I don’t mean to deceive. It’s not my fault if people assume that I’m athletic. I certainly don’t encourage this. I never discuss sports, my scores, my best game ever. Not even how the team I was on always won at Color War. (That would really be deceitful, since I never went to camp.)
So I figure it must have something to do with my appearance. Maybe it’s my broad shoulders, my long arms and legs, my straight posture. And perhaps the fact that I used to be tall, at least until my spine began celebrating more birthdays than I have.
The funny thing is, I never thought about athleticism one way or the other until I was in my thirties and tried to learn tennis. (Is “athleticism” a word, or have I just elevated “athletics” to the status of a religion or a philosophy?) For the first time, I was made aware that there was actually a right way and a wrong way to achieve a result in a sport. My inability to rise above a minimal level of competence made it quite apparent that I was going the wrong way.
Nothing in my prior history had prepared me for this. Growing up as a city kid, I did what all city kids did. On the pavement of Brooklyn, I jumped rope, played potsy (known in more refined circles as hop scotch), and roller-skated. At age seven I learned how to ride a two-wheeler. My pink Spalding ball (pronounced “Spawldeen” in Bensonhurst) was always in my pocket, and I could throw and catch as well as any other girl. In fact, I was allowed to join the stick ball games as I was always good for a single or a double.
So at what age did I outgrow eye-hand coordination? I really couldn’t tell you. I just know that it happened.
After my humiliation at tennis, I took a sabbatical of indeterminate length from my athletic career. This decision was definitely a mood lifter. I was learning to embrace my klutzdom, and was successfully dealing with the fact that my upper body and lower body would never be friends, and that the one half would never tell the other half what it was doing.
So you can imagine how I received my husband’s suggestion that I learn to play golf. He, who went to camp, and could play a very good game of tennis, had suddenly decided to renew his interest in this other pastime. I tried to hide my inner terror with a smile, as I posed what was for me, a terse, but very significant question: Why?
“It’ll be fun,” he said, “something we can do together.” He started sharing fantasies of wonderful golf vacations we could take and how this was an activity we could do even when we reached our golden years. (Reached our golden years? We were already several karats into that journey.) Could I shatter his dreams and tell him that golf was definitely not on my bucket list?
My reluctance notwithstanding, I signed up for my first lesson. On the morning of, I pulled on a pair of shorts and a shirt with an alligator who sat jauntily upon my left breast. (I had chosen the alligator over the little man with a stick riding horseback.) I looked at myself in the mirror and knew at that moment that, without a doubt, this would be a complete failure. I looked terrible in golf clothes!
Nevertheless, I actually showed up for my appointment with the golf pro. He was cute. This was a good start. He placed a club in my hands and began explaining how to address the ball. By the time he finished locking my fingers, adjusting my shoulders, bending my knees, and tilting my head, I felt like my body was contorted into the most unnatural position I had ever experienced. I no longer cared that he was cute.
I decided then and there that the person who invented golf in all likelihood had some serious postural deficits and had created a game that compensated for his unusual bearing. And that he did this because none of the other boys wanted him on their rugby team. If only they had been more sympathetic!
Trying to adjust to the appropriate golf stance was just one challenge. The other was trying to decode the language, which sounded like English, but made no sense. Did I hear him correctly when he instructed me to put my weight on my front foot? I had a front foot? My dog had a front foot. Two of them, as a matter of fact. And two more in the back. I, on the other hand, had only a left foot and a right foot which were, as far as I knew, still next to each other.
By the end of the hour, I knew precisely what was meant by a golf handicap. This was definitely going to be another uphill struggle. When it came to addressing the ball, I could think only in terms of four-letter words. My poor bruised ego desperately needed some TLC. I had to think of some compensation, something I could do really well. So I went home and took out the vacuum cleaner.
I won’t bore you with the details of my subsequent lessons. Suffice it to say, they were not successful, and I happily walked away. Until one day I opened my eyes and, same as Dorothy, found myself in a magical kingdom. Not exactly Oz. This one was called Florida.
