Driving me nuts

My annual golf weekend with my brothers is officially in the record books.

Officially: Most curse words on one hole. Most pathetic shots out of one sand trap. Most trees abused by mishit golf balls. Biggest slice on an impossibly high drive. Most 7s on one nine. Most 3-foot putts missed.

Highest frustration level. Ever.

The annual outing in Pawleys Island, South Carolina — only Brother Bob and Brother Jim and I made it this year — always is enjoyable. Lots of food and laughter and stories and beer, although it’s necessary here to point out that a lot less beer is downed these days (with the Donovan Cup in its 12th year or so and the Donovans 12 years, or so, older) than was in Year 1.

The food and beer and company is a good thing, but the golf continues, after all these years, to be just as bad as when I first accosted a ball and club in the 1970s. And I just don’t get it any more. If I ever did.

I still swing at that poor little hard-noggined golf ball as if it’s about to swing first. I have the finesse of a polar bear on the course, the touch of a fumble-fingered stone mason, the consistency of bad guacamole.

Oh, I can hit the ball. I can smack the ever-loving s*** out of impossibly high-arcing drives that turn, inevitably, just a little too far to the right and end up just a little too far into the woods, invariably behind a tree or underneath a pine cone or in some retiree’s nicely attended backyard monkey grass. Or I can pull the holy hell out of a shot (take a look at this wanker, from the photo ^, lovingly captured by one of my brothers in 2016), sending a screamer toward one of those pristine houses that line the fairways in these country club communities, terrorizing unsuspecting grandkids splashing in ill-placed pools.

I scuff chip shots, or skull them on a laser over the green. I hit behind putts and top them sometimes, which seems a physical impossibility. But, dammit, I’ve done it. On back-to-back strokes.

I try to be a good sport about it. It’s just golf, for god’s sake. Anyone who golfs as seldomly as I do, I figure, can’t be much good. Golf, like a lot of life, is something that takes practice to master. Lots and lots and lots of practice.

Still … Still, dammit. I know what needs to be done. I know I need to slow down my swing and let the club do the work. I understand swing planes and rhythm and how to keep your head down and your feet down (^!!!) and all about high followthroughs and proper alignment.

Every so often, all that knowledge pays off. I’ll hit a drive, straight and true down the middle, that looks and feels so natural and flies so beautifully that the birds sing and the meticulously mown grass gently accepts the unmarked ball and the kids in backyard pools splash safely, cluelessly on.

I step up to the next shot with the confidence that, after all these years, I’ve finally figured out this stupid game. I pull an iron from my bag, wipe off its well-worn face, and smack another ball toward the green 160 yards away, a shot so sweet against the blue sky that it looks like the moon over an Iowa cornfield. The ball clears a hungry bunker, bites nicely on a green as smooth as butter. Two putt. Par.

And then I get a 7 on the next hole. A par 3.

It’s soooo frustrating.

Monday, after a round that started out OK and ended with the thud of a Titleist against a pine (the sound will never leave my head), I drove 6+ hours home to Alpharetta. I did not listen to the radio. I called home once to check in. Mary Jo told me I sounded grumpy. I rode along silently.

Athletic incompetence is not something new to me. I should be, by all rights, accustomed to it by now. I should be, at the least, a little more accepting. I should be, at this point, unfazed by my utter, ongoing lack of skill. (I tried skilllessness there, but the spellcheck freaked out on me. Not many words, I guess, sport three Ls in a row.)

((That reminds me, apropos to absolutely zilch here, of an old Cincinnati gag about Ls, which is sports shorthand for a loss. We used to joke that a Bengals coach was so accustomed to losing that he’d see Ls everywhere. His favorite button on the elevator was to the Lower Level. His favorite singer was Ella Fitzgerald. Favorite TV actor and rapper: LL Cool J. One time, a true gagster among the Bengals media regulars bought two of those plastic contact lens cases with the screw-on lids, swapped out the caps and presented it to the rest of us as the epitome of a great gag. The lens case would be the coach’s favorite: It had two Ls.))

The problem with me and golf — golf and I, the two of us, whatever … it’s a problem — is that the few good shots I manage each round, like a swished 3-pointer on a 1-for-9 night, keep me coming back, keep me believing (despite a life-full of evidence that painfully points to the contrary) that I can beat this game.

At some point, maybe it’s best for a person’s sanity, a person’s pride, to just admit defeat and try something else. I certainly felt that way at points during that 6+ hours on the road Monday. Bob had a good final round, and Jim finished better than he started (which isn’t saying much, though it’s more than I did). But it was a really frustrating weekend for me.

I thought, in that miserable 6+ hours on the road, about hanging up my new pair of spikes. Of retiring my new putter. I thought about the definition of insanity.

But who am I kidding? I don’t want to go out that way. Heck, I don’t want to go out at all.

Life may beat me, old age and infirmity eventually may kick the snot out of me (may?), even my brothers may do me one better once in a while. But the heck if I’m going to let a stupid game played by fat corporate executives in atrociously gaudy polo shirts knock me down. At least not for long.

I’ll keep at it. I’ll play Donovan Cups as long as we have them. And if I never actually become good at golf, or even mediocre at it — a solid bet at this point — I’ll gain a little satisfaction in terrorizing those fancy country club homes with my errant drives and wayward iron shots. There’s something to be said for that.

***

I knocked out this post a couple days after returning from Pawleys Island, but before I actually had a chance to hit “Publish” — one of the beauties of a personal blog, if you haven’t noticed, is no deadlines — a little life situation popped me in the head. Knew it was coming. It still stung a little.

Ahhhh, Mom. I’ll give you a few words soon. Soon as I figure things out and have the time to give you your due.

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