Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Natural

It was an unmistakable sound. "Thwack". And then again, "thwack". It continued, repeating every few seconds. Several feet away, I stared, stunned. My son turned, saw the look on my face and then turned away once more. "Thwack". I had no idea that he was capable of this. Not my son.

I have been in hand to hand combat with the game of golf for almost 55 years. Each year I find brief rays of sunshine, but mostly there are dark clouds and often there is a downpour. Moments of joy are sandwiched around volumes of despair. I have come to accept this reality. And so, the pleasure I was experiencing was unrelated to anything I had encountered with a club in my hand. Only the club was now in the capable possession of my son.

It all began innocently enough. Being who I am, and unable to exercise self control, I befriended the family's 25 year old hair cutter. As I sat in her chair, and she pretended that there were enough follicle challenges on the top of my head to warrant attention, the conversation turned to the beginning of another season on the links. It turns out that this heavily tattooed woman, with hair that frequently changed color from dramatic to something beyond that, was a neophyte golfer. By the end of the massaging of the scalp and shampooing, we had made a play date for the following day at the local driving range.

But there was something inherently unsettling for me in this arrangement, and so I made certain to suggest that my son join us in this undertaking. One small problem was that he had absolutely no interest in this sport. But, as it turns out, he did have some interest in this very nice young lady.

While my waking hours had begun in the early dawn, we scheduled our meeting to coincide with the sleeping habits of our companion. And thus, at 12:30 PM, my son and I arrived at the house of the heavily tattooed hairstylist turned impeccably dressed driving range buddy.

The plan was for me to test my still somewhat unreliable back with a few shots. The rest of the small bucket of balls were to be struck, with increasing anger I imagined, by this black haired woman. As for my son, his role was to be that of friend and gentle supporter, providing encouragement and maybe some humor. The putting green was but a few yards away. It would be there that he was supposed to shine.

While the game of golf, with its monotonous journey for hours and hours, had held his interest not a whit, my son in his formative years found mini-golf to be the "essence of life". Family competitions often occurred there. My wife, my son and sometimes even my daughter, took turns humiliating me, the "golfer". The driving range, lurking near, could have been half way across the world for all my son cared.

As our very unlikely trio began this golfing adventure, my son found a comfortable bench from which to watch and comment. After but a few ragged attempts, I took my seat next to him, done for the day. The minutes went by, and the number of balls left in the bucket of the neophyte began to dwindle. Out of what could only be considered boredom, my son got up from the bench and walked a few steps to where my driver was resting.

Several questions as to posture, grip and swing plane ensued. Then, he took a ball and placed it gently on the tee. I was full of trepidation. I did not want this to be a humiliation for him, certainly not in this particular setting. He took the club back and then froze for what seemed like 30 seconds, as his brain was communicating with his body what to do next. "Thwack". The ball traveled in an absolute straight line. Not terribly far, but straight as an arrow. And then again, and again. Over the course of 10 minutes, the human machine performed his act to perfection.

When the display was concluded, I know that my face was almost frozen in an edge to edge grin. Who was this person, and how had he made such a despicably difficult exercise seem as simple as putting one foot in front of the other?

The following day, we were sitting at home, late in the afternoon. I was in my normal state, half asleep on the couch, ready to do nothing more strenuous then change the channels on the television. Suddenly, my son asked if I had any interest in going to the driving range. What had I done?


Anonymous said...

No miniature golf tomorrowe

Robert said...

But still much opportunity to be humbled.