The game of life


Before my father passed away at the young age of 50 in 1978, he had taught me a number of important life lessons.

Always thinking of ways to provide for his four children, he worked two jobs, one during the day as a treasurer of a waste management company and in the evening as a bartender at a local golf and country club.

Yet as hard working and dedicated to his family as he was, my father still found the time to rise at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings to play the magical game the Scots invented in the 15th century.

As a youngster I was lucky enough to accompany him as a ‘walk-on’ (when ‘walk-ons’ were allowed) during a few of those rounds to get a taste of the same wonderful game that golf legend Tom Watson temporarily stole from Tiger Woods recently at Turnberry golf course in Scotland.

Just shy of his 60th birthday and less than a year since hip replacement surgery, Watson is a modern day archetypal American hero whose recent performance epitomizes the hopes, slippery meanderings and whimsical nature of the game of golf.

The anguish and ecstasy of this enchanting sport is that, on any given day, on any given course and any given hole it indiscriminately crushes and resurrects with equal force the dreams of both ‘duffers’ and perennial champions alike.

Like each day of life, each hole serves up its own obstacles: bunkers, water hazards and gnarly rough that conspire to deflate, frustrate and temporarily prevent us from reaching our immediate goals.

Ironically though, it is the fleeting unexpected moments in life: reveling in the joy of an innocent child at play, a glorious sunset or an outstanding unexpected birdie putt, that keep us craving and coming back for more.

How one handles the challenges and stumbles during the journey, though, regardless of the outcome on the ‘course of life’ is what distinguishes the truly classy role models from the rest of the crowd.

Incredibly, despite the pressure of two jobs and the daily demands of raising four children, I think I can count on one hand the number of times my father ever lost his cool with us. Believe me, as a typical mischievous youngster, I certainly did more than my share to try and make him erupt.

Perhaps it was Watson’s even keel temperament, humility and grace under pressure on the course that reminded me of my father. The 5-time Claret Jug winner certainly had cause to explode on the 18th green after letting an improbable 6th Open championship and win for the ages slip away to a much younger man.

Though instead of cursing his fate and pounding his club in disgust when failing to sink the less than perfect putt for the win, the old warrior, who in 1977 was able to seal the now famous ‘dual in the sun’ with the legendary Jack Nickolaus,  just flashed a sardonic grin and shook his head.

As with the precarious, unpredictable nature of life, one never really conquers a challenging golf course so much as make peace with it for the moment.

But with the right combination of hard work, luck, skill, humility and perseverance the young and not so young can also fully experience the precious moments of glory that punctuate the game of life.

That reminds me, I need to book another tee time with my own son sometime soon.

Photo credit: Mike Redfearn


One Comment on “The game of life”

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