Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Odyssey

About a dozen years ago, Dennis first put a golf club in his hand. Starting this sport at 50 is not a good idea, especially if you value your ego. This game is, at best, humbling, and often uncompromisingly harsh.

And so it has been for my good friend. Year after year the improvements have come, but with much accompanying pain. Errant shots often followed errant shots and the scorecard told a story that there were still miles to go before my friend could sleep.
Dennis would often appear on the first tee with the latest gadget in hand, something that clicked or in some other manner informed that one should seriously consider another endeavor. He would tell me of a golf channel tip that was certain to turn straw into gold. And, more than anything else, he would persevere.
If he took several ugly swipes to reach a green, he would say he could still make a bogey if he sank this 40 footer. If consecutive shots dribbled, or sliced into places unknown, he would remain resolute and gain satisfaction when the next ball took flight and stayed true to its target. He was undeterred and determined to figure this out.
And recently, a remarkable thing began to take shape. He was no longer on an endless quest for enlightenment.  The answers did not arrive all the time, not nearly, but sometimes, and then a little more. At the end of most rounds, the score still looked ugly, but it was no longer merely estimates on a page, but an actual count of all swings involved. On a few occasions, he could now string together a pocket of holes where the riddles of the game were solved.

This season I have sensed that a round, unlike all that came before, was lurking in the weeds. That a day would come when the damage would be minimal and the sun would shine from first swing to last.
Yesterday we played at West Point, a course that can be monumentally frustrating. While the scorecard would suggest that its length made this place ripe for the taking, it is not so.
I did not play in the same group with Dennis so I cannot fully attest to what transpired. But I was immediately behind him and was thus aware that seemingly every time I saw him he was standing in the middle of the fairway ready for his next effort. A few times we passed each other along the way and I almost always complimented him on what appeared to be yet one more excellent result.
I have been at this undertaking for six decades now and have on less than a handful of occasions found elation in unexpected success. The next step up the ladder in this game is not merely elusive. It is maddeningly elusive.
Dennis didn't say a word when I approached him after the round, but merely handed me his card. And the numbers that appeared for each nine were identical. 40, 40. My friend who had endured thousands upon thousands of miscues and nearly as many pointers from me on how to change his grip, alter his swing, modify his alignment or refine his thought process, had now arrived. Golf was no longer a four letter word or a complete mystery.

He and I both well know that tomorrow holds no guarantees in this undertaking and that one perfect swing does not necessarily beget another. But, like the tale that says we will always have Paris, Dennis will always and forever more know that he possesses within him great possibilities.
And in the end, that is all that this game really offers.
Congratulations my friend. 

And forget about getting all those strokes from me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Golf is a game of extremes: sometimes you're the statue, and sometimes you're the pidgeon.