There was a time, once, when I could bring even the toughest golf courses "to their knees."
Well, not really, I guess - but I was a pretty decent golfer in my high school and college years. As a senior in high school, I was the top player on our team, and pretty consistently shot a couple to maybe four or so strokes above par during matches. And our home course was actually a PGA course about 5 miles from the school - not your average public links.
During my four years at Penn State, I played on our men's team and achieved the #3 ranking, carrying my lowest PGA handicap of 3.5 several times. I had trouble cracking par, and just couldn't get those last few strokes consistently off my average. But back then, during all those school years, we played at least 18 holes 5 or 6 days a week, and lots of days a group of us would play 36 in a day. Then - go out on the range and hit a few more. I even toyed with the idea of getting more lessons and perhaps seeing if I could try some PGA tournaments and Q-School. But as my interests leaned toward business, I just never got serious enough about my golf to pursue it.
But I lived and breathed it. I hardly ever missed watching a tournament on TV. I got all the golf magazines. I practiced putting in the basement until I nearly wore grooves in the carpet. Jack Nicklaus was my hero, and I even fashioned both my grip and my swing after him. I use the interlocking grip and have a "flying right elbow" just like Jack.
In the ensuing years, life intervened. I started out in business (self-employed) after college, and seriously took up again my personal study of history. My golf days during the week started out at 3 or 4, then dwindled to 2, and now for the past 10 years I only play 9 holes, one night a week, in the men's league at our local muni.
And boy, does my game suck.
Of course, I also got married in the meantime, and helped raise my new wife's daughter. Business became a much bigger part of my life, and golf went to the background. Now I hardly ever go out to the range, and I mostly only watch part of the major tournaments on TV. There just isn't much time for it anymore. But I have ramped up my study of the Civil War and writing, of course, while still finding much time for the important things in life - family, and other forms of recreation that we can do together. I guess like most people, my interests have changed and the amount of time devoted to them has proportionately changed as well.
Did I mention my golf game really blows?
There was that time, say 20 years ago, that I would nearly go into a rage if I shot 40 or over for 9 holes. Now, today, I'm ecstatic if my score is under 50. Tonite, though, I shot a 52, and had a 53 last week.
I told you my golf game bites.
Last week I was pretty frustrated - I guess it's taken time for me to understand that it's not just that I can't do some of the things I did 20 years ago, it's that I can't put the "time" in anymore. Truthfully, I want to put that time into other things - which I do - and that one night a week on the course with the guys is somewhat of a necessary bit of leisure for me. Being out on the course still takes me back to my school years, and especially to when I was about 8 years old when my mother actually taught me the game. She was the first to take me out. That first day out with her, I think I scared the living daylights out of her when one of my shots darn near killed someone playing on an adjacent hole... but starting me on the game enriched my life. I soon learned that golf is one of those games that shows the measure of a person in many ways. There are rules, yes, but it's left up to you to follow them. You can take "mulligans" on the course, but you don't often get them in life. You can kick that ball out of the rough when no one's looking, but in family, business, and life in general, there are no foot-wedges. You take each shot as it comes and deal with it. That's why, today, I can't stand someone who cheats on the golf course - I want nothing to do with them. I feel they can't be trusted if they'll cheat at the game. Play with me and cheat, and you're finished. I don't mean the friendly kind of play - I mean deliberately cheating to lower a score or better your shot in order to win money or whatever. I want nothing to do with such a person because one who can't be trusted when he's being watched certainly can't be trusted when he's not.
So rather than be so frustrated tonite, I'm starting to accept the fact that unless I were to start playing 4 or 5 days a week again, and practice my game, it's probably as good as it'll be. You get out of something what you put into it. And that's very true with just about everything in life. I read, study, listen, and write more now than I play golf - and I think I'm better at history than golf. I have to accept that the one night a week on the course can continue to be just for fun, and I'll never be the nearly-scratch golfer I once was. Yes, my game really stinks, but it's okay. No matter how I and my golfing buddy finish the season, we'll still get to eat a great season-ending banquet just like everyone else. Yeah, I'll wish I'd played better, but I can look back on a summer of fun, sun, and fresh air. And remember that in the end it's a game - one you play - I don't make a living at it. I don't make a living at my writing either, but I am content to practice it continually, constantly honing my skills. You get out of it what you put into it.
Sigh. 52 tonite. Oh well, there's always next week. I wonder if I still have that old putting return machine around here somewhere?