Sunday, July 13, 2008


After 50 years playing at the game, my skills have seemed to abandon me. I took up golf at 6 years of age, and from that point on, it was a natural fit. While I took a few lessons when I was 8 or 9, I don't think that it was the professional advice that molded my game. I was an athlete, and the flow of the swing came to me as easily as walking.

However, at the age of 56, when I look in the mirror, I see little evidence of that young boy. While I play with a friend who, at my age, now regularly hits drives that travel well in excess of 300 yards, I find myself struggling to hit the ball 200 yards. The distance on my iron shots is equally pathetic. I often find myself lying to my fellow players when they ask what club I hit, so as not to be embarassed by my lack of strength. I never take a practice swing, often stating that if I haven't figured it out after all these years, 1 practice swing won't help. I now feel like 15 practice swings would make no difference. I actually shanked a 3 foot putt yesterday. I see chips heading in directions unknown. I find my trusty driver to be foreign object in my hands. I can take comfort in no part of my game. I am a stranger masquerading as me as I wander helplessly for 18 holes.

I have friends who have taken up the game late in life, who are now passing me on the golfing highway. My superiority over them is rapidly disappearing. I blame my lack of ability on anything but a lack of ability. I hurt my back, I am worried about elevated prostate readings, I have a persistent cough, Jupiter is not aligned with Mars, George Bush is still the President, there are only 30 days in September, April, June and November. What has happened?

My sister insists I should be taking lessons. For someone who is inherently lazy, absolutely cheap, and has been forever convinced that the corrections are ultimately within one's power to make, I have rejected the notion that I need outside guidance. A tweak here and there has always been enough to bring my game back. I was always able to pull out from my memory bank some forgotten secret that aligned me physically and mentally. I could handle whatever little missteps I made. I could bring my game back to the level I was comfortable with and have moments of pride in my accomplishments. Now, all I find when I look for these guides, is an empty box. Someone has hidden the answers from me. The cliff notes have been lost, and the company seems to have gone out of business. I am looking into the abyss and am having trouble maintaining my balance.

Is the answer to swallow my pride and admit that after half a century the golfing gods have been wooed away from me by others? Must I make that dreaded phone call that I need help? I still cling to the belief that the light will be turned back on with my next swing, that the high, short and ugly slices and complete mis-hits that now regularly inhabit my game will be replaced with beautiful low hooks that will travel forever, and that I will find birdies and pars to be a regular staple in my golfing diet once again. I refuse to give up on my abilities to find answers on my own. I have seen so many of my friends take lesson after lesson, and go to golf camp after golf camp, convinced that the mystical breakthrough has been achieved. I then watch their games quickly slide back to the same level as previously inhabited. However, with each horrible swing and offending result, I get closer and closer to the seemingly inescapable conclusion that I have to look outside my own devices for an answer.

I think I will give myself one or two more rounds like this before I cry uncle. I will get the names of golfing pros who I can call upon , and carry their phone numbers with me. If and when the weight of my disappointments becomes too much to bear, I will reluctantly start dialing the phone. Until that moment comes I find myself like an addict who believes that salvation can be attained by the sheer belief that you have the inherent power to achieve it. I like to think that I am still the 6 year old boy who found the innate skills to achieve success early and often. I hope that I am correct. However, until the magic reappears, I would strongly suggest that you stay behind me whenever I swing because I have no idea where the ball may be going.

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