She stood, ears pointed to the skies, unafraid, acknowledging our arrival. She was both graceful and regal but we knew from experience her senses were on high alert and she was preparing to move with lightning speed if we got too close. We could see her baby hidden in the brush behind her, waiting for a signal to move out into the sunlight. Mama Doe and her Fawn spend their days moving about our golf course, often darting in and out of the fauna that frames it. Sometimes you see them only in the distance as they meander across a fairway but, near or far, each time they grace us with their presence my whole being is filled with a sense of peace and wonder.
That feeling, unfortunately, is too often short-lived, especially when involved with a “sport” that has more ups and downs than a roller coaster. Just when you think you’ve got one element of the game mastered another falls apart and then you have a game where “I can’t hit the broad side of a barn” is the only thought in your head.
Today was such a day. For the first nine holes no matter what I tried I couldn’t find the answer to getting my ball onto the fairway or to keeping it there. Even though I swing at a ball with a happy face on it, to remind me golf is just a game with no life threatening or even serious repercussions, a nagging anxiety was still quietly building within me. Mama Doe’s therapy would have helped to ease my tension but she was nowhere to be seen. Then, on hole #10, the answer became obvious. Somehow I had started dropping my right shoulder and letting it lean a little forward. As soon as I straightened my shoulders and faced my target squarely I was back in the game. After all if Tiger can have two 3-putt holes in a row in a major tournament and stay in the game, my little rough patch needed no further thought.
Golf is the closest to a passion activity I’ve ever known. All aspects of the game fascinate me and it satisfies such a variety of needs critical to my personal well-being. Actually it’s quite amazing to me, to my family and long-term friends that I should be so consumed by a sport/game at this stage in my life. I am not athletic by nature and never participated or liked sports for most of my life – didn’t even watch them on TV. I had a family and career in business that was all-consuming so never had time to get too involved in “hobbies”. Then those major life changes we all experience came into play. Retirement and an empty nest proved pivotal to my finding new interests and setting new priorities. That’s when I was first introduced to the game of golf.
Unfortunately I have a significant lazy streak that will see me too often putter time away with relatively mindless diversions. Housework, cooking, gardening, walking aimlessly, riding a bike over the same ground day in and day out – none of these activities capture my imagination or provide any stimulus. I have no talent for art or music so my interest is limited to being appreciative of those who are, in my mind, blessed with those skills. But …. give me a project, and I’m off to the races. Total focus, boundless energy and an instinctive ability to keep balance with my every-day responsibilities will see me a very happy camper.
Quickly I adopted golf as my personal project. My goal – to understand and develop this “game” that was, in my mind, 75% mental and 25% physical to the peak of my ability. It would keep me outdoors in the fresh air, calm my soul with the beauty of my surroundings and provide untold opportunities to interact with a wide range of people. In addition, it would keep a potentially debilitating case of arthritis in my hands at bay. I have difficulty picking up a dime but can handle the golf club with ease and the constant gripping is wonderfully therapeutic.
To start I joined the Ladies’ 9-hole League and I still remember that first day and first T-box. Equipped with new clubs and bag, color coordinated, dressed in the appropriate “golf” outfit with Etonic shoes, peak hat and all, I pulled my new cart to join the other girls in our foursome. They graciously motioned for me to go first. I wasn’t very savvy back then and was about to move when reality hit. The only thing I’d forgotten in my preparation was balls and tees. I had none and had to run unceremoniously back to the clubhouse to stock up. That game was the first of a long series of humbling experiences. It took me almost a full season to find the fairway, spending most of my time in the woods on either side. The girls were very supportive and experienced. Most were older and past their prime but had been playing for years. They coached me, encouraged me, never lost patience, and eventually began to take pride in my progress. It didn’t take long for them to see I was serious and committed to mastering at least the basics.
Since then I’ve developed into a better than average player with a practical view of my potential. I am not, as many are, obsessed by unrealistic expectations, about controlling what is outside my personal zone, or about my handicap. I interpret a bad shot as an opportunity to learn and revel in the thrill of a good shot. I can rejoice in having the whole course to myself or enjoy the company of other players, no matter what their skill level. As a lifelong student of human nature I appreciate this unique opportunity to interact with people at their best and sometimes, unfortunately, at their worst.
Over the years I’ve met and played with a lot of good players. Collectively they’ve been my primary teachers. Serious golfers like nothing more than to share their point of view, insight or experience and I’m always a receptive audience. Since my mind is like a sponge when exposed to any new thought, suggestion or theory the result is my game is always changing and hopefully improving. The key to getting better, however, is playing and I do that in spades.
For as long as I can, to the best of my ability, I look forward to spending a significant amount of time on those rolling, sculpted, lush fairways and as often as possible sharing my space with Mama Doe. It’s pleasant, it’s fun and it’s, most importantly for me, energizing. Important may be an understatement since it has become abundantly clear I need that energy to enjoy my journey through the “golden years”.
Happy Hobby to Everyone.