Editor’s Note: A senior golf column for the sports pages of the Venice Gondolier Sun is scheduled for publication on the first Saturday of each month.
You were thrilled as you watched the PGA Tour event on TV. But once you turned the golf match off and went back out on the links yourself, you had to admit once again – you are not Rickie Fowler, you are not Jordan Spieth, you are not Bubba Watson, you are not Tiger Woods. (You’re almost too old to be their grandparent!)
After five years of playing lots of golf in retirement in Florida, you have become a slightly better than average golfer. (An average score, supposedly, is 100; your scores these days vary from about 85 to 95.)
Obviously, you’re not headed for the PGA or Senior Champions Tour any time soon. By now, you are who you are – a 77-year-old golfer, still trying to improve your pretty average game, still trying to play as well as you can for as long as you can – with joy and gratitude.
Out on one of our local Venice courses recently, I met a philosophical golfer who suggested that “being relaxed and feeling comfortable might just improve control and consistency.”
This guy was a good enough player to show me things which might improve my game; and he also clearly enjoyed thinking about senior golf and its role in our lives. I knew I had a new friend.
“Anxiety and stress only make things worse,” my new golf pal continues, “in golf and in everything else in life, too. We have to suppress doubts and try to maintain a relaxed mind along the way.”
My new pal then hits another perfect 225-yard draw shot that ends up in great position on the fairway.
Now it’s my turn to hit. As I’m taking my driver out of the bag on the back of the cart my new pal and I share, there’s time for him to go on with his meditation.
“A little competition sometimes can be useful, but too much competition, even playing against a course, isn’t good. Feeling comfortable is probably the key to a decent round of golf.”
‘But it’s not always easy to feel comfortable,’ I’m thinking to myself as I’m up on the tee, getting ready to hit my drive.
No matter how many times we tell ourselves our scores don’t matter because we’re happy just to be alive and walking God’s green earth – they really do matter.
So, we try and try and try – which does not exactly help us slide into a “comfortable and relaxed” groove.
Come home on a day you’ve hit 100 and your wife says as you walk in the door, “Oh dear. What’s wrong? Did something happen? Did Henry die?”
“No, no,” you reply. “I’m fine. I’ve become a Buddhist about golf. Winning and losing have become the same to me.”
“You’re full of crap,” she says.
“You’re right,” you admit.
“It’s obvious,” she smiles. “So, you didn’t play your best today, for some reason. Let it go. Breathe. It doesn’t matter that much.”
“Thanks,” you tell her as you lie on a mat on the living room floor and begin to try to rest your inflamed lower back.
“There really was a big major plus out there for me today,” you continue. “A nice silver lining.”
“I played with a guy who’s just enough better than me to teach me things about my game – and – he loves to philosophize about aging, golf, and how important play is in our lives.”
“You know something,” you go on, from the yoga mat where you’re beginning to feel a little less stressed. “Robert Frost wrote about how wonderful chopping wood can feel when ‘The work is play for mortal stakes.’”
“My new friend’s wife … get this … is a playground designer! She’s into the importance of play in our lives.”
“My new friend, Dan, publishes a newsletter that goes out each month to about 300 friends, most of them from high school days. “Elder Strong” his newsletter is called.”
“So,” I conclude, to my wife. (I’m still lying on the yoga mat.)
“No need for me to get depressed about my game. It wasn’t really a bad day out on the golf course, after all.
There’s a silver lining behind every dark cloud, every bad score!
Getting to know your golf pals is the game’s greatest reward.