The Earnest Golfer Emerges
Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human beast: Man never is, but always to be blest.” Also women. Especially golfers.
The first warm days of late winter in Appalachia bring them out in droves. Fortified by diligent reading of how to manuals, studying videotapes and listening intently to inspirational cassettes, The Golfer emerges from snowy enforced idleness to approach the dreaded tee at No. 1 with tremendous confidence. This year he will not long for a loud car wreck, an explosion, anything, to draw attention of interested onlookers and hangers on away from his drive. No. Not this year.
In previous years, The Golfer has walked up to that first tee with as much alacrity as a convict on his way to the electric chair. Once there, The Golfer took a couple of half hearted practice swings, smiled weakly at the assembled throng and slashed madly at the ball only to dribble it all of 46 yards down the fairway. “It’s early,” he always consoled himself, as snickers followed him on his disconsolate way.
Not this year, vows The Golfer. He has studies assiduously “How to Play Better Golf” all winter long. He is ready. The Golfer walks briskly to the first tee box. He smiles a friendly greeting to the onlookers, addresses the ball, mentally reviews all the helpful hints on how to hit it straight and far, waggles his club and dribbles the pellet all of 43 yards down the fairway. “It’s early yet,” The Golfer tells himself. But the words have a hollow ring. He tells himself that in certain uncivilized countries, natives beat the ground with clubs and utter blood curdling screams. Anthropologists call it primitive expression.” We call it golf. The Golfer does not smile.
Oh, thou perfidious sport! Oh, the wonder of fragile ego! Truly, The Golfer never is, but always to be blest. No wonder Dr. A.S. Lamb of McGill University once wrote: Golf, it is said increases the blood pressure, ruins the disposition, spoils the digestion, induces neurasthenia, blisters the hands, ties kinks in the nervous system, debauches the morals, drives players to drink or homicide, breaks up the family, turns the ductless glands into internal warts, corrodes the pneumogastric nerve, breaks off the edges of the vertebrae, induces progressive mendacity and starts angina pectoris.” All this is of small comfort to The Golfer. He reflects that his own doctor has said golfing could add years to his life. He already feels 23 years older after hitting such a lousy drive. The Golfer remembers horrible jokes the game has spawned: “A golf ball is a golf ball, no matter how you put it.” The Golfer does not smile. “The minister drove into a sand trap. He said not a word, but picked up his club and broke it. He kicked his golf bag to shreds and said not a word. He threw all his golf balls deep into the woods, silent all the while. Finally, he spoke. ‘I’m going to have to give it up.’ ‘Golf?’ asked his partner. ‘No,’ he replied. “The ministry.” The Golfer does not laugh. He recalls the terrible tempered player who threw all his clubs in a deep lake and then jumped into after them. His partners knew he wouldn’t drown because he couldn’t keep his head down long enough.
The Golfer is not amused.
Each year he eagerly awaits the warmth of the sun, the first golf outing. It takes only a few holes for The Golfer to realize that his slice also has survived the snows, that his putts come no nearer dropping than when the clubs were put away for the last time in the fall, that instead of this being the year the old handicap will drop down to 20 it probably will soar to 30.
But then The Golfer smiles. He cannot help himself. For, play has begun for another year. Snide comments meant for him to hear, such as, “He’s only gotten this far in three shots, we’d better head for the back 9” do not disturb his equanimity. He reminds himself that it was the immortal Bobby Jones who observed that the most important distance in golf is the six inch space between players ears. When he hits a new Pinnacle into the lake, he merely sighs and reaches for another ball. The golf season has begun. As has been said, “Now I lay my hands on putter, I pray the Lord my stroke won’t stutter, If I should yip and miss my goalPlease let that ball fall in the hole.”
The season has begun. And “Gods in Heaven, all’s right with the world.’