck again. It sits in a cup on the top shelf of a bookcase.
I have played on a team in a Monday night dart league for about 30 years. On October 18 1999 we were playing at Ample Annie’s Roadhouse, our home bar that year. We were playing against one of the other teams that called Ample Annie’s home.
One thing about darts is that no matter where you aim, each dart will land somewhere. Quite often, not where you wanted it to. Like golf, when you add up the score you don’t need to describe how you got it.
Back then, league games would begin with a set of quads, four players from each team playing one game of 1001, straight in, double out. It’s always straight in, double out in our league. Then we’d do to pairs, 501, best of three. Then singles, 501, best of three.
In my second game of singles, I took careful aim at the board, threw my first dart and by gosh, it stuck in the triple 20. A good start, but neither the first nor last time it had happened.
Without moving anything but my right arm, I threw the second dart and by gosh and by golly, it also went into the triple 20. Again, neither the first nor last time.
Holy cow, I thought as I held my spot and raised my right hand, holding my third dart. I threw it straight and true, right into the triple 20. One hundred and eighty. The highest score anyone can get in one turn at the board.
One in golf. Twenty-nine in cribbage. One hundred and eighty in darts. I’ve done them all.
If it does nothing else, it reinforces my belief that the bad things that happen in life are the result of bad decisions. The good things come from a combination of blind luck and random chance.