I’m a golfer.
Well, I have the clubs and the shoes. Anyone who has seen me play might fairly say, “Hey Buddy, that ain’t golf!”
When I was first learning to play more than thirty years ago I got steadily better during the first six months or so, and then the progress tapered off, but my expectation of progress kept right on climbing. I would get frustrated and angry when I hit shots that were not up to my expectations, and I would come home in a foul mood. My wife, Lorna, said one day, “Isn’t golf supposed to be fun?” She was right, of course, and golf is a lot more fun now that have learned to enjoy playing badly. Now I always come home from the course in a good mood.
I learned to play golf in 1978 during my first Air Force assignment at Hurlburt Field, Florida near Fort Walton Beach. I was reminded of a long-ago day on the Hurlburt course by a fairly recent story in the news about a golfer in Lake Wales who had to be saved from an alligator by his buddies. He was looking for his ball near the edge of a pond when a nine-foot gator leapt out of the water, clamped down on his knee, and started dragging him in. Thankfully, his courageous friends won the tug-of-war, but not before the gator inflicted about three dozen stitches worth of damage.
In the late 1970s/early 1980s the Hurlburt course had a three-legged gator of about eight or nine feet living in the pond by the green on the third hole. I saw the gator regularly sunning himself in various places around the pond, but I don’t think I ever saw him move. One day I hit an errant shot to the right that landed under some pine trees near the pond and about ten or fifteen yards away from the gator. When I located the ball I wasn’t too concerned because I was pretty confident I could outrun a three-legged gator. Upon assessing the situation further I began to have doubts because to set up and hit the shot I would have to turn my back to the gator. I knew I could win a fair race, but all bets were off if he got a head start.
Golf is played by hitting a small ball with a small piece of metal mounted on the end of a three-foot stick, and for the ball to go where you want it to, you have to hit it with a particular, small spot on the metal. It requires a lot of concentration to properly execute a golf shot, and it’s difficult to do even when you’re solely focused on the shot. Splitting your attention between the shot and an alligator is a sure recipe for ball-in-the-pond (I already had a payday’s worth of balls sitting at the bottom of the ponds on that course), and I eventually came to that realization as I set up and alternately looked down at my ball then over my shoulder at the gator.
Golf is a game of decisions. I decided I had the wrong club for the shot and needed to change. I opted for the hand wedge. That’s right: I picked up my ball and threw it across the water and on to the green. I haven’t looked over my shoulder at an alligator since.
Piper Azalia Kent
10 months ago