I consider myself to be somewhat athletic. I try and go running at least two or three times a week, I've played on several slow-pitch softball teams over the years, I've bowled my share of 200+ games, etc. I enjoy sports, whether watching or participating. And I feel that with time and practice I've been able to become at least decent at every sport I've tried.
Every sport that is, except one.
An old joke says, "Golf is a four-letter word." Another says, "Golf can best be described as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle."
Truer words have never been spoken. I took up golf several years ago and found it to be by far the most difficult sport I've ever tried to learn. It has, in a sense, become my white whale.
When I was golfing, I measured my progress less by scorecard and more by the number of balls I lost per round. When I began, losing six balls a round in the water, woods, or across the street in someone's front yard was commonplace. By the time I stopped playing, I was finishing most rounds with all my balls present and accounted for.
I haven't been golfing in six or seven years. My clubs, of which I never broke a single one, sit in one corner of my office. Some days they seem to taunt me, reminding me that I never conquered this game.
Also, for some odd reason, I've had an abnormal number of dreams about golf over the years. Even though I was never very good, and never even played that much, I would dream about it. And I would wake up wanting to go golfing. Why? I suck at it. So why do I enjoy it so much? What is the allure of golf?
I may not be able to answer that question, but the simple fact is that for whatever reason, men love golf. Golf and cars. Think about when man walked on the moon. What are two of the things you remember most about that? They hit a golf ball and they drove around in that little car.
I have a feeling the golf thing wasn't even approved by NASA. It probably went something like this:
Buzz: "Dude, you're bringing golf clubs on the space capsule?"
Neil: "Yeah, you know, in case we get bored. Have you seen those moon pictures? It's so barren and gray. Don't mention this to anyone, but honestly, it looks kinda lame."
And that US flag they brought? That wasn't some stake of claim. That was a flagstick so Neil would know where the hole was.
(Yes, I'm aware Alan Shepard is the astronaut who golfed on the moon, but I workshopped this using Alan. Not as funny as Buzz and Neil.)
So this past weekend, I loaded my harpoons in the back of the Pequod and went to the driving range in pursuit yet again of my white whale. After spending roughly an hour spraying a bucketful of dimpled projectiles in a variety of directions and distances, one thing became crystal clear. I suck.
But also, I've got the fever again. I'm back on the wagon, or golf cart, as the case may be. And no water hazard is safe.
Standing there after I shanked my first shot off the tee Sunday, those immortal words from 38 years ago wafted through my mind. Slightly altered, of course.
One small swing for man, one giant slice for Bone.
"Swing, swing, swing, from the tangles of, my heart is crushed by a former love. Can you help me find a way to carry on again?"