Like the winged monkeys, golf was everywhere. And since I knew I wouldn’t be going back to Kansas any time soon, I decided to try again. I did so reluctantly, regarding this decision as a socially acceptable way to express my masochistic tendencies.
Much to my amazement, I found my Wizard. A golf teacher who reached me, and with plain and simple talk, made it all make sense. Well, some semblance of sense, anyway. Golf would never make complete sense.
All of which brings us to today. I actually like golf. Shocking but true. It and I have reached an understanding. I approach it with respect.
For me, achieving the level of precision, control, and concentration that it requires is a rather zen-like experience. My mind needs to be clear of all other thoughts. It’s not about competition. It’s just about me and that little white ball. Start thinking about what to have for dinner, and I’m toast! (The truth is, I’m often toast anyway, in spite of the intensity of my concentration.)
I’ve also learned that golf is very fickle. You can count on nothing. One day you play really well, and the next, all you have to show for your trouble is an aching back. But it’s the successful days that make you want to return.
I accept that golf is difficult, and that I’ll never be really good at it. But that’s okay. My ego is a lot tougher now, and my floors a lot dirtier. As long as there are enough accurate shots to compensate for the back pain!
But there is a major factor that continues to detract from my pleasure. I still hate how I look in golf clothes!
Got my giggle for the day. Can relate to this issue 100 per cent. Keep them coming!
I pray, soon, you out do your spouse. Relax and play the game taught to you. Hopefully he will be glad he chose this for both of you. Barristers are hard to please because they always like to win. I hope he accepts your merits.
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This is the very first thing you have written on-line that I have read. I think the ‘confessional’ and ‘very topical’ subject of “playing golf” drew me in. At 76 and thriving loving outdoor activity AND soon to be moving permanently to Florida drew me to your VERY EXCELLENT STORY. Your writes helped me look once again at the possibility taking lessons.
My writing life since Julie’s class has been mostly poetry. I plan to continue with this venue next season’s being part of the PALM BEACH POETRY FESTIVAL in Boca.
Getting your writes from time to time is an encouragement and inspiration which I am only now appreciating. Keep your pen moving. Blessings. Karen Gorman
Hey Karen – great to hear from you. Thank you so much for writing to me. I’m still in the writing class and still find it a tremendous inspiration. Hope to see you soon.
You go girl! I have lived next to a golf course for most of my adult and I just don’t get the game of hitting a little white ball a great distance then finding it and hitting again,again and again. My attention spans just can’t do it. Having a golf course in my back yard has shown me that a lot of 4 letter words go along with the game of golf.
It’s kind of like playing Bingo or the slot machines. You always think the next one is gonna be yours!
Susan, perfect! I, who have always been athletic, well coordinated , and a good tennis and baseball player, use to scoff at golf….after all, how hard could it be to hit a ball that was just sitting there, waiting to be smacked 100 yards or so. At the urging of my husband, I followed your path…golf lessons, a pleasant and patient pro, new golf clothes ( which I also look terrible in being vertically and horizontally challenged) and voila…brought to my knees and arrogant stance humbled by that little “””””””ball. Still play tennis, though less well every year, and still love it, and play golf sporadically, and will never love it, but oh, what we do for our spouses, and our fantasies of golden togetherness.
Love your blog! Keep them coming! Hope to see you in Florida.
Merle Gross Ginsburg
Hi Merle. Thanks for writing. I knew I had a lot of fellow travelers out there when it came to golf.
Susan..golf blog really fantastic…everyone feels that way but does not ADMIT it….I think you should send to all golf magazines…..see u tonite…joan
Why, thank you Joan. I just may carry out your suggestion. Do golf magazines have a sense of humor?
I love the front feet part. That made me really laugh.
So who is better, you or your husband? Let him vacuum.
I am sending this to my dear friend Kathy who is a champion golfer in Hobe Sound Florida, where the men love her til she scores higher, of course. Well they still love her but she loves the golf outfits- lots of Lily Pulitzer, too.
Hands down, he’s way better, at golf, not vacuuming! Thanks for sending this along.