My golf story.
I started playing golf in my grandmother’s house. I’d grab my grandfather’s putter as soon as I stepped inside the door.
I thought of it waiting there since the last time I used it.
The others piled into the den for board games, but I stayed back.
I’d grab the target and play three holes on the course I mapped out on the carpeted floor.
I’d immerse myself into the game. I’d hear cheers and the whispers of broadcasters between each putt.
I found comfort in this lonely game.
My next venue was a nine-hole course I constructed in our backyard.
It had traps and obstacles, but no green for putts. I got to use more clubs. I often aced the tar mound that was the first hole.
I’d do practice swings at the bottle caps and cut back the weeds that would make the ball’s lie difficult.
Golf remained a solitary game.
I purchased clubs and found my way to driving ranges.
I wasn’t good, but I hit enough good ones to keep coming back. I began to hit buckets after work.
I ventured next to 9-hole golf courses.
I liked them. They were short and pairing was not required. I arrived early so it was not odd to play alone.
It was a giant step when I got paired the first time.
Luckily it was with a beginner. We met up for a round a few times. The game felt less lonely. It was tolerable. Easy. There was no competition.
Then golfing expanded to co-workers and full-sized courses.
Beer drinking. Trash talking and betting entered the game.
I felt lonely in this lonely game.
I played less often and made excuses for not showing up. It felt like a different game. I missed the spontaneity of playing alone.
I returned to the driving ranges and 9-hole courses where I started.
Years passed. We had a child. There was no time for golf. I didn’t miss it. I was occupied by other things.
Until I learned my wife’s company scheduled its annual meeting at Pebble Beach.
Like a fool, I signed up for golf.
I was intimidated by the very thought of going there. Pebble Beach is one of the most iconic golf courses in the world.
I had to prepare myself for luxury. I was in over my head and out of my league in so many ways.
I couldn’t wear jeans and my shoes and clubs were not presentable. I had to get ready in so little time.
I lost sleep over what was before me.
I bought a new wardrobe. I picked out an argyle shirt and a matching scully cap, white pleated slacks, and white shoes for the course.
Images of Great Gatsby flashed through my mind.
I bought a bag and covers for my drivers. I considered and addressed every detail of the game. I had second guesses about doing it.
Notwithstanding all that I was dealing with, there is a reason why it is the first tee.
It felt like a fishbowl. I was surrounded by ladies in linen having cocktails or tea. The cheers and whispers were real. It was much better being here than watching on TV.
It felt surreal. Were the violins in the background real? I wished I had practiced stepping up to the tee.
I removed my #2 driver from my bag. On my way, I was asked about my handicap. Thinking out loud as I tend to do at the worst possible times, I said, “I’m bipolar.”
I don’t know if those were jeers or laughter. I think it helped that I had a smile on my face.
The violins grew louder. It felt like slow-motion. I was standing where golf legends and few black men stood. I was shaking like a leaf.
I felt self-conscious. My back swing took forever. I chewed up turf and my ball trickled down from the crest.
It was the first of many mulligans I took that day, but I played the entire course.
That was the last time I played golf. I’ve been told that golf stories never end.
I’m living proof of that.
I never felt prouder of myself.
I played Pebble Beach.