Teeing off amidst the sap

Sitting down to write this blog entry, my first as guest blogger for the Hudson Valley Hacker, several possible topics blipped onto the mental radar — the state of Tiger’s mind following his epic downfall, the state of the PGA Tour in a Tiger-shamed universe, the state of John Daly’s dress (dude, your pants look like a picnic) — but nothing stuck (well, maybe the Daly topic, but it must wait for a future entry). Then across the radar came a question, “Why do we love this game so much?” So at the risk of covering this blog in sappy poetics from the very start, I will share with you why I love the game of golf. And maybe you can relate.

I love the game of golf for the challenge. Go to your local driving range (might I suggest Blueberry Mountain, located on Rt.17M in Middletown) and you will see this game is not easy. See that 270-pound fella with the biceps bulging from his pink, medium-sized collared shirt? He might have been an all-American linebacker, able to make all the lovely ladies swoon, but give him a 14-ounce metal stick and put him in front of a cute little white ball that doesn’t move, and suddenly he looks as embarrassingly awkward as a shaved circus bear riding a unicycle. This game isn’t about muscles. Patience, persistence, confidence, focus, forgiveness — only a few words that make a golfer good. These words apply to a talent between the ears. These words explain why Tiny Tim can take a $100 Nassau from Greg Goliath on any given Saturday morning.

I love the game of golf for the solemn beauty of its playing field. There is a reoccurring moment in summer when the sun dips low in the western sky — the air warm and the insects afloat in the golden haze of dusk — when a golf course becomes art. The shadows play off the gentle green contours of the fairways, the trees stand still, the only sound the soft fall of your feet and the gentle clank of your clubs as you walk and look at the sky and forget your stress. Yes, sappy, I warned you of this, but any golfer who has been on a course at such a time knows what I describe. There is something magical then. Certainly it can become poetic in nature.

I love the game of golf for the stories, and the stories don’t even have to be about golf. An example: The great Gary Player tells a story of when he was younger and invited his friend, the equally great Arnold Palmer, to his home country of South Africa. The pair were touring a gold mine, led by a guide who at one point stopped near a pile of raw gold bars and said, “We have a policy here, promising a gold bar to anyone capable of carrying a bar from here with a single bare hand.” The guide was joking of course. The bars were huge and weighed an immense amount; no one could possible lift such a thing. So you can imagine his surprise when Palmer reached out with his great claw of a hand, grabbed a bar, and headed for the nearest exit. Of course Palmer returned the gold with a smirk, but Player said he never saw a man look as scared for his life (and his job) as he did that day with the tour guide.

I love the game of golf for the time spent with my father. Yes, if there can be no other reason, it is this. My father taught me how to play. He was the one who challenged me to play with joy and patience. He so often was the one walking with me as the sun set and the greens turned to art. He was the one who spoke and joked and shared his love of the game with me. So often we never said a word, we just played in silence and enjoyed each other’s presence. Nothing needed to be said. Much can be taught by example, and my father taught me to love the game of golf by the example he set. So many other lessons were also there, about subject matter not bounded by rough and dog-legged tree lines. Surely all who have spent much time on golf courses have been influenced by such people. We can all be grateful and hopefully we can pass the passion on to the next newcomer. Because there is no game like the game of golf. I love it all … well, except maybe for those days when my ball is going sideways and my swing feels like an antique accordion.

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  • Blog Author

    Joe Frederick

    Joe Frederick is the senior sports designer for the Times Herald-Record and has been walking fairways since he was 13-years-old. A native of Missouri, he's a passionate Kansas City sports fan, so cut him some slack if he shows up on your course ... Read Full
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