Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why I Golf

My grandfather loved golfing.  I think the impetus of his retirement was rooted deeply in the idea that he would have more time to golf more than it was the idea of no longer punching a time clock every day.  He observed that a lot of business was conducted on the golf course, so he encouraged all of us to learn the game.  This observation lead to my mom, her siblings, my grandmother, my sister and I to all learn at least the basics of the game.

For my Aunt Mary, this turned out to be a fairly useful skill while she worked for a law firm in Lansing.  It seems that she was just good enough to be a ringer for some ones winning foursome, earning her prizes at the annual company golf outing.  I ended up winning a few trophies in a youth league and played on the golf team my freshman year of high school.  As a family, our claim to fame was that we never completely embarrassed ourselves on the links.

My golfing education started when I was eight.  Gumpy had a set of clubs cut down for me.  He would take my sister and me to the driving range at Centennial Acres in Sunfield, MI to knock out a bucket of range balls.  Lessons came soon afterward but the game only held a slight interest for me for several more years.

Golf did not really make sense for me until the summer my dad left.  I was 13, confused about why dad left and angry.  I was pissed off at the world to be more accurate.  Gumpy had retired that February and had recognized I needed him to take a big role in my life.  My uncle Jim had moved to Idaho with his family by then, a move that devastated my grandfather.  I refuse to say I filled Jim's shoes, but Gumpy might have needed me just as much as I needed him at that point in our lives together.  That was the summer we started to regularly play golf together.

For the next few summers, he bought me a junior membership at Centennial Acres.  We were excited when they added the second nine holes on the east side of Dow Road because the original nine was in a flood plain.  Having the last few holes flooded out for parts of the season left a little to be desired.  

Gumpy and I played almost every day, Monday through Friday, when school was out of session.  We would play as long as my attitude would allow, with the ultimate goal being to make it through at least nine holes.  His rules were simple, play according to the rules.  If I threw a temper tantrum, he would start walking off the course.  I would follow because I needed the ride home.  The way the second nine holes were laid out left an easy walk back to the car after the second and seventh holes.  I know that well because we often left at those points in our game.  

Those few summers taught me so many things about being a kind, decent, respectful and loving man.  The patience my grandfather showed me every time we walked off the course after just two holes was incredible given his strong love of the game.  On the days we finished nine holes, he would treat to a snack at the clubhouse where I observed just how he treated friends and strangers, along with the good treatment he received in kind.  

To say that I am still a golfer is a bit of a stretch.  My golf clubs are currently sitting across the dining room in my apartment from me and it is probably the most time I have spent in the same general area with them since Gumpy went in for his last heart valve surgery.  I still call myself a golfer though because I know I will pick it up again.  I hope that I will be a dad soon, with a few little ones who will need time with me to learn how a respectful father and husband should act.  I plan to take them to a golf course with me when they are ready so they can learn from my grandfather too.