As my body was saying no to me yesterday, I retreated to something I love … golf. Specifically to the pro tournament I love the best – The Masters – at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. For decades, I’ve wanted to be there, but tickets only seem available to the privileged few.
So it’s been me and my TV. And I’ve become friends with some of the holes I’ve gazed upon over the years. Friends with the greenest of fairways, the vibrant azalea bushes, the par 3 12th over Rae’s Creek, the par 5 15th with its second shot offering the invitation to fly your ball onto the green from far away. I don’t know how it can feel like home, but it does. The spirits of long gone golfers still walk the fairways … Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson, as do the heroes I grew up with, thankfully still with us … Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
Yesterday I pulled up a chair in front of the lobby bar TV and watched the drama for three hours. I was happy. Yes, the beach is out there somewhere but I was in my spot, reliving the joys of yesteryear, except now it’s Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day addressing the ball.
On this vacation, I’ve not only reread my favourite golf novel – Golf In The Kingdom – I’m now re-rereading it. Such an obsessed young man. Here’s a passage:
One day he shot a ninety, yes a ninety, my friends, and laughed and complimented me all the way. Had a grand time, he did, never looking back at par, never panickin’ or cursin’, just steady through it a’, the same as he always is. And that I say is the mark o’ a brave and holy man, that he can retreat like that from par without a whimper.
I don’t know if I saw any holy men on TV yesterday. I did notice a lot of angst, wild gesturing and talking to oneself. No one broke 70, the first time that’s happened since 2007. Sterling golfers such as Phil Mickelson missed the cut. He double bogeyed both the 15th and 16th holes, including a wayward launch into the pond guarding the par 3.
Golf is such a seductive and oft punishing game, mixed in with the moments where club and ball unite on the sweet spot. To regularly bring forth sweetness during a round on the links is truly the gift of a great spirit. I want to be a man like that.
I found myself cheering for par while watching the action unfold, hoping that nobody would end the day with a sub-par score. Let the huge obstacles wash over you and may you revel in walking the fine earth. It turned out that seven players finished round two under par, with the total number of strokes they were under adding up to only 14. Today, I hope this number diminishes to zero. The game is bigger than all of us. May the lessons inherent in stumbling, hooking, slicing and missing three-foot putts flow into the rest of our lives.
At 3:00 today, I’ll be back in the lobby, continuing my unusual vacation. Following my bliss. Watching life.