By Bruce Stambaugh
Years ago our son temporarily left an assortment of golf equipment with us. Clubs, bags, shoes, tees, and golf balls sat in a corner of the garage gathering dust and cobwebs. Some of the clutter was mine.
Nathan recently came to retrieve his stash, or at least what he wanted. As we cleaned and sorted the gear, long dormant memories of wonderful, frustrating flashes of golf awakened within me. I wished a few had remained sleeping.
Other than miniature golf, I took a mulligan on golfing long ago. It’s even a stretch to say I had golfed. Hacked is a better descriptor.
Golf spans generations in my family. I have my grandmother’s old golf clubs. The set includes real wood drivers and oak shafted irons with pitted heads and rich patina. I’m keeping them just the way they are, stored in their original canvas bag.
I remember seeing old black and white photos of my mother golfing, too. But I also recalled my outdoor sportsman father scoffing at men and women wasting time “chasing a little white ball around on grass.”
That didn’t stop me from trying. Occasionally in the summer, my neighborhood buddies and I would head to the nearest golf course, rent clubs and smack our way around the links.
I piddled with the sport in college, and continued doing so after I married. I think my wife only went once with me. That shows just how smart she is.
My playing increased considerably when I became a principal. I quickly discovered that many school administrative meetings were held under the guise of golf outings. A lot of important school related decisions were made between shots.
My play was erratic at best. I only ever had one golf lesson in my life, and that person would likely deny she ever taught me. I was that bad.
Every time I was ready to give it up, I would hit the occasional fantastic shot. Those kept a dim hope alive. I once holed a long, undulating putt that earned me a milkshake. That was about the extent of my golfing rewards.
When our young son showed an early interest in the game, we gathered garage sale clubs for him to practice. And practice he did, hitting the ball around our property using trees for holes.
I both marveled and cringed when balls sailed much too close to the house. When Nathan beat me when he was nine, I decided to invest my golf time and money in him, not myself.
He played four years of varsity golf both in high school and college. He even participated in college national championship matches.
I half-heartedly continued to slash my way around courses. I swatted some mighty poor shots, too. I accidentally killed a robin that bounded onto the fairway just as I hit a low screamer off the tee. It was my only birdie of the day.
At a prestigious country club, I hooked a ball far out of bounds onto a main highway during evening rush hour. I prayed no one would get hurt. The bumper-to-bumper traffic miraculously cleared just as the ball hit the double yellow centerline. In one giant bounce, the ball landed harmlessly in a yard, and I offered up a silent prayer of thanks.
I blinked, and continued sorting what to give to our grandchildren, items Nathan wanted, and which equipment went to the local thrift store. The golfing memories, good, bad, and hilarious, are mine to keep.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2014