How To Play Golf in Three Easy Missteps

Or, four points of fact and fiction on the green.

Step One: Pick a stick. Any stick. Some sticks are thicker, and some sticks are lighter, and some sticks have a number. Those sticks just might be good in math, but probably, they aren’t. And if you don’t have a stick yet, pick a stick already.

Step Two: Hit ball with stick. It might help if you hit it hard. It might help if you swing real strong and try to swing it straight, too. But since the entire premise of this game is hitting balls with sticks, just pick a ball, any ball, and hit it with a stick. If at first you miss and kick up some grass, just swing again until you hit the ball.

Step Three: Watch ball fly through air and go into hole. If lucky, go in hole in one swing. If average, watch ball go in hole on par. If not good, ball never go in hole. This may seem pointless, but without trying to get the ball in the hole, there’s no point in hitting the ball with a stick, and the entire game falls apart.

Or so I thought this morning.

Today was GTCC’s Second Annual Foundation Classic, a golf tournament that serves as a massive fundraiser for scholarships that the GTCC Foundation awards to students–such as the Student Ambassador program which I’m on the way out of now as the new ambassadors are acclimating to their roles, a program that has greatly assisted in my going to college this past year. And trust me, after today, I’ve definitely found something that I’m not just thankful for, I’m so thankful for it, I’m overflowing with words about it!

So today, my dear fans, I’m most thankful for–

35. Golf

I was told on Monday–yes, the day before yesterday–that I would be needed to help at the tournament. With a forecast of humid in the nineties, I can’t say I was incredibly happy, but I stuck with it (duty over desire, obligation over enjoyment) and put on a smiling face. Things are always easier if you smile about them. I got a ride to the course with a great woman who works in the GTCC Foundation, and I got to spend the morning helping to set things up with plenty of familiar faces and people I got to meet. It was actually a lot of fun really early on.

At one point, when we had a little down time, I got to practice putting and driving (the golf kind). I discovered one very important thing: Golf is not my calling. I have neither the patience nor the heat tolerance to find much passion in the sport, but that’s no reason to discredit it.

So here’s fact number one: Although many might not agree, the skill required to do well in golf really does make it a sport. Just like curling. Just like fencing. All these things seem simple from the outside (push rock over ice, try to poke opponent with rapier), but from the inside, they take massive amounts of skill and dedication.

Of course, the big task began shortly after noon when I was deposited at hole number nine and asked to greet people as they came by and to tell them a little about myself and about the school. This made perfect sense: When I make a donation, I like to know where it’s going and how it’s helping; likewise, these men and women donated thousands of dollars all together, and they deserved–in fact, they demanded by way of their generosity–to know just how much good their game of golf is doing for our entire school and a fair number of our students.

Very early on I learned fact number two: Golf players are smarter than they seem. As a mathematician, I’ve learned to make good estimates, but as golf players, these guys could make estimates that could intimidate mine to no end. That looks like 195 yards, or 180 yards, or 120 yards when they did well, and just like that, they knew which iron to use and how much force to swing it with. And that was just the beginning.

Over the next few hours, I learned (fact number three) that to play golf, you have to have keen eyesight, perseverance in challenging situations, determination, and a willingness to collaborate and work together toward a common goal.

At my end of the fairway (if I’m not mistaken–terminology was one thing I did not pick up today, and I still have no idea where was the birdie all these guys were talking about…), I could see the initial swing and then watch the ball as it flew towards me in my general direction. I could imagine the velocity vectors, the force equations, the momentum and impact power, but it all meant nothing when I could blink and completely lose sight of the ball. It took more than half the day for me to keep a good eye on them and start to get a feel for where they were headed (and therefore where too look) when the lighting kept me from seeing the ball itself for a moment.

With the heat and ruthless sunlight, all of these men and women shared a common sense of perseverance, to never give up playing but to keep going on no matter the weather, and determination, to try their best even in some of the most uncomfortable playing conditions. Both of these are traits of good leaders, and it made me glad to see so many influential players possessing these qualities.

Today the teams also played captain’s choice, which means they all shot from the best of the four balls shot from the initial point. Sometimes they had a wide variety of options, from level but further back to closer up but on an incline to even closer but in the sandtrap. It was fascinating to listen to all these people deliberate on which spot they’d play from and how carefully they came to a consensus that pleased everybody. If only other conflicts could be settled so skillfully!

This last fact brings the fiction clearly into play: Oftentimes we think of golf players as snobby and self-centered, and maybe some are, but the ones I met today were anything but. They all seemed overjoyed to be able to support such a good cause, they were all polite and well-mannered, and a few took time from their game to sincerely listen to me talk about GTCC and my college plans. It was wonderful meeting all of them, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity. It always gives me hope to know there are still good people in the world, more than I can ever say here.

At the end of the day, my feet were aching and I was glad to go, but I have to admit, today’s given me an entirely new perspective on golf and on golfers. It’s still not my passion, and I highly doubt I’ll ever be any good at it, but if I’ve never mentioned it before, I love learning new things and being able to see things with a new perspective. And today, golf did exactly that–and all for a good cause.

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