Illustration by John Stricker.
Here we are, at the precipice of another full-blown summer, anticipating the promise of so many good times to come. And as long as I don’t step onto a golf course, I’ll be fine.
But I know that’s not going to happen. I will get on the golf course, probably several. I’ll go because my friends play and I enjoy getting outside. But mostly I’ll go because I apparently have a sick, inexplicable need for self-torture in beautiful settings.
My dad was good at golf. He played into his mid-70s, and even as his agility diminished and his once-solid frame became thin and rather frail, he could still knock the ball off the tee 150 yards straight up the fairway. On nearly every hole he flirted with at least a double-bogey.
My brother is good at golf. He’s a big hitter – like the Dali Llama – a grip-it-and-rip-it sort who still manages finesse around the green. Even my buddies are good at golf. Rob can shoot in the mid-70s with his eyes closed. Steve has a single-digit handicap, even though his swing looks like he’s pitching hay bales. I was with my pal Roland when he smacked a hole-in-one at Catta Verdera on his birthday. You would think just being around such weekend greatness would be somewhat contagious, like catching the golf-equivalent of pink eye. Nope.
There is something about the game that completely and utterly psyches me out, and always has. I have been playing off and on since high school and yet, if there’s a stranger or two in my foursome, I still preface my impending hideousness with, “I’m just learning the game.” Once I hit a tee shot that actually defied physics and shot backwards, grazing the leg of a passing Course Marshall. Those guys always look grumpy anyway, but this guy glared at me like he just caught me taking a bubble bath in a water hazard. On a gorgeous fall day in 2005, I lost 27 balls over 18 holes at Apple Mountain, and that’s not an exaggeration.
I completely “get” the golf mystique, especially here, with so many truly wonderful courses to play. Few things in life seem to hold more promise than the first fairway on a sunny summer morning. It’s just that for me that promise gets broken faster than an 11th-hour campaign pledge. I would love nothing more than to be one of those guys who complains when their shot lands 50 yards from the green instead of 55. Instead, I’m happy if my shot lands on a fairway. Notice I didn’t say the correct fairway. As long as the grass is short, I don’t really care. And yes, I’ve had lessons, but all they’ve done so far is make the game more frustrating, because I still suck. You know how you’re supposed to keep your head down during the shot? I’m much more accustomed to keeping it down after.
That’s not to say I’ll quit. No, no, no. I’ve come too far to give up now. And every once in a while, when the stars align and Earth pauses on its axis for a moment, I’ll manage to uncork a shot that is both effortless in its execution and flawless in its grace, and the ball will scream away like a fighter jet into the clear blue sky. Then I’ll hold my follow-through, savoring the moment and admiring the simple, perfect arc of a ball hit straight and strong and true. And I’ll wonder how the *&%$# I just did that.
Catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1