by Missy Votel

Confessions of a closet duffer

It’s been a cruel summer on many fronts, and outdoor recreation is no exception.

I myself decided to hang up the kayaking paddle after an ill-fated head butt with some rocks. I went home not only with a sore ego, but a shiner to back it up.

My mountain biking career soon became the next casualty of the ruthless conditions. I’m not sure which was thicker, the smoke in my lungs or the dust on the trails.

There probably were some people out there who made the most of the respite from the outdoors, opting to clean out the garage or maybe start that great American novel they’d been dreaming about.

But not me. Instead of picking up broom or pen, I picked up golfing. Well. Actually, I should say “retook” it up. See, I’m no Arnie-come-lately riding the Tiger-mania wave. It’s a little-known and, until now, well-kept secret that I was force fed golf lessons as a small child, too young to run away. These summer lessons were even parlayed into a brief stint on the high school golf team. But, as luck would have it, swearing and throwing clubs was frowned upon at meets. I soon found myself – in a mutually agreed upon decision among everyone involved – heading to the clubhouse for good.

With this as my parting memory, I spent the next several years trying to purge all recollections of the wretched sport from my conscience.

Which makes it particularly baffling as to what possessed me to once again put club in hand and actually enjoy it.

For starters, in ridiculously arid regions such as ours, golfing is about as P.C. as the baby harp-seal hunt in the Arctic. Granted, golfing isn’t nearly as bloody, but hey, both sports use clubs.

Secondly, there’s the coolness factor – or utter lack thereof. Let’s face it, golf in all its splendor is about as sexy as knee-sock garters and Metamucil.

Sure, there’s the age explanation. As one’s mind and body slows, her fancy turns from humanpowered transport and streamlined clothes to motorized vehicles, elastic waistbands and sensible footwear. But I think it goes far beyond a deep-seated desire to wear wingtips and drive a glorified go-cart.

I think the reason I started golfing again – other than temporary insanity or the fact it was the only recreational opportunity available – is because it actually presents a challenge without endangering my life (sudden lightning strikes not withstanding).

Never have I blackened an eye golfing. Nor have I broken anything beyond a tee or two. I never have felt the sudden urge to relieve myself while staring down an intimidating fairway or had my life flash before my eyes as I approached a crux putt. Hell, most times I’m hard-pressed to even work up a sweat.

Granted, many of the “no-falls-no-balls” mindset probably just released an earth-shattering yawn, if they’ve even bothered reading this far. But, I will argue, golf takes just as much strength and endurance – although of the mental variety. It’s the ability to take those whiffs, the five-putts, the topped tee shots, the sky balls, the shanks, the
hooks and the balls that get swallowed up in the rough, and resist the urge to drown yourself in the nearest water hazard.

Sure, it sounds like a lot of aggravation to inflict upon oneself, let alone to have to pay for it.

But, there are those rare moments of greatness – the shot b-lining for the sand that takes a lucky bounce; a chip shot that miraculously finds the hole; a picture-perfect drive with the requisite “thwack” to match – that seem to have a way of making you want to come back for more.

To put it in parable terms, golfing is not about being David assaulting the Goliath of a mountain with every last ounce of energy. It’s about being Goliath and using your finesse to get David (in this case manifested as a small, white ball) to do what you want.

Sure, it probably won’t win me any spots in the cool group – at least not yet. But give me another 40 years to work on my handicap, and I just may be the envy of the retirement community - kneegarters and all.




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