Long about the year 1456 C.E., some Scotsmen got together and invented a sport involving putting a little ball, not much more than 1½ inches in diameter into a hole not much bigger than that. Sounds simple enough, right? Yeah, well that hole was several hundred yards away, and you have to accomplish this feat eighteen times and in the fewest number of strokes using a crooked stick! They called this sport, golf, presumably from an old Scottish Gaelic word which meant “to strike or cuff.” Some 541 years later, a kid named “Tiger” would turn the sport on its ear and generate tons of interest in the game in folks who had previously seen it as pointless.
One of those people who thought golf was a pointless game is currently writing this blog article. I had for years said that I'd never play golf and held to the Carlinian1 point of view that it was a “sexist, racist, elitist sport.” Then along came Tiger, and my attitude changed a bit. I also was in Bible college at the time Tiger won the Masters Tournament,2 and we were allowed to play at one of the area golf courses for free with our student ID and since it seemed that all church pastors were golfers, it seemed like the thing to try. So, I found a set of very old golf clubs (which I still have) at a junk store for $30, bought a cheap box of golf balls and gave it a try. I figured, if I hated it, there were plenty of guys on campus who were always borrowing clubs that I could easily get my $30 back. Well, I messed up and fell in love with the game, though it threatened to take my sanity and I came close on more than one occasion to breaking the clubs and/or throwing them in the lake. At least once a week, my buddy Kris and I would drive over to Hartwell Golf Club and play at least nine holes, lose at least four or five balls each, throw a club at least once, but always have a lot of fun while getting some exercise3 and getting off campus for a couple or three hours.
After I left Georgia and moved back home to North Carolina, I didn't play for a couple of years, because I didn't have that magic student ID card anymore and I didn't have a “golfin' buddy.” Then I met Jeremiah and we started the same routine that Kris and I had in Georgia; play golf once a week. The difference was, Jere and I used the cart (because it was included in the price of the round) and we had a cooler full of beer (hey, I wasn't in Bible college anymore and had never become a pastor :-P). A few months later, Jeremiah moved to another city and I was again without a “golfin' buddy” and quit playing for about two years.
May 2007, another friend of mine got married in Atlanta and had taken up the game, so the day before the wedding, all the guys got together and played golf. It had been the first time in two years I had even taken my clubs out of the storage room and it showed (not that I was all that good to begin with). That Saturday in Georgia last year, though, rekindled my love of the game and when I returned to Fayetteville, I decided it was time to get new clubs and start playing again regularly, even if I had to play by myself. In fact, the very week I got back from Rob's wedding in Georgia, the two of us got together to play a round when he came up to visit his parents.
I've been playing pretty steady for a few months now. I still suck at it, as evidenced in my score cards, several of which you can view online. While it's true that golf can become expensive, I've found a couple of courses that are pretty cheap, only $10 or $20 for a round of eighteen holes, and I was able to get my clubs on layaway at Dick's Sporting Goods. I need lessons, for sure, but I'll have to either win the lottery or wait for those supposed tax rebate checks the government is supposed to send out in May before I could afford that.
Why do I play, you ask? Simple; as maddening as it can be, and as much money as I spend on golf balls to replace all the ones I lose to “water hazard gods” every time I play, it relaxes me. I get to be outside, away from the stresses of life and just enjoy myself. Most days, at least at the smaller course I play at, I meet someone new and occasionally pick up some pointers and tips from them. Besides, it's not like I'm going to learn how to skate and become hockey player at my age, right?
Golf is also a game of honor and integrity; a couple of traits that are increasingly lacking in this country. It's the only sport, as Hardy Greaves stated in “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” that you can call a penalty on yourself (provided you're honest, and most golfer's are). So, get some clubs (those crooked sticks I mentioned before) and play golf America!
I'm referring here to comedian George Carlin and comments he once made during one of his comedy concerts in the early 1990's or late 1980's.
setting a tournament record for low score (-18) which still stands to this day, by the way
we walked the course; we could play for free, but using the golf carts cost money and we were poor college students, which is why we usually only played nine holes because we didn't want to walk the entire eighteen.
Next week: a special Easter Sunday blog