The kids called him Snowball, on account of the giant white patch on top of his head.

But the adults knew his real name: Sir Perry Fitz Hatfield III.

To be fair, Snowball was an accurate label — his white patch was remarkable. I’ve never seen a Welsh terrier, or any dog for that matter, appear to be wearing a toupee quite like this dog. Deep brown fur covered the rest of him, but this white tuft was the only trait you would notice within 100 yards of him.

Snowball was perhaps the more polite name, too, given that Perry Fitz Hatfield III (the human) had only been dead about three weeks.

Fittingly, he had died on the course. Even more fittingly, he had died trying to kick a ball out of a deep rough while he thought no one was looking. Hatfield lost his footing, fell into the bunker behind him, and succumbed to a heart attack on the sandy beach of the 12th hole.

Before I come across as too irreverent, Hatfield had earned his reputation. One of the founding members of the club, he was rather spry for 94 years old. Not that you would know it from his pace on the course. A last-minute cancellation from a member of your foursome risked the starter adding Hatfield to your cart, and adding two hours to your round. That six hours would also feature you losing money — Hatfield had a knack for “miracle rounds,” days he would shoot quite well for someone of his handicap. The fact that his “miraculous” play tended to correlate with the amount of the wager … well, that was just coincidence.

Despite the glacial pace, the questionable handicap, and a tendency for balls to jump out to the fairway when you turned away, Hatfield evaded public critique at the club because of his way with kids. Children adored the 5-foot grumpus. The man could speak the language of our kids better than any veteran parent. Place a crying baby in his arms, and she’d fall asleep in a heartbeat. Toddlers took their first steps to get to his pockets full of candy, and a squadron of junior golfers would show up to their lessons dressed in the Hatfield uniform, hoping to get his compliment.

The Hatfield uniform, another key feature of this quirky man, comprises dark plaid knickers, an emerald green polo shirt, and a blindingly white tam o’ shanter hat. You could almost miss him camouflaged in the woods, except for the assault hoisted upon your eyes when you looked at the white, woolen ball bouncing atop his head.

Hatfield’s death had shocked the club. The children were expectedly distraught; a shrine of candy quickly formed at the memorial photograph posted in the front lobby. Even the adults were a bit shaken, though. He had seemed almost immortal, a fixture as permanent as the 12th-hole pond itself.

Coincidentally, the dog was first spotted at that very pond two weeks after the funeral. The grounds crew tried approaching him, but he was far too quick. He ended up being too quick for anyone. In five days of trying, not a single person had been able to even get within arm’s reach. Well, no adults anyway. Plenty of junior golfers have finished their rounds with stories of Snowball walking right alongside them and allowing pets galore. The rest of us seem confined to spotting the dog’s white head from a distance.

Our greenskeeper began ranting about the threat of dug-up flowerbeds to anyone who would listen, but the rest of us weren’t too bothered. Snowball kept his distance, and spotting him became more of a novelty than a concern. Plus, we assumed an owner would respond to our Facebook posts or local fliers at some point. But no one in the neighborhood had ever heard of this dog. Snowball showed up out of thin air and was somehow now a fixture on the course.

The comparisons to Hatfield came about pretty quickly. To an outsider, I’m sure they are far-fetched. Many look for a positive change after such a sudden death, and a white-capped dog appearing on the course filled a void. We were a community in mourning, and that could make us see symbols that weren’t there.

Yesterday, though, my daughter confided in me that she had lied on her junior golf scorecard and felt guilty. Shocked, since she’s a stickler for honesty most days, I asked what had happened … and after hearing it, well, I’m not sure I would have added a stroke either.

Her ball had landed in a rough on 12, too deep to get a swing on. She took a look and headed toward her bag to grab a club for the attempt. By the time she turned back, there was Snowball, begging for belly rubs and lying next to her ball — which was suddenly on the fairway.

Too good to be true? Perhaps. I would have doubts hearing this for the first time, too. I’m not the type to buy into reincarnation stories. But then, this isn’t my first time seeing one play out — my son’s swim coach came back as a salmon living in the county pool. Legends never die, I guess.

Andrew Lynch

Andrew Lynch has been swinging a golf club since he learned how to walk — just like Tiger, minus the fame and skill. As a former caddie, his favorite type of golfer is one who uses a light bag with a proper strap. He lives in Michigan with his partner and cat.