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A belt buckle, a golf bag and a $13,000 poker machine win on my 40th birthday

As I’m known to do from time to time, I rushed right out with my new toy to play a round of golf. It was my birthday and my children had gotten together and bought me a new golf bag. It was something I had been wanting ever since the carry strap on my old bag had decided to go on vacation.

For those of you who don’t already know, walking a hilly links style golf course in Australia offers more than enough challenges without having to battle a wayward, broken down golf bag. I’m not one to ride a golf cart because I believe it defeats the whole idea of enjoying a round of golf while getting a little exercise in the process. Instead, I just learned to make do with the tools I had.

Now this was not an ordinary bag. It was the Mercedes of all golf bags. There are so many pouches and compartments that it sometimes takes a real effort to figure out which compartment I put the car keys in. When I showed up at the links, my mates were in awe, which was a great way to distract them from the fact it was my 40th birthday.

As luck would have it, there was a little tournament scheduled for the men’s club on this particular day. When I had signed up weeks before, I knew it was going to be my birthday. I was just hopeful the family would grant the old man a few hours to go out and celebrate turning another year older with a round of golf. Wish granted!

I’m not sure how much the golf bag had to do with it, but I played the best round of golf I had ever played in my life. It was a windy day as the wicked winds off the Bass Straight were in rare form. I decided early on to avoid my woods and use my long irons in an effort to keep the ball down and out of the wind. I guess everything just kind of came together.

First of all, you can’t imagine the difference I felt carrying a real golf bag. It felt light and right on my should. I drove the ball straight, I chipped like a pro and putted on a string. At the end of the day, I was only four over par. With a 16-handicap, I was sitting atop the leader board.

After a couple of ales with my mates, we went into the awards ceremony where I was presented with a cheque for $400 and a beautiful brass belt buckle. Now I have never been one to embrace classic Aussie cowboy fashion, but this belt buckle was quite a vision.

This was fast becoming a birthday to remember. What I didn’t realize was the day was only half-over and the best was yet to come. It occurred to me that I had a unique opportunity to shock the family. On my way home, I stopped at a Myer’s to pick up a few things. I grabbed a new belt for the belt buckle, a cowboy hat and some gator skin boots. So much for the $400.

When I got home, the wife asked how I played. I responded with the usual “fine” and went upstairs for a quick shower. After I dried off, I found my best western garb and got all dressed up, Aussie style. When I got downstairs, the wife was cooking and the kids were playing video games.

It took a moment, but eventually my daughter looked up and saw her cowboy daddy standing in the entry way. “What!” she exclaimed, “are you doing?” It didn’t take long before the family was gathered around wanting details about my new mid-life crisis. I shared the details of my memorable day, pointing out the brass belt buckle was part of my winnings.

After a while, my fashion statement started to grow on the family. The wife asked what I wanted to do after dinner, and I responded “it might be my lucky day. We should hit the casino.” The wife said “Well, you’re certainly dressed for a night on the town, so let’s do it.”

Being the good sport I had married 15 years prior, my wife dressed with a little western style of her own. At this point, I have to admit I’m feeling better about becoming an old man. We got to the casino and I suddenly felt something big was going to happen. Immediately, my wife grabbed a few dollars and headed over to play her favourite pokie machine.

While pokies were usually my passion as well, I decided to try something a little different on this particular night. At first, I played a little blackjack, then roulette. Neither game caught my fancy, leaving me searching for the game that would inspire me. Suddenly, it occurred to me that poker was a game usually associated with cowboys. With my new brass belt buckle shining in my eyes, I figured this was about as cowboy as I could get, so why not?

I sat down at a bank of poker machines, choosing the one at the end so I could keep an eye on the wife. I got myself a drink and settled in to do battle with my “jacks or better” friend for the evening. At first, I started playing at the minimum stake. After hitting a series of nice hands, it felt right to increase my bets. No sooner than I placed my first big bet, the sky opened and the gambling Gods came for a visit.

A royal flush was starring me straight in the eye. The payout was a healthy $5,000. After a little commotion, I decided the night was young and I was going to keep right on playing. It only took my little poker machine three more hands before another royal flush popped up. This time, the excitement was too much for me to handle.

In my best cowboy voice, I was yelling like a screeching owl. With another $5,000 in the bank, my instincts told me it was time to walk away. To heck with instincts. The wife came over and joined me at the poker machine to my right. The casino was offering drinks and comps, and we both decided to enjoy the party.

Before the evening was over, I had a pocket full of money and a smile on my face. I’m not sure if it was the golf bag, the brass belt buckle, or divine intervention, but lady luck had paid me a visit. I walked away with $13,000 of the casino’s money, plus a victory at the golf course. Best of all, I had no regrets about turning 40.