Let me amend that. The Andrades don’t just live there. They live there in fear.
I learned this after a recent bicycle ride took me south along North Road, past the intersection with Westwind Drive, and in front of the Andrade’s house. There, to my right, beneath a row of cedar trees, I spotted golf balls – first one, then another, then another.
I stopped and gathered a few, and did the same on ensuing days, until I’d picked up at least two dozen, which seemed like a pretty good haul – that is, until I knocked on the Andrade’s door to investigate further.
My first hint of the family’s plight appeared as I reached the house and saw, in an otherwise meticulously groomed garden, two bright-white golf balls lying a foot or two from the house. Turns out, for the 40 years the couple has lived in the house, they have suffered seasonal bombardment from incoming golf ordinance, launched from the third tee at the Jamestown Golf Course, some 200 yards away.
(Note: The assault is not intentional. Rather, these are misguided strikes made by recreational hackers who frequent the popular course. If you don’t know the third hole, know this: the balls that clear the right-hand tree line and head for the Andrades’ house are 30 to 45 degrees off their intended headings. Shanks, banana slices, sideways pushes from right-handers. Pull hooks from lefties. Awful shots, either way.)
“The balls come over the trees, right up the driveway,” Maria said, in her Portuguese-inflected accent. “They hit the house, they hit the roof, they go way over into the yard.”
Leonel pointed out the many telltale patches he has applied to his vinyl siding. “The balls crack the siding, so I have to piece in the new over the broken,” he said in an accent similar to his wife’s. “They break the windows, too. You see that bay window? That one’s new, but the old one, they broke the glass four times, at least. $200 to fix every time.”
The Andrades explained they have to be careful where they park their vehicles – like the pick-up truck I saw tucked inches from a detached garage, as if cowering in hiding.
“You see how we have to park so we don’t get hit,” said Maria. “When my children visit, they have to park over there on the grass.” She waved toward a far part of the lawn. Then, she pointed to the empty semi-circle of driveway directly in front of the house. “Nobody can park here. They get hit by the balls.”
Maria vividly recalls the day her new Oldsmobile came under attack. “I had just bought it. It was a beautiful car. I was driving it into the garage and a ball came down and landed – bang! – right on the roof. It made a big dent. I was so mad!”
She retrieved the ball, rushed to the golf course, and found a likely perpetrator on the third fairway. “I showed him the ball. He said, ‘That’s not my ball.’ That’s what they always say. ‘That’s not my ball. I don’t play that brand.’ Nobody’s honest about it. What can you do? You can’t do anything.”
One of the few times they were able to get a golfer to fess up came after their then-teenaged son was struck in the head while chopping wood in the yard. The Andrades got a lawyer involved and won a $5,000 settlement to cover the boy’s medical expenses.
It was that kind of incident that prompted Leonel to plant the dense row of cedars that front the yard. “Those are for protection, but the balls still fly over them. I hate those balls.”
When he finds one, he doesn’t hesitate. “They go right in the trash can. Brand new balls, into the trash. One day I took a whole trash can filled with balls to the dump. I dumped them right in the bin. I said to the guy, ‘You want some golf balls, look here, they’re in the dumpster.”
Leonel says he’s certain many of the stray shots are from repeat offenders – which baffles him. “Why do they keep going out to golf? They don’t know how to play. The hole is way over there and they keep hitting over here. If they’re that bad, why do they play?” The couple said that, in the early years, they complained to the course’s private owners, and later to the town after it bought the course, but to no avail.
“We asked them to put up a net to catch the balls,” said Leonel. “They wanted me to pay for the net. Everyone says they’ll try to do things to help, but nothing happens. Now, we give up.” I called John Mistowski, whose family leases the golf course from the town. He said, in the event of property damage from an errant golf shot, “The liability falls upon the golfer who hit the shot.” He described such incidents as “rare,” but added that he once heard from a biker who was struck on North Road.
Someone on a motorcycle?
“No, a bicycle. He said he took one right off his helmet.” Another good reason to wear mine.
Back at the Andrades’, I was saying goodbye to Maria when Leonel emerged from his garage, lugging a 5-gallon bucket that brimmed over with golf balls. Many looked spanking new.
“You want balls?” he said. “Take these. Just don’t hit them back at us.”