When I was in high school, my friends and I would ride down to the local 9-hole, public golf course that separated us from the country-club-kids making use of Daddy’s account number at the “19th Green Bar & Grille” (with an ‘e’).
We’d pay our eight-dollars and proceed to play as many rounds as possible before dark with stolen range balls from the Percy Warner Golf Park. It wasn’t even called a course… It was a golf park for the love of Robert Trent Jones!
But it was great. No worries. No score cards. No 40-dollar Titleist golf gloves. And no tees, most of the time. We wore basketball shoes with the laces untied. Mostly because the name “FootJoy” sounded sissy, but also because it didn't matter what you wore. You just were.
That’s when golf was golf. Real golf. The way those Fifteenth Century Scots meant for the game to be enjoyed. When golf was real golf, players would hit a pebble around a natural course of sand dunes, rabbit runs and tracks using a stick or primitive “club.”
That’s what we did! Just the four or five or three of us on a Tuesday afternoon or Saturday morning — whenever the spirit moved.
But time got the best of us, and over the years we’ve all married — one of us got divorced — and now our Tuesday’s are full of client meetings, deadlines and inner-office “attitude seminars.” Our Saturday’s are spent with the kids at Chuck E. Cheese’s or in the front yard pulling weeds.
Ah, but I still love play. The wife lets me go every once in a while to get in a round with some guys I used to work with. It’s OK, but it’s different.
When golf was golf, the winner was the guy who ended up losing the least amount of balls. Nowadays, losing a ball will get you called out at the next monthly staff meeting.
Back then, if you used your Putter on the tee-box, you automatically gained a stroke. Now, if I don’t take a good back swing with my Big Bertha Hawkeye VFT Driver, I’m automatically “in one… out two… hitting three.”
I used to actually look forward to hitting out of the sand. It was an adventure! Now, the sand trap means I didn’t read my trajectory correctly, or perhaps I just hit it “fat” — whatever the crap that means. The only guy who “hit it fat” at the Percy Warner Golf Park was TJ. I thought he was a little bit chunky. Turns out he was just a much better athlete than the rest of us.
I had a really nice “approach shot” last week. Used to be, I’d have an “awesome, high one.” My “short game” is still the weakest part of my day on the course. A short game used to mean we’d finish playing before Stuart Olson had to check his blood sugar.
I’m getting older now, and I am beginning to realize that perspective has everything to do with true happiness, and the difference between what is now and what was then has much less to do about the game of golf as it does the way I look at golf.
As with life, golf is so much more fun when you don’t treat the people around you as opponents. Why can‘t they just be there -- with you -- enjoying the game?
So what if your drive on the Par 5 doesn’t make it passed the women’s tee? We used to get a big laugh out of that sort of thing: “Attaboy, Ivey! Now you have to play the rest of the hole with your pants down!”
And who cares if you veer off-course every once in a while? There is beauty in the rough, sometimes. Sure, I want to be better than I am right now. I even get embarrassed from time to time by the way I perform. My game isn’t all that it could or should be. But sometimes, it should be enough to just enjoy the game.
Oh, who am I kidding? Perspective, schmer-spective. I still think “FootJoy” sounds dumb.