A true tale of life and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way…
As many of you probably know by now, I grew up a so called “city boy”. With that in mind, many of the sports that I played as a youth were played on concrete. Football was mostly ”two hand touch" on some of the wider streets, basketball was usually played three on three in a hoop precariously installed on somebody’s garage and hockey was played in the schoolyards where a roll of electricians tape substituted for the real thing. Hey, we made do with what we had.
Golf was for “pussies”. It was for those guys who weren’t tough enough or talented enough to play any “real sports”. It was for the rich kids who lived in big houses and whose dads drove expensive cars and whose moms stayed home all day planning what to make for dinner and were probably members of the goddamn PTA. Besides, real estate being what it is in NYC there weren’t many public courses available and who the hell in their right mind would want to get up at 5:00 AM and schlep their clubs on public transportation just to chase a little white ball around some field?
It was right after my divorce was final and in the ensuing years between my teens and the age of forty, I’d probably put on a few pounds or two along the way. Oh, I used to play softball in some of the bar leagues but as you get older, you’ll tend to notice that it gets harder and harder to get twenty or so guys together to play or, for that matter, do anything at the same time. Life, in the form of kids, homes, jobs or health matters has a habit of seeing to those little details. To top it off, I don’t know if was in our divorce settlement or not, but the bride somehow kept most of the friends we had acquired during our time together.
One of my friends who stuck by my side suggested we take up golf to fill the void of Sunday mornings when there wasn’t shit to do besides laundry and yard work. That was probably eight years ago when I picked up my first set of clubs. I haven’t put ‘em down since.
To me, golf is, in a word, “intimidating”. You’ve got this little white ball that’s not moving and lying at your feet just begging to be hit. You’ve got what seems like all of the space in the world off to your left and your right to just drill that sucker right down the middle. You’ve got nothing but the heavens above you to watch as the ball makes that majestic arc into the sky.
The first time I played, it was an unmitigated disaster. Being the “macho type” I figured a few quick trips to the driving range would be all that it took and anybody who had invested in golf lessons was just pissing their money away. I can still remember lining up my tee shot on the first hole that I ever played. We had an early morning time and there were a bunch of people behind us waiting for their turn to battle the course. I dug my tee in the ground, placed the ball on top of it, took a few practice swings and lined up. I was gonna crush that sucker.
”Are you fucking kiddin’ me?”
I backed off with a look of amazement and shock. This didn’t happen on the range. I sauntered back up to the ball and with a swing worthy of Casey prepared to launch the ball into the goddamn stratosphere.
By now I was just plain embarrassed. There were mutterings like “Get to the range” or “Way to go Tiger” coming from behind me and I was getting a little frazzled. I backed off again and tried to regain what or any composure I might have had.
The third time worked like charm. My six foot two hundred twenty pound frame and all the power it could generate had come crashing down on the ball.
It dribbled maybe twenty or thirty yards off to the right and nestled in behind some trees that guarded the next fairway over. As I shoved my driver back in the bag I heard one guy on the box say to his buddy that it was “gonna be long day”. No truer words were ever spoken.
I don’t know what I “scored” that day. If I had to hazard a guess, I’m thinking somewhere between 150 and 160. With all that room down the center, I was either way left or way right. With all that air above me, I was hitting worm burners to beat the band. I don’t want to know or remember how long the actual round took. There’s one thing I’ll take away from the whole episode though.
There’s a saying in golf that it only takes one or two shots in a round that causes your average hacker to keep coming back. Let’s face it, we ain’t getting paid to do this and the frustration any devotee of the sport feels about missing shots is akin to spraining an ankle or something in one of those “real sports”. When you think about it, one or two out of hundred or so is not a good percentage in most things. Golf is kinda different that way.
Mine came when I rolled in a putt of about 20 feet or so to save quadruple bogie.
In the ensuing years, I’ve spent countless hours both on the range and on the course itself and I’ve improved my game to usually shoot somewhere in the mid 80’s. I guess for me, golf has a certain zen about it. There’s something about being with three of your closet friends in the world with nothing but a blue sky and an open course in front of you and the prospect of reliving your game in the nineteenth hole afterwards.
As for “Breaking 80”, I came close once. I had about a four footer to come in at 79 but the ball lipped out and I came in right on the “magic number”. Oh sure, I was little pissed at myself but my mind drifted back to that putt of about eight years ago, the one that saved me from that quadruple bogie and quite possibly, from myself.