The last couple of days I have been gazing intently into my navel and pondering deep thoughts. I'd like to continue that by bring my almost main passion into the mix.
Yes, that's right. Golf.
Stop yawning. It's not polite.
I realize that not everyone sees the sport in the way that golfers do. And that those who do not play The Game do not understand the golfer's passion for it. Even those who play often don't understand it.
I think former NFL pro Bo Jackson expressed it perfectly in an interview recently when he said he was so involved in the game that he didn't know who was in the [NFL] playoffs.
Like most sports, much of the game can be translated into life. Or vice versa. To me, golf involves a number of things I enjoy. I'll explain in a moment but, first, a little background.
When I was a young boy, I was nothing much. I was smaller than my peers of the same age, skinny, and insecure. I had little to encourage me or help me over those hurdles we face as children. My father, a distant and seemingly cold man, was not into sports. My mother, clueless about them. My brother was, likewise, not into sports either. My very short exposure to Little League baseball was tryouts and one game (a practice game, I think) at age 7. The first time I hit a pitched ball was no thrill. It was painful. Either I had a cracked bat or very tender hands but all I recall is that my hands stung like I had never experienced before.
I was also called "out" at first base. I would have been crushed if I wasn't already totally lacking in self-confidence.
I was never grew big enough to play football nor tall enough for basketball nor fleet enough for track. So I grew up without engaging much in those sports that boys normally play that help form them and give them a common ground.
I was not "athletically inclined", as they say. But I had (and have) a competitive nature so I sought other avenues and ignored sports except as a spectator.
I only discovered some ability when I got exposed to surfing at age 18. It helped that I saw many others struggling to learn it and failing to master it. And it didn't take great strength. It took balance and focus and those things I could muster. And it did not require teamwork.
I did not get exposed to golf in any meaningful way until I was about 26. I was over my youthful insecurities and self-loathing and had built up a small amount of self-confidence. It helped that I could see the majority of amateur players weren't very good at it. Even the friend who introduced me to it, a jock who had played all the high school sports, struggled with it as much as I did. When we played together, it wasn't really together except on the tee and the green. He hit the ball to the left and I hit it to the right, so we took separate routes at almost every hole.
But golf provides something else for me. It provides 18 basic problems to be solved, with any number of problems inside each of those. It is not a physically demanding game but requires balance, coordination, and a modicum of flexibility.
It is personal. You never really compete directly with an opponent in the way you do in most other sports. It is strength of will that is important in the competition and the game, you can affect only the psychology of your opponent. The only player you can affect physically is yourself.
There is a Zen like quality to it. It is, as Yogi Berra said about baseball, "90% mental, the other half is physical." The mind controls the body in golf like few other sports. I sometimes muse about putting because I think it represents the incredible control we exert upon our bodies without realizing it.
Consider it this way... You step upon the green, feel the firmness of the turf through your shoes and feet, gauge the speed the ball must travel to reach the cup, determine the path the ball will follow based on how and where the slopes are on the green and how the grain of the grass will affect it, and then your mind subconsciously sends the necessary commands to the muscles to execute the stroke. It often amazes me when this works. And it often works.
But there is also raw physicality involved. You step up to the tee and 14 times out 18, try to hit the ball as far as you can in the direction you want.
Golf is where I can exorcise my demons. And I do need to exorcise those demons. I can get lost inside my head even while socializing and sharing jokes. There is no other activity quite like it.
And it is addictive as cocaine.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago