The death of professional hockey in AMERICA is a nasty omen for people with heavy investments in NHL teams. But to me, it meant little or nothing -- and that's why I called Bill Murray with an idea that would change both our lives forever.
It was 3:30 on a dark Tuesday morning when I heard the phone ring on his personal line in New Jersey. "Good thinking," I said to myself as I fired up a thin Cohiba. "He's bound to be wide awake and crackling at this time of day, or at least I can leave a very excited message."
My eerie hunch was right. The crazy bugger picked up on the fourth ring, and I felt my heart racing. "Hot damn!" I thought. "This is how empires are built." Late? I know not late.
Genius round the world stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle round.
Herman Melville said that in the winter of 1914, and Murray is keenly aware of it. Only a madman would call a legend of Bill Murray's stature at 3:33 a.m. for no good reason at all. It would be a career-ending move, and also profoundly rude.
But my reason was better than good ...
* * * * *
HST: "Hi, Bill, it's Hunter."
BILL: "Hi, Hunter."
HST: "Are you ready for a powerful idea? I want to ask you about golf in Japan. I understand they're building vertical driving ranges on top of each other."
BILL (sounding strangely alert): "Yes, they have them outdoors, under roofs ..."
HST: "I've seen pictures. I thought they looked like bowling alleys stacked on top of each other."
HST: "I'm working on a profoundly goofy story here. It's wonderful. I've invented a new sport. It's called Shotgun Golf. We will rule the world with this thing."
HST: "I've called you for some consulting advice on how to launch it. We've actually already launched it. Last spring, the Sheriff and I played a game outside in the yard here. He had my Ping Beryllium 9-iron, and I had his shotgun, and about 100 yards away, we had a linoleum green and a flag set up. He was pitching toward the green. And I was standing about 10 feet away from him, with the alley-sweeper. And my objective was to blow his ball off course, like a clay pigeon."
HST: "It didn't work at first. The birdshot I was using was too small. But double-aught buck finally worked for sure. And it was fun."
HST: "OK, I didn't want to wake you up, but I knew you'd want to be in on the ground floor of this thing."
HST: "Do you want to discuss this tomorrow?"
BILL: "I think I might have a queer dream about it now, but ..." (Laughs.)
HST: "This sport has a HUGE future. Golf in America will soon come to this."
BILL: "It will bring a whole new meaning to the words 'Driving Range'."
HST: "Especially when you stack them on top of each other. I've seen it in Japan."
BILL: "They definitely have multi-level driving ranges. Yes."
HST: (Laughs.) "How does that work? Do they have extremely high ceilings?"
BILL: "No. The roof above your tee only projects out about 10 feet, and they have another range right above you. It's like they took the fašade off a building. People would be hanging out of their offices."
HST: "I see. It's like one of those original Hyatt Regency Hotels. Like an atrium. In the middle of the building you could jump straight down into the lobby?"
BILL: "Exactly like that!"
HST: "It's like people driving balls from one balcony to the next."
BILL: (Laughs.) "Yes, they could."
HST: "I could be on the eighth floor and you on the sixth? Or on the fifteenth. And we'd be driving across a lake."
BILL: "They have flags out every 150 yards, every 200 yards, every 250 yards. It's just whether you are hitting it at ground level, or from five stories up."
HST: "I want to find out more about this. This definitely has a future to it."
BILL: "They have one here in the city -- down at Chelsea Pier."
HST: "You must have played a lot of golf in Japan."
BILL: "Not much; I just had one really great day of golf. I worked most of the time. But I did play one beautiful golf course. They have seasonal greens, two different types of grass. It's really beautiful."
HST: "Well, I'm writing a column for ESPN.com and I want to know if you like my new golf idea. A two-man team."
BILL: "Well, with all safety in mind, yes. Two-man team? Yeah! That sounds great. I think it would create a whole new look. It would create a whole new clothing line."
HST: "Absolutely. You'll need a whole new wardrobe for this game."
BILL: "Shooting glasses and everything."
HST: "We'll obviously have to make a movie. This will mushroom or mutate -- either way -- into a real craze. And given the mood of this country, being that a lot of people in the mood to play golf are also in the mood to shoot something, I think it would take off like a gigantic fad."
BILL: "I think the two-man team idea would be wonderful competition and is something the Ryder Cup would pick up on."
HST: "I was talking with the Sheriff about it earlier. But in one-man competition, I'd have to compete against you, say, in both of the arts -- the shooting AND the golfing. But if you do the Ryder Cup, you'd have to have the clothing line first. I'm going to write about this for ESPN tonight. I'm naming you and the Sheriff as the founding consultants."
BILL: "Sounds good."
HST: "OK, I'll call you tomorrow. And by the way, I'll see if I can twist some arms and get you an Oscar. But I want a Nobel Prize in return."
BILL: "Well, we can work together on this. This is definitely a team challenge." (Laughing.)
HST: "OK. We'll talk tomorrow."
BILL: "Good night."
So there it is. Shotgun Golf will soon take America by storm. I see it as the first truly violent leisure sport. Millions will crave it.
* * * * *
Shotgun Golf was invented in the ominous summer of 2004 AD, right here at the Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colo. The first game was played between me and Sheriff Bob Braudis, on the ancient Bomb & Shooting Range of the Woody Creek Rod & Gun Club. It was witnessed by many members and other invited guests, and filmed for historical purposes by Dr. Thompson on Super-Beta videotape.
The game consists of one golfer, one shooter and a field judge. The purpose of the game is to shoot your opponent's high-flying golf ball out of the air with a finely-tuned 12-gauge shotgun, thus preventing him (your opponent) from lofting a 9-iron approach shot onto a distant "green" and making a "hole in one." Points are scored by blasting your opponent's shiny new Titleist out of the air and causing his shot to fail miserably. That earns you two points.
But if you miss and your enemy holes out, he (or she) wins two points when his ball hits and stays on the green.
And after that, you trade places and equipment, and move on to round 2.
My patent is pending, and the train is leaving the station, and Murray is a Founding Consultant, along with the Sheriff, and Keith Richards, etc., etc. Invest now or forever hold your peace.
* * * * *
As for Bill's triumphant finish at Pebble Beach, I am almost insanely proud of him. He is an elegant athlete in the finest Murray tradition. Bill is a dangerous brute with the fastest reflexes in Hollywood, but he is suave, and that is why I trust him even more than I trust all his brothers. Yes, I say Hallelujah, praise Jesus. Where is Brian? I will need him for this golf project, if only to offset Bill's bitchiness. We will march on a road of bones.
OK. Back to business. It was Bill Murray who taught me how to mortify your opponents in any sporting contest, honest or otherwise. He taught me my humiliating PGA fadeaway shot, which has earned me a lot of money ... after that, I taught him how to swim, and then I introduced him to the shooting arts, and now he wins everything he touches. Welcome to the future of America. Welcome to Shotgun Golf.
So long and Mahalo.
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Ky. His books include "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "The Curse of Lono," "Generation of Swine," "Songs of the Doomed," "Screwjack," "Better Than Sex," "The Proud Highway," "The Rum Diary," and "Fear and Loathing in America." His latest book, "Kingdom of Fear," has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," appears regularly on Page 2.