The other day I played a round of golf. I was alone; it was cold and pouring rain. It got me thinking about why it is that drives me to play this game. To most people, golf is just a bunch of rich old white guys hitting a little ball around a park; and on the surface, I tend to think that’s pretty accurate. But for me (and for many others), it’s so much more.
I’m not exactly what most people would call an “alpha male”. I’m laid back, I go with the flow and I definitely don’t take charge. I often let my emotions get the best of me, probably to a fault. I appreciate things like music and art more than most and the physical aspects of my job makes the IT guy look like an oil rig worker.
So it’s strange that I have about every “guy” hobby that you can have.
I watch (and re-watch) football games to see who missed a gap assignment. I play pickup basketball at the gym (even though I’m awful). Heck, for a while I even played poker as my main income. I never really found the juxtaposition of my personality and hobbies odd until somebody cracked a joke about it. However, I realized that they were absolutely right, and I wanted to know why.
My Dad is an old-school tough guy. A whiskey and beer drinking ex-cop who I’ve watched kick a couple asses. I know if you ask them, everyone thinks they have the coolest Dad ever. But mine, he was a bad-ass tough guy who acted like a big kid. He was always my idol growing up and he still is today. Almost all of my vivid and cherished childhood memories involve sports and my dad.
When I watched from his lap as the 1991 Washington Huskies win the National Title; it stuck with me. We danced in the living room when Edgar Martinez doubled down the left field line to beat the Yankees in 1995. The most vivid of all those memories is when we beamed with Seattle pride as Fred Couples won his Green Jacket in 1992.
My love of golf correlates directly with Couples rise to the top of the golf rankings. It wasn’t even a month before that Masters that I got my first set of clubs on my 7th birthday. I can’t even count the times I threw on my bag and rode my bike down to Lynnwood Golf Course to practice. I did that a hundred times a year, all the way until I missed golf team (by one damn stroke) during my freshman year of High School. I finally took a break, and it wasn’t long until my break became a de facto retirement. It wasn’t long after that I gave up all sports (and machismo by extension) completely. Watching, playing, caring. I mean, hell, I was a teenager and I thought I had more important things to do.
Flash forward about 8 years. I was 22 and my dad sat me down and told me he had cancer. It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to cope with. I was angry and confused and sad and all I wanted was to do was wake up from this nightmare. But I couldn’t this time.
It was those crystallizing and defining sports moments that I turned to for comfort. I started watching Husky Football and Mariners Baseball again. I bought a set of golf clubs and went back to Lynnwood Golf Course; the one where I played my first full round on my 8th birthday. All of these things brought me some comfort, but it was golf, specifically, that was the perfect catharsis. I could focus my anger and pain on that stupid little ball and just smack the hell out of it.
I’ve mellowed out on the course since then, I haven’t even broken a club in a few years. But golf remains the most clarifying thing in my life. I have a family of my own now, and being on the road as much as I am is pretty trying. Instead of focusing my pain and anger, I focus the pressure and the love into that same ball. I started this website because I get bored in hotel rooms and I wished there was a resource like this for me. But I golf because some day I’m not going to be able to give any more wisdom and advice to my son. I golf because I want my Son to be a better Dad than I am and will be. I think that’s all any parent wants for their kid.
My Dad beat his cancer. In fact, he’s beat it twice now (I told you he was a bad-ass). So when he had to give up golf last year, I decided to play his driver for the season, and when he’s ready, I’ll cut it down so my boy can play the same club. We don’t have any real family heirlooms, so I decided golf would be ours. I can’t think of a better one than the game that has given me so much.
As long as I can remember, my dad has been the picture of manliness; and while I’m not sure if it’s a primal instinct, or just social manipulation, I’ve always gone out of my way to be “manly” because of it. However, it’s only in the past few years that everything has come into frame on what masculinity really is. It isn’t football or hunting or being strong. It’s not drinking or being a tough guy. Being manly is always striving to make things better, for everyone. For me, that’s giving the world another person or two who always strive to make the best choice, and golf is my vehicle to accomplish this.