Monday, July 11, 2011

golf is life

I am a golfer. I make no apologies for that. I know all the usual arguments against the game—it’s elitist, it’s overly expensive, too time consuming, isn’t always environmentally friendly, and as Mark Twain observed, “it’s a good walk spoiled.” But none of those sentiments can deter me from pursuing the perfect golf shot.

I’ve been playing the game for nearly 20 years now. I started to play again as an adult (I had played as a kid, often with my dad) after stopping playing after real life intervened throughout my twenties and thirties. I picked up the clubs again when my son expressed an interest in playing when he was 13 or 14 years old. Golf is a great bonding game for fathers and sons. As soon as I swung a club again after all those years away from the game I was immediately hooked and instantly addicted. My son is equally obsessed with the game and is looking forward to sharing his love of the game with his first child, who is teeing it up as it were, inside his mother’s womb even as we speak.

Golf is not just a game for those of us who both play and work at it. It is as necessary to our lives as the air we breathe. We play for enjoyment and work at getting better at it so we can enjoy playing that much more. Our game has its ups and downs, its good days and bad days. It is both ego stroking and humbling. Just like life itself. Those days when we play well leave us counting the minutes until the next day so we can play well again. Those days when every shot seems to go awry, when the cup seems to have a lid on it, only makes us more determined to work at improving. Golf often provides a focus in our lives that helps to keep us moving forward.

As a person with Parkinsons Disease, golf has given me another reason to stay in good physical shape. While I exercise and stretch daily as a therapeutic necessity, all that exercise has provided me with the ability to still play the game I love. I may look a times like I should be anywhere but on the golf course (I move at a typical PD pace), but I know I surprise some people who don’t expect me to be able to play as well as I do. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes with making a well played shot with your playing partners watching. Especially when they consider you a bit less than able bodied. The truth is, I am stronger and more flexible now than at any other time in my life because of all that daily exercise.

Playing golf well is an ego stroking experience when the confluence of ability and opportunity occurs at just the right moment. Just today I had such an ego boost on the back nine. I had caught up to a foursome of young guys who were doing some serious woofing at each other, betting on who could hit the longest drive. As I drove my cart up to the tee where the last two in the foursome had just teed off and were thumping their chests and strutting around after both hitting rather prodigious drives, they invited me to play through. At a time like that your only hope is to hit a decent shot so as not to embarrass yourself in front of such an audience. So I shuffled onto the tee and went through my usual preshot routine, took a deep breath, and prayed to the golf gods. My prayers were answered.

This particular hole was a 496 yard par five. The longest drive of the young studs was just past the bunkers that are around 250 yards from the tee. I must have done something to please those golf gods because my tee shot sailed past those bunkers and the farthest ball of those young’uns. My ball stopped two yards past the blue 200 yard stake (the stake marks the point that is 200 yards from the green) a good 40 yards past the longest drive that those studs could produce. For those who don’t want to do the math, that put my drive at about 298 yards long. That is prodigious.

I could almost hear their jaws dropping after I hit that shot. But I just nonchalantly shuffled back to my cart as though I had done nothing unusual. Now I am not an imposing guy physically. At age 63, I stand 5’9” when I manage to stand up straight and weigh all of 152 lbs right after a good meal. So for them to witness a skinny little old guy with PD launch such a tee shot had to be either horribly demoralizing or incredibly inspiring. I’m hoping the latter.

That one shot has inspired me to continue playing my favorite game. And while I got the great ego boost from that tee ball, my second shot on the hole was a pathetic pull hook that went about 100 yards, serving me a huge slice humble pie. But the shot I will remember forever is that tee shot.

Ego enhancing and humility inducing, golf is life. You gotta love it.

No comments: