By Rob Whittle
What is it about golf that golfers love? Are we masochists who love the frustration of a finely crafted double bogey? When we make the occasional par, do we envision ourselves as Tiger Woods in his prime? Are we just crazy? Google Robin Williams on inventing the game of golf. He talks about digging a gopher hole hundreds of yards away and putting s—t in your way like trees and tall grass just so you can lose your ball. He explains why they call a shot a stroke – because every time you miss, you feel like you’re gonna die!
One of my oldest golf buddies is named Pig. This is not to be confused with other golf friends Big Dog and Dead Bear. One of the things I admire about Pig is his self-awareness and modesty. When we were younger, a young woman with kind intentions, upon hearing his nickname, cooed “Awww, why do they call you Pig?” Pig replied serenely, “Because I’m short and fat and I look like a pig.”
My local golf group consists of several like-minded fanatics. We tee it up a couple of times a week. Almost all have handicaps in the teens, which means we have modest abilities. It occurred to me recently what high achievers most of these guys are. There’s a global CEO, a former nuclear submariner turned real estate magnate, a Harvard Law grad, the CFO of a major sports empire, a construction guy, a lawyer and a successful entrepreneur or two. I have calculated their collective net worth – I want to be precise – at between a gazillion and a bazillion U.S. dollars.
Or, as Forrest Gump would say, “richer than Davy Crockett.” They’re fine fellows all who don’t wear their success on their respective sleeves. As golf is a great equalizer and humbler of the mighty, you’d think that the higher the achiever in business, the more they’d be humbled by the game. In a classic example of “life ain’t fair,” let me just say that isn’t the case here.
As I write this, we have just completed the 20th rendition of the wildly mis-named golf tournament, the Edwardsville Open, or the EO. The Edwardsville part is fine because that’s the dot on the map in the Northern Neck where we compete; but it’s not an “Open” which implies that anyone can play. Mainly due to accommodation space, the field is limited to nine players. Someone literally has to die for someone else to get in, which, sadly, has happened twice. You can be admitted to Augusta National more easily than the EO. I hasten to add the blindingly obvious: plainly, getting a spot in the EO is not quite so desirable as one at Augusta.
The EO format is like a Ryder Cup, three days of intense competition in which the three teams of combatants score points, and the highest total signifies that the names of the winners will be etched on to the Joseph P. Whittle Memorial Cup. That said, most of the real action takes place on the screened porch overlooking the Potomac.
It is there that lies are told, stories related and drinks consumed. There’s one friend whom we’ve had to train to keep his stories to a reasonable length, mainly by looking conspicuously at our watches.
Until we got long in the tooth, a poker game followed dinner and often lasted long into the night. Funny how the tug of the bed has trumped dreams of a straight flush these days.
The golfers I know include Curtis Strange with whom I played a round in a pro/am tournament. We got along famously until I smashed a ball out of a ditch and al- most beaned him. Even then, he was gracious as I pictured headlines screaming, “US Open Champ Slain by Amateur Golfer. Charges Pending.”
So, what is it about golf?
I could never hit a Max Scherzer fastball any more than I could sink a 3-pointer with a giant man guarding me or throw a 50-yard touchdown pass in the NFL. For that matter, I can’t drive it 330 yards like Rory McIlroy. But I can sink a 20-foot sidewinder putt or even chip the ball in from off the green for a birdie. Or stiff a 7-iron. Occasionally.
A hacker like me can, every now and again, play like Jack Nicklaus. And that will bring you back.