Saturday, August 20, 2011

Of Mice And Golf: Traditions

A bit different direction today, loyal readers.  

I’m here today to discuss golf traditions.  Not the Augusta kind of traditions unlike any other, but the traditions experienced by those of us who check our bag at the turn just to make sure we have enough balls to finish the round.  For example, I live in Southern California, so a weekend round of golf will invariably bring out two traditions that occur here: 1) Obtaining a second mortgage on your home to pay the greens fees, and 2) Having time to completely pay off that 30-year note in monthly installments while waiting for the round to finish. (Seriously? You’re going to look for that ball in the woods for 8 minutes, with groups stacking behind you? Hey Sir Hackalot, you spent 8 minutes looking for the one in the woods on the LAST hole - They sell them in packs of a dozen, take a quick look, drop, and then MOVE ALONG!)  Anyway, every round of golf brings out its own unique traditions, tied to either the people you’re playing with, the calendar, or the course itself.  I’m musing on golf traditions because I recently went back to Ohio to visit family, and dug a round of divots with my Father and my brother Mike.  (Also because I enjoy musing.  Sometimes I’ll even ruminate, but it’s medical ruminating approved by the state of California.)  When the men of my family get together and strategically plant Titleists deep into wooded terrain, we have several traditions.  My personal favorite is that my Father always pays.  I’m in my forties and Mike is in his thirties, but every time I see Dad pull out his American Express card I get that warm, “Child at Christmas” feeling, like I’m home again!  (This is inevitably followed at some point by that other home again feeling that I’ll apparently never outgrow, along the lines of “Teenager out past his curfew, getting yelled at and experiencing levels of guilt I thought I’d put behind me.”)  However, the tradition that made me giggle on this particular trip was the 18th tee, or as we call it “The 18th Tee.”  
Weekend warriors are familiar with allowing each other a mulligan on the 1st tee, but for over three decades my family has made the finishing hole memorable by granting a special mully on one condition - that the first cut you take on 18 is an “Overswing with every ounce of strength you have to the point where you could possibly separate rib cartilage” event.  I’m talking a Happy Gilmore  level of approach, if Happy had been hyped on Red Bull and ‘roids.  I’m not sure why we continue to do this, as far as I can recall no one has ever hit a single decent shot from The 18th Tee in over thirty years.  (Now that I think about it, I’m fairly certain we’ve never even found any of the balls we managed to hit.  Those that make it airborne usually land in the woods or multiple fairways away, with some leaving the grounds altogether and entering nearby residential or dining establishments, possibly disrupting important business meetings. “Well Mr President, I think we have an agreement for a balanced budget amendm...” ~CRASH!!!~ “This is outrageous!  Back to committee!”)
This particular trip, we played at Tartan Fields, the Central Ohio country club my Father recently joined.  I must say up front that Tartan Fields is an extremely nice course, well laid out and maintained, challenging, with picturesque fairways and postage stamp greens that will punish a wayward iron but reward a solid approach ... as far as I know; since I never had a “solid approach” I’m simply assuming that point.  It’s so classy there that the very nice young ladies in the beer ... I mean “refreshment” carts ... obviously considered Mike & I creepy old guys, (and not the normal wealthy creepy old guys they see, which probably confused them).   In other words, it’s the type of place I'm normally not permitted.  Anyway, when we arrived at 18, the “Swing Like Charlie Brown” tradition took place.  Dad found the trees down the left side, Mike drilled one into the water so hard I’m sure the greenskeepers had to restock the fish (“Wonder what killed them all?” “I don’t know, but this one has a Titleist lodged in its gills.”) and then it was my turn.  I set my feet, adjusted my grip, and  - trying to ignore the snickering going on behind me - ripped at it with all of my multiple “refreshment” enhanced might.  I mean I had myself a cut, folks; like something you’d see from a guy swinging a tree trunk ballbat in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.  This Herculean windmill was accompanied by a sound that can only be described as "John Belushi in Samurai Delicatessen meets a velociraptor."  I spun almost 360 degrees.  I nearly fell down.  I may have separated my left shoulder.  I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a second.  The clubhead speed was so great it may have ripped a hole in the universe and created a time travel vortex.  Folks, I went after that dimpled white sphere in a Sheen-esque frenzy.  The ball?  No one knows.  It sailed right, WAY right, like an extra fuel tank jettisoned from the Space Shuttle, and then it disappeared.  I’d like to think no one was hurt when it landed, but I can’t be sure. (“Wonder what killed him? “I don’t know, but there’s a Titleist lodged in his gills.” “Why does he have gills?”)  Anyway, when the laughter subsided and my left arm stopped throbbing with pain, I hit my real tee shot and we finished the hole. (Drilled a 15 footer to save par and tie the match with Dad.  Thought you’d want to know.)
What’s my point?  The point is this:   Family traditions of all types are about creating memories, and family golf traditions are no exception. The thing the three of us will remember from that round of golf is The 18th Tee. No one will remember the big drive I hit on 7, or Dad’s sand save on 12, but the men of my family will always be able to laugh about the time I nearly decapitated myself on The 18th Tee.  We laugh about 18th Tees from decades ago, and this latest installment will be a dandy addition to that quilt of stories.  If you’re not laughing and enjoying yourself - especially during a family round - then you really don’t understand golf at its core.  Do we try to play our best, always improve, work on the game, and most importantly create new and inventive expletives?  Of course we do - the constant frustration of golf, and our attempts to overcome it, is part of the appeal for us 15’s (and higher).  Above all though, golf is supposed to be fun, and if you can make fun a tradition anywhere and everywhere in your life, then that number on the scorecard is irrelevant.  You win.

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