Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beware The Bogeyman

"I hate you." "I hate you." I directed that phrase at my daughter at least a dozen times in short order. With each additional attack, her smile only grew larger.

This problem began almost 25 years ago. At that time, I was the undisputed king of sport in my household. Of course, my son was barely of school age, my daughter still in diapers, and my wife, while a natural athlete, cared little for the physical undertakings of import to me. That all changed when skiing entered our collective universe.

First, it was my daughter who flew by me, literally and figuratively, while I struggled to pick my way down the slope. Next, my son began to make beautiful, rhythmic deep carving turns, the likes of which I could only dream of completing. But I felt safe for many years that at least my wife would never meet or exceed my accomplishments. Then, about 3 or 4 years ago, the speed of her  downhill descent increased, her weight distribution improved dramatically, and the sense that I was about to fall to the very bottom of this family tree began to overtake me. And in the succeeding years, that reality has emerged.

But, there was always one spot that gave me refuge from the family storm. The golf course was, I announced almost religiously to my family,  the place they should stay as far away from as possible. It was an ugly desolate universe, filled with the bogeyman and even worse, the doublebogey man. It was not where anyone with any common sense would ever voluntarily wander. And so, there were no golf lessons, no trips to the driving range, and unlike skiing, no humiliation in watching as one after another passed me by..

Sure, there were the occasional journeys by my wife to this dark and terrible place. But after I skulked and sulked, meandered and cursed under my breath, she found little reason to join me again.. And so, even though she showed a good swing and the possibility of excellence, she  headed to the swimming pool, or on to her bicycle and left my fiefdom intact.

Earlier this season, really by mistake, my son found himself with me on the driving range. As I have chronicled, he showed a remarkable level of talent for one who had previously believed this sport was only slightly more interesting than spending an afternoon removing lint from a bellybutton. Recent returns to the range have been encouraging for him (and discouraging for me). I fear, in the not too distant future, I will be applauding (and cursing) his feats on the fairway.

Which brings me to today and my daughter. It wasn't enough that she should, by the age of 6 or 7,  fly by me on the mountain. No, she has now decided to humiliate me at the place I have called home for over 5 decades. She had played a total of 18 holes in her life before she began today's round.  Using a set of left handed clubs given to her by one of my male golfing buddies, she had little concept of stance and no idea at all of what to think about when swinging. And so, at least for the first few holes, she achieved little of note.

But then came the ninth hole, a par 3 of about 135 yards.  She took out the 3 wood. I hoped she would somehow be able to keep the ball in flight long enough to get over the water. When the club struck the ball, my heart sank. The shot went straight and true, with a little draw and was still climbing when it went over the green. It was now a foregone conclusion that my reign as king was over..

And throughout the back nine there were constant reminders of my demise. 3 irons hit crisply, drive after drive on the fairway, some almost 175 yards from the tee. 9 iron chip shots that had perfect distance, and a putting stroke that was accurate if not always true. It made my stomach turn.

When we reached the last hole and another drive flew off her club-face (only slightly off line), I let my daughter know once more just how much she was aggravating me. She just turned and acknowledged my defeat.

Once at home, she regaled her mother with tales of her glory, began practicing her swing and asking for pointers. She wondered whether we could go back to the range before our plans for the evening. She called her boyfriend's father to see if she could be included in their foursome this Saturday. I don't  know whether to hate or pity her. Once golf gets in your blood, you are doomed forever.

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