By JEFF SACKS
I have reached an age where it is becoming ever more common for me to take stock of my life, and lately I keep hearing this one eerie message echo across my landscape: “You’ve wasted too much of your life playing golf.”
Typically, that voice appears when it becomes ever so obvious that I am whiling away another beautiful Sunday playing mediocre golf with my usual cadre of duffers. A crooked drive here, a fatted pitching wedge there, a loose chip, and numerous missed 6-foot putts for par usually, but also birdie, everywhere. Sprinkle in the occasional out-of-position drive on an “easy” hole, and my dreams of shooting in the mid-70s turns tortuously into a desperate hope to break 80, and eventually into worry that I am going to lose money in the betting that takes place on top of it.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I think, or rather mumble to myself with a few spicy words thrown in for good measure. “Almost 50 years of playing this stupid #$@% game, and this is what it is week after week—just a bunch of cruddy shots with the occasional moment of accidental brilliance?”
Then I think of other things I could have been doing with all those now wasted years of practicing, playing, lessons, time away from friends and family, and such.
“You could have taken up an instrument, gone on adventures, written a collection of short stories, learned a foreign language, founded a trade magazine, started a business, baked bread, instead of fruitlessly chasing the dream of being an excellent golfer, which you clearly never were and will most certainly never be.” Edgar Allen Poe’s raven always appears upon my shoulder during my rounds to squawk: “Nevermore!”
Now don’t get me wrong. I have had a couple of moments of glory in the game, lest you think me completely deranged for continuing my mad pursuit of perfection. I twice qualified for the New York State Mid-Amateur Tournament, and…unfortunately that’s it. Oh, wait, I was once the club champion at Kingswood G.C. Everything else has been a big bag of flaming poop that I am always left to stomp out.
Yet still I keep trying to put more golf accomplishments on my self-aggrandized mantle instead of just taking up a nice new endeavor such as cycling. That seems simple enough–good for my health and mental state–not too expensive, since I already have the equipment, unless, as with my golf game, flat tires happen regularly.
All the years of futility aside, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Golf is a wonderful game worth trying and continuing to pursue. There are many standards we each can use to define a successful day. Maybe it’s hitting the longest drive of one’s life, chipping in for a low score on a hole, sinking a putt from far away, making your first par or birdie, shooting your personal best for 9 holes or 18, or just needing an excuse to get out of the house and into the sun, breathing fresh Vermont air.
It’s all those small accomplishments occasionally achieved in the privacy of your thoughts that can lead you to being…a vile, club throwing, swearword using, perfectionistic maniac such as yours truly.
I look forward to seeing you on the links. Please yell “Fore!” if you hit a wayward shot. The life you save might be your own.
Oh, and in case you didn’t already realize it, playing LESS golf WILL NOT be a 2023 resolution for me. If anything, clearly my lack of playing more is hurting my game.