Thursday, April 17, 2014

Note on Golf and Men

Bubba Watson won his second Masters title last Sunday. There was a nice special moment as he finished his round and cued up wonderfully for the cameras was his 2 year old son walking up to him. It was a mini-Kodak moment. When Watson won his first Masters, it was several weeks after his adopted son was born. When he won his first, Watson was in tears, hugging his mother. His father had died of cancer just a few years earlier. It was more emotion beyond the "fist-pumping thrill of victory" in one moment than Tiger Woods had shown his entire career. All those years of myth making, Tiger's father Earl had never told him that while everyone loves a winner, they want to know you're human, too. Whether Watson or Woods, a common theme to the idea of golf is it is a man's game. Women can play it, and play it well, but it is a guy's game. Golf is one of the few areas where it is acceptable for men to engage in a social setting and private atmosphere without women.

No kid ever picks up a club at five and says, "I want to play golf". Despite Earl Woods' statements, we all know Earl superglued a club to little Tiger's two year old hands. It is slow. It involves strategy, thinking, three dimensional visualization and a variety of skills that come from practice, experience and time. Your dad says, "let's go golfing" and for four hours it's just the two of you, and mom doesn't care (secretly happy you're both gone). She probably thinks it is boring. You start playing, and it's like being in a fraternity. Even if you have not golfed in years, you can always come back for one round and with a built in excuse for bad shots. You schedule a weekly or monthly round with a friend or a special event with a group of friends all in town. It becomes guy time. What do you talk about for four hours? Everything and anything, your past, your present, your future. Stuff you don't discuss with your women present. Each golf swing takes two seconds. You shoot maybe 100 strokes for eighteen holes, so in reality you play the sport for a little over three minutes and fill the other three or four hours with talk. Over four hours, a friend slowly explained to me why and how he was divorcing his wife. To my wife, it was just an afternoon golfing with a buddy.

Watson and son

It's quality time. Good thing is everyone usually hits a great shot and an awful shot over eighteen holes so there are multiple opportunities for male joking on friends to show inclusion. A guy who was like a third grandfather to me, Bill, took me golfing in Florida when I was twenty three and on my first bachelor with money vacation. I went out with friends each night that week in Tampa, but Bill scheduled an 8am tee time. I dragged myself out of bed hungover and pounded some Gatorade to golf with him. His hair was John Forsythe perfect. We spent three hours golfing and talking about women, his good grandson, his bad grandson (I knew both well) and my life plans. He needled me about alligators all morning. Kept giving me crap every time I hit a ball by the water. By hole 16, I saw an actual gator and jumped a few feet. I could hear him laughing behind me. If Bill scored better on a hole, he'd mention he was 75 or I was still drunk. After that round, we had lunch with his wife. I swung by later in the week to give him a small present (a book I mentioned while golfing) and say thanks. It was the last time I saw him alive. I'll always remember that round as a nice final moment with him and because for three hours he talked to me like a grown man.

Because golf equipment and skills last so long, it is not just playing a round that opens those bonding opportunities. Your golfing buddies can gain 30 pounds and still play a round with you unlike every other sport. My uncle died of cancer. He gave me his good clubs before death came calling. I still use them. My grandfather gave me his driver. Small stuff, but they explained why they gave it to me, "you're just starting out. my irons are top shelf" or "you are so tall. you must use a good driver". My dad bought me a great putter as a slight joke on him beating me because he could putt better than me. Guy ways of sharing a moment, passing something on and acting like it is small potatoes. I hit out of sand traps the way I do because of Bill. They will all be dead, and I'll explain the whys to my son.

The Masters kicking off the golf season and being so close to Easter is special. Every Easter I think of Sundays from my childhood when the Masters was on and my grandfather would provide color commentary a kid could understand. Gramma only entered the room to announce when different food was ready. My dad and I had a hard time talking about anything when I was first out of college, but we could saddle up and play a round on a sunny Saturday. Even if you have nothing to talk about, your play or a refreshment sales girl will be discussed. Bubba Watson was in tears when he won that first Masters. Missing from that moment of triumph was his dad. His former Green Beret dad introduced him to the game. He has his son now. The cycle will repeat. Father to son. I have not golfed in years, but I know when my son gets tall enough, we're going. Just the guys.


Rifleman said...

Just the guys.

And lesbians.

See Steve Sailer's articles.

praguestepchild said...

Very good stuff, straight from the heart.


peterike said...

I don't care a lick about golf, but this was really a well written piece.

Anonymous said...

The best I can figure, golf is the opposite of masculinty. No real risk or fear to overcome, no opponent to force your will onto, no pain, no threat of injury (repetitive motion injuries do not count).... nothing


AAB said...

Golf had a major, and positive impact on rocker Alice Coopers life:

'Cooper has on several occasions credited golf as having played a major role in helping him to overcome his addiction to alcohol,[115] and has even gone as far to say that when he took up golf, it was a case of replacing one addiction with another.[116][117] The importance that the game has had in his life is also reflected in the title to his 2007 autobiography, Alice Cooper, Golf Monster.[118] Cooper, who has participated in a number of Pro-Am competitions,[119] plays the game six days a week, off a handicap of two.[87] Since 1997 he has hosted an annual golf competition, the Alice Cooper Celebrity AM Golf Tournament, all proceeds from which go to his charity, the Solid Rock Foundation.'