… so have I. We could capture a few hours with Mother Nature, swing our cares into the wind, and walk away with a splash of color in our cheeks.
The yearning began in high school when I heard Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra as the intro to live golf on television. The instrumental accompanied majestic views. Fresh air, sunshine, warm breezes, scenic views – oh yeah! – that must be the life. Being sequestered in an office surrounded by walls of sheetrock, fabric, and metal for days, weeks, months, and years on end fueled my desire. I dreamed that someday I would learn.
In my twenties, I watched a young Tom Watson win tournament after tournament on those luscious lawns. I wondered if he would consider a female, 5’4” caddy. But alas, we never met. I settled for living my outdoor life vicariously via television on weekends. I followed him as he competed against Nicklaus, Player, Miller, Crenshaw, and Ballesteros and watched when the other Missouri native, Payne Stewart came onto the tournament scene.
Just Drive the Cart and Drink Beer
In my thirties and forties I never found time or justified the money for lessons– but my company sponsored an annual scramble and encouraged everyone to participate.
“I don’t know how to play,” was challenged with, “no pressure here … just for fun, drive the cart, and drink beer.” Problem was I didn’t drink beer. And weekends were crammed full because my three sons lived, ate, and breathed baseball.
But one summer in my fifties, I discovered my life had transitioned. There were no baseball games to attend. The boys were in college with lives of their own, and I was divorced. That’s when I met Tim ballroom dancing. A Google search revealed he had won a local golf tournament. I soon discovered his daughter and sister coaxed him into ballroom dancing lessons because they said he lived, ate, and breathed golf.
Hmmm … interesting.
Cute Little Carts
When the annual scramble came around at work that summer, Tim thought it would be good for me to play. He rifled around in the basement and hauled a pastel blue and green golf bag up the stairs. “It won’t cost you anything,” he reasoned. “You can use these old clubs and wear sneakers. But you need to go to the driving range, practice putting, and play at least one round.”
I survived the driving range, got over the embarrassment, and felt I was a little better at putting. At least I didn’t miss the ball. When we arrived at the beginners’ course, I expected to hop into one of those cute little carts. But instead, he pulled more equipment out of the back of his vehicle. He loaded my bright pastel bag on a cart with wheels and his dull bag on another one.
“What’s that?” I wondered.
“Push cart. You get more exercise this way.”
I needed more exercise and here was my chance to learn something I had always wanted to do in the great outdoors. Yay! I couldn’t wait to get on the fairway with my pink balls. My biggest fear – slow play causing others to wait – wasn’t an issue. The course wasn’t crowded. I surmised that had something to do with the 95 degree temperature. No one was around when I missed the ball or landed in that trap filled with sand (thank God).
By about the 6th hole, the mid-afternoon sun scorched through my clothes. Where were the big shade trees that lined the fairways at Augusta on television? Sweat soaked through my tank top. Tim said there was a restroom on 9 – sure to be a relief in more ways than one.
The next three holes were the longest of my life. I couldn’t bring myself to use the restroom when we finally arrived. A Johnny-on-the-Spot wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. But I thought, “No big deal. We’re done.”
Tim, accustomed to the sweltering heat, questioned if I was up to the back nine. I assumed he could tell from my brilliant red face that I was close to death; so I joked, “Sure thing.”
“Great for your first outing and walking. I thought you would be done.”
I didn’t have the guts to tell him I was done … totally done … and kept playing. I got through the back nine with the thought of frozen lemonade in the clubhouse. But there was no beer and no lemonade and no air-conditioned clubhouse.
Tim said the scramble would be easier because many others would be inexperienced and there would be cute little carts.
We started early in the morning before the heat of the day. I found a collared shirt and impressed everyone with my clubs (though I didn’t have golf shoes). I met up with my team and confessed I had only played once. After my first two tee shots, they called me a liar as I stroked it like the best of them.
Then I missed the ball several times. They were understanding and explained that it really didn’t matter – only the best shot was used. They asked me to putt first so they could read the hole better. On one of the prize holes, I launched a low line drive that ricocheted off a rock and rolled and rolled and rolled – how ‘bout that – closest to the pin! Yep! I won the prize, and everyone except my team members thought I was one fantastic golfer. I gave Tim the gift certificate.
The next year, I signed up again but couldn’t make time to practice. I missed the ball more than I hit it and, by the end of the day, played barefoot because I slipped in my worn-out sneakers. Staff members tallied scores in the clubhouse while we lunched; and I found out I was the hero again. You see, we took first place by only one stroke. The 16th tee was surrounded by a pond. I had my best tee shot of the day and was the only one who didn’t dunk the ball. Had I not executed that shot, we would have taken a penalty shot or two, which would have knocked us out of the winner’s circle. Those guys, three of the most gracious guys in the pack, thanked me all the way to the bank (gift certificates again) and never told a soul the truth – that I had no idea how to play golf.
Try, Try Again
I retired from my scramble career but played with Tim at Old Kinderhook near Lake of the Ozarks one weekend. It was another humid, mid-ninety degree day by the time we arrived but didn’t seem as suffocating when the breeze blew into the cart. After I missed the ball, I feared holding up the group behind us so skipped a few shots. By the end of the round, my saturated clothes stuck to my skin. We drove the cart up to the cozy clubhouse overlooking the beautiful course – just like I had envisioned all courses. And although I still didn’t crave a beer, I slammed down two frozen daiquiris with no problem.
I played one last time in the panoramic mountains of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, but again missed many shots on the back nine and eventually just drove the cart. Oh, what a backdrop – another breathtaking place like the ones pictured on television. I realized then that I desperately needed help with my game. I have far too much respect for this game called golf to play this way.
To Golf or not to Golf
Tim, on the other hand, rolled right along. I sipped my morning coffee on the balcony overlooking the 14th tee at Sawgrass last September while he played. Then I admired the greens, flowers, walkways, and gazebo on my way to the spa.
In April, I discovered Branson offers shows, shopping, and restaurants. As I waited for Tim to finish up at Murder Rock, I gasped when I walked out onto the veranda of the clubhouse atop the Ozark Mountains and overlooked what must be God’s other country.
Today, while I inch closer to retirement, have I given up on my dream to really learn how to play golf? I don’t think so. I think we become old when we stop learning. While ballroom dancing exercises my mind and body, it lacks in the vitamin D category. I still want to feel the sun, see the meadows and the mountaintops, and hear Love’s Theme swirl in my head as the breeze blows in my face.
So I propose we consider these things: a few lessons, good shoes, collared shirt, and an early start with a cute little cart in the dog days of summer. Maybe then we can say: Shall we golf?
Debra Irene is an inspirational speaker and author of the book, Reflections.