Golf

My favorite golf is whatever tournament happens to be on TV on Sunday afternoons. In our house, golf is synonymous with nap. We get home from church, grab a bite to eat, and one of us will ask the question in code.

“You wanna watch golf?”

“Sure, I could get into some golf.”

Which, interpreted, means . . .

“You wanna take a nap?”

“Absolutely, I could use a nap.”

Two hours later we return to consciousness on the couch. Drool on my chin. Just in time to see the final putt for a bazillion dollars. I think I should have been a golfer.

I’m not a golfer. That’s not to say that I’ve never played the game. I have, but I stink at it.

Sam introduced me to my first ever experience. He was a retired Navy aircraft mechanic. Then, after another 20 years he retired from Delta. Sam traded in his wrenches for golf clubs. He bought a house on a golf course and got the job of being course Ranger. It was the perfect fit.

“You should come play golf,” he said.

“I don’t own any clubs. Don’t know anything about it.”

He wasn’t going to let me off that easy. “I can hook you up. And it’s free.”

I was in my early 20’s and mostly broke, so free sounded good. Sam had a swing that reminded me of an Albatross with a stick swatting at gnats. He didn’t look like Jack on TV. My discerning eye for talent could tell. But it worked for him. The ball went straight.

I almost never found the sweet spot. I hear there is one. And if you can ever connect it to the ball at some great velocity, the results can be intoxicating. It’s what keeps most guys coming back. A bad day on the course can be immediately erased by one beautiful shot. You foolishly think, “Maybe I can play this game.”

Most of my shots hooked or sliced into the woods, or dribbled about 100 ft. out in front of the tee. Good golfers take divots. I took chunks. Five swings for every one of Sam’s. I thought about breaking the club over my thigh like Bo Jackson broke baseball bats. But I have skinny thighs. Water hazards were the kiss of death. The guy who went scuba diving for balls was glad to see me on the course. I never thought of water as a hazard until I tried to play golf.

The one thing that made playing bearable was the Mulligan. Sam was generous with do-overs. Nothing big was at stake. This was not Augusta National. We let all the slick looking golfers play through. When I couldn’t find my ball or club in the bushes, Sam would say, “Take a Mulligan.” I think the course rule allowed for one Mulligan per 18 holes. But Sam was the Ranger and we ignored the rule.

Other than a couple of years playing with Sam, I bet I haven’t played golf more than a half dozen times since. I never got hooked. Did I mention that I stink at golf? But I’ve thought about the Mulligan a lot. The implications are far reaching.

One: Not everyone plays a perfect game in this life.

Two: The stakes are seldom as big as you think they are.

Three: Take a do-over if you need to.

Life is complicated. The slick guys make it look easy, but it’s not. Most of us don’t get it right the first time. Or, the second. Or, third. Lord, knows I’ve started over more than a few times in my life. And one day, you find the sweet spot. It goes long and straight and true. And you think to yourself, “Maybe I can play this game.”

I’m a nobody to be giving anybody advice. But if you were asking, I’d tell you that’s it’s okay to take a Mulligan if you need to. Who knows? The next swing you take may be the best one of your life.

Gotta go. There’s still a little more golf to watch on TV.

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