Watching Tom Watson amaze at last weekend's British Open, something hit me like a ton of bricks: where have all the graceful moments in sports gone? The game of golf is a perfect microcosm; what images do you see these days in a golf highlight? Tiger Woods, pumping his fist, cursing the Golf Gods, muttering jabs at over-eager cameramen, slamming his equipment, strolling down the fairway burning a hole in the back of his playing partner's cap. We didn't have Tiger last weekend though, he went home early after missing the cut (gasp!) I do love Tiger, but after watching the 59 year-old Watson play the round of his AARP card-carryin' life it really hit home. I, for one, have taken notice of the grace, respect, & joy that Tom Watson approaches the game. Sure, you say, "he's Tom frickin' Watson...one of the best golfers of all time...sure you'd be grinning." OK, Watson was chasing only his 9th major title, not bad for a guy not named Jack or Eldrick. However, Watson still has that smile & vigor that makes the game great. He's had two beloved caddies pass away - that would be enough for some guys to cry, "Why me?" But Watson still gave us all a thrill, right until the end. Did he slam his putter on 18 or scream at some innocent bystander for breathing? Nope. He grinned from ear to ear, even though we all knew he was ripping his guts out inside.
Some of you may have had the misfortune of seeing me golfin person. It ain't pretty I know. It's even uglier when my competitive nature creeps up to take a look and critique my game. I've only played golf for the past 8 years, picking the game up solely as a necessity related to a new job I had taken. For one reason or another I was never interested until I realized they actually let you off work to go ride around a golf course to, eh hmm, "talk business." I've also got some health reasons why I never played. I damn near ripped my left arm off in a car wreck when I was 19, and the accident has had a lot of lingering effects. I have never used it as excuse though, because I feel that through will-power alone I can make anything happen (they also call that jack-mule stubborness where I'm from). What cripples me more than my physical limitations is my temper, however. I can make a poor shot sound like a complete disaster to the group I'm playing with (and in fron of, and behind). I get frustated and make things worse, although I am my father's first son. and the apple does not fall far from the tree (heh heh). I have a vocabulary that would make a sailor blush. I have a glare that would make Tiger Woods piss his pants. Yet still, I have no golf game. Wonder why that is...?
Wonder why....Ahhh...!! It's because it's A GAME you idiot!! Go have some fun. Be thankful you're not behind some machine in 100+ degree heat for 12 straight hours. Duh... I'm so embarrased to think back at all of the pleasurable days I've ruined for my friends out on a golf course, cursing & stomping...moaning & groaning like I was some kind of PGA scratch golfer or something. I thank Tom Watson for showing that to me. And you know what...I played 36 holes last week and had a blast. I didn't necesarily play better as a whole, but I did improve. I didn't sqeeze the putter as tightly and sank some lengthy putts. I didn't overswing as much with my 3-wood and knocked'er right down the middle of the fairway. I still can't hit an iron to save my life, but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day. Most impotatantly, I hope I was a joy to be around more than anything though. That's the perfect scorecard I'm aiming for from here on out.
I appreciate the golf lesson, Tom Watson. The game is much more than swing analysis & technique. It's more about life and how you affect others. Smooth & easy will get you further toward the hole, because it's damn hard to play out of the rough all the time. Keep it in the short grass, y'all.