Two days of golf around my new town of Columbus was all I needed to bring back the memories of why I love the game so much.
The first was nine holes at the city’s Greenbelt Golf Course in shorts and a T-shirt. I played that day with a couple of 20-year-old behemoths who hit the ball a mile and putted it just about as far, even if they were trying to make a 6-footer.
The second was a wonderful trip around Harrison Lake Country Club with 90-something-year-old Howard Graninger, who has been around long enough to see every renovation at the course and who jokes that he has held every duty there except manager and club pro.
Those who play the country club circuit know the atmosphere can be formal — and stuffy, at times — but I was met at Harrison Lake with warm handshakes and smiles.
Two days of golf, two completely different courses, opposite ends of the age and experience spectrums and a strikingly different scope in terms of attire.
Yes, golf is about learning, and that often has nothing to do with your swing.
I am never going to shoot 68, at least not on an 18-hole course, so the entire exercise has to be about something more. For me, it’s been about meeting people.
Back in my late 20s and early 30s, when I started to get semi-serious about golf, or at least about having a good time on the golf course, I always played with the same foursome, which only changed when a different friend was added because of an absence. We started playing for big money, four or five bucks, and it became more of a poker game that was, indeed, a good walk spoiled.
Being guys, we eventually raised the level to one of annoyance, and the weekly get-together stopped being fun. Add to the mix that one of our friends threw three of his clubs into an evergreen tree and the rest in a lake on one occasion, and some version of that explosion in most other rounds, and I started to think about taking up polo.
Since horses were kind of expensive, I decided instead to go on golf outings by myself. I would walk up to a course and join up with any other single or group that would have me. Geez, it was fun.
I met the guy who was a World War II prisoner of war and another who was a national trap shooting champion. There was the guy who was friends with Jack Dempsey and the lady who couldn’t convince her retired husband to take up a hobby, so she started playing golf “to get out of the house.”
I was a kid to the seniors group that went out mornings at Blue Rock Springs. They used to tell me, “Don’t worry, you have years to learn this game.”
Sure, there were times when you joined up with the serious types who had dreams of being Arnold Palmer. I remember walking down the 17th fairway one time and having a guy, who had just hit a terrible shot, turn to me and say, “Can you stop your clubs from clicking together when you walk?”
OK, buddy. I’m only 50 yards away from you.
Then there was the time when the group behind my foursome air mailed a shot over our heads because the course was backed up. A couple of the guys in my group dropped balls and started hitting them back at the group behind us. Sure, you can meet up with the psycho angry guys.
But those times were few and far between.
My most recent two rounds were more the norm. The two young guys were college students who have their entire lives in front of them. To be a 50-something guy who can compete with them on a golf course is one thing that makes golf so special. To hear their opinions about life, well, that made me smile as well.
Playing a little golf with Howard was a pure joy. OK, I’ll say it. When you are 50-something and you want to feel young, go hang out with a 90-year-old guy. While Howard seldom plays a full round anymore, he putts every day. His passion for the sport is exhilarating.
Perhaps the best thing about Howard was that he looks forward, not back. Whether it has to do with golf, or the club itself, there are things he would like to accomplish. Maybe this getting old stuff isn’t so bad.
I guess you never know whom you might meet on a golf course. It’s like that time at Diablo Springs on the 10th green. We were at that point of the round where everyone starts talking about what they do for a living.
I looked over at two of my playing partners, whom I had met 10 holes earlier. “So what are you guys, a couple of nuclear physicists?”
They gave me a strange stare. “Yes, we are.”
They worked at Lawrence Livermore Lab.
Who will it be next week? I guess I will find out.
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