Swing And A Miss.

Every fall when school starts again I remember my time with high school golf team. When I started high school my parents informed me I would play a sport. They didn’t specify which one, but it wasn’t an option, so I looked through the school teams for something that would match my complete lack of any athletic ability and settled on golf. I’d played golf some and thought I was pretty good at it. Sure, it was played outside and there was plenty of walking required, but it was a game of slow, steady concentration. And I could usually get the ball through the lighthouse into the clown’s mouth sometimes in as little as five strokes. I also thought, given its Scottish origins, that maybe the team uniform would be a kilt, or at least a tam-o-shanter and some culottes. My parents also occasionally played golf and gave me a set of old clubs that I was able to get most of the rust off of. They signed me up for some lessons at a local golf club with an old guy whose face was so weathered it looked like it had been stretched out and then scrunched up back onto his skull. It was the middle of summer and yet every lesson we had together it was cool and overcast and after the lesson when I was riding home and it was suddenly warm and sunny I realized he created a miserable environment around him. He was a very hands-off kind of instructor, especially after the first time he saw me swing, when he backed up about ten feet and then, after staring at me for several minutes he said, “Walp, the first thing you need to know is the idea is to hit the ball with your club.” So I took another swing and felt the club skim the grass and then, after staring at me for several minutes, he said, “Walp, the next thing you need to know is the idea is to hit the ball with your club.”

I wish I could say the lessons went downhill from there but there was no downhill. If there were the ball might at least have had a chance of going somewhere.

I did a little better by myself hitting the ball around the backyard, maybe because I wasn’t standing around under a cloud of misery and we had a terrible neighbor whose windows gave me something to aim for, but that’s another story.

When school started I found the golf coach who told me practice would be on Wednesday afternoons and I should come to the lobby after school. I lugged my ratty golf bag and only slightly rusted clubs to school that day and when I went to the lobby after school I thought it was strange I was the only one there, but I waited and walked out to the parking lot to see if there was anyone out there. After half an hour I called my mother to ask her to pick me up. The next day the coach told me he’d forgotten I was coming. I wish I could say things went downhill from there but really they just rolled along. The next week practice was cancelled and the coach forgot to tell me. After half an hour I called my mother to ask her to pick me up. The week after that he said he was sure they’d just missed me. After half an hour I called my mother to ask her to pick me up. Finally I got permission to leave my last class early and caught the coach and the rest of the team just as they were leaving. The other four players let me squeeze into the back seat. When we got to the course the other players set up, teed off, and were off and running which surprised me. Who runs in golf? I stepped up to the tee, put my head down, focused, and made an absolutely perfect swing, managing to graze the top of the ball which rolled three feet, and only got that far because it rolled downhill. The coach came up behind me. “You’ve got to play fast! Come on, let’s go, we’re not going to wait for you.” All my ideas of golf as a game of slow, steady concentration were dashed. This was speed golf. We were expected to hit and run, and the coach didn’t want to hear that my handicap was twenty-seven even if it did mean I hit par on every hole.

Panting and sweating at the nineteenth hole I said, “Coach, thank you for the chance. Maybe I’ll try out again next year.” And then I went to the clubhouse and called my mother to ask her to pick me up.

That was the end of my strange and baffling golf career and my parents seemed satisfied with me joining the Latin club, although I never told them I got thrown out for wearing a tam-o-shanter with my toga.

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  1. mydangblog

    So many strange and bewildering things happen to us as kids that we just go along with. It’s not until much later that we say “WTF?” I remember my parents once signing me up for gymnastics at the Y–when I got there, it was square dancing so that’s what I did for the next month. I hated it but I can stil dosey-doe.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s something I realized as I was writing this. My whole golf career was baffling to me because nothing that happened seemed to make any sense. At the time I went along with it because I was a kid and I assumed the adults knew what they were doing. Years later I finally understand they didn’t. And I didn’t even learn to do-si-do which is the sort of thing that might be useful.

  2. Ann Koplow

    This Miss joined the Latin Club, too, Chris. I’m glad it never occurred to me to try the golf club. Thanks for the swinging post.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Some of us simply aren’t cut out to be athletes. On the bright side the Latin Club was my gateway to Monty Python which, in turn, helped me with my Latin–specifically when I needed to translate “Romans go home.”

  3. Gilly Maddison

    I never did get the point of golf and your story has convinced me there may not be one. There is nothing remotely attractive to me about the entire golfing culture and I have no idea why anyone would want to be associated with it or the horrendous clothes/shoes they dress up in to play. Weird. Just WEIRD. I think you had a lucky escape with all those non- starts.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      The clothes never did bother me–in fact they seemed like the best part–but the idea of going for the lowest possible score was what struck me as counter-intuitive.


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