How good are you at laughing at yourself? Has life become so serious that you no longer see the humor in completely missing the golf ball or when your down swing is a real downer? God created golf to keep most of us very humble. I’m convinced that sport is another way God keeps the angelic hosts entertained as they observe people humiliate themselves on the greens. People beg me, no, pay me not to play golf with them. Those that are stuck with me in their foursome risk their lives and an increase in their life insurance policies. No one that has ever played golf with me or watched me play asks me what my handicap is. They know very well that when it comes to golf, I am one big handicap.
The last time I golfed was at Firestone Country Club. Somehow I convinced a dear friend to allow me and three other family members to play 18 holes on this historic course. My time came to tee off and to the best of my recollection I didn’t even make it off the first hole. My swing was so pathetic I’m convinced God turned His back because He couldn’t bear the pain of watching me destroy this holy ground. On the other hand, I’m also convinced God turned away because He was laughing so hard He was struggling not to fall off His throne while watching this train wreck. The rest of the day I served as the chauffeur of the golf cart where the risk for an accident was profoundly reduced.
I knew that day was going to be a ”rough” one when I retrieved my golf clubs, and my son strongly suggested that I leave them behind because the bag alone looked like it had been in the Golf, I mean, Gulf War. His pride would not permit him to allow me to embarrass him, as well, as the rest of the team by lugging a 90-year-old golf bag onto the course at the prestigious Firestone Country Club. Perhaps another reason my son, Greg, took a dim view of my clubs was because he was still stinging from the last time we played golf, and I broke his new “Big Bertha” club in one failed swing. I haven’t convinced him that he needs to forgive me or his future playing on the big golf course in the sky is in jeopardy.
What is it about golf that compels people to play in spite of the fact that it’s an exercise in futility? They can take 1,000 instructional classes and play 18 holes a day, and their improvement is minuscule. There is no one answer, but for starters I think people enjoy the landscape, and they’re drawn to the beauty of God’s creation. I must admit, even though a golf course represents a place of bad memories, there is something special about the beauty, serenity, and hope that keeps you coming back for more.
So what’s the moral of my message about a sport that makes grown men weep and throw their clubs into the same water hole where their golf ball landed? My message is two-fold. First, we don’t need to be good at something to enjoy the journey. I’m convinced there are many wonderful experiences I have missed out on just because it took me out of my comfort zone, so I just avoided the opportunity. It’s normal to want to do things that come naturally or play to our strengths, but we limit our potential for growth. God can use all kinds of experiences to grow and stretch us, and I think humble us as well. Let me throw a challenge your way to get out of your comfort zone and try something new or that is not necessarily your strength. Maybe it’s trying a new hobby or choosing to take music lessons or taking up golf. Perhaps you need to be stretched to apply for a new job or even go back to school.
The second lesson is in regards to protocol and rules of the game, which requires everyone respect each other, even the fans. I’ve attended the Bridgestone Invitational where thousands from all over the world gather, but when it’s time for the golfer to tee off, you can hear a pin drop. The sounds of silence are a welcome reprieve from other sports where yelling and shouting obscenities at the players and referees is part of the atmosphere. This game that originated in Scotland is viewed as a “gentleman’s” game. I think today the proper term is gentleperson, as ladies play as well. In this day of “rumble in the jungle” around race, religion and politics, the word gentle sounds inviting. It appears that golf is one sport where color, gender, or ideology doesn’t matter when it comes to pulling for any golfer to sink the putt. Wouldn’t it be a game changer if the Church played by these same rules? What if we majored on respect and civility instead of trying to shout and push people to Jesus? I think, no, I KNOW we’d come out winning.
Let me wrap this up by saying just because I’m bad at golf doesn’t mean that I won’t ever play again. Be assured as long as I play golf, whiffs, slices and hooks, long walks in the woods looking for my ball, and a handicap that would make Jason Day blush will follow me all the days of my life until I dwell in the house of the Lord forever. But, walking in green pastures (the fairway), and retrieving my ball from still waters just might restore my soul or my emotions. My willingness to swing until I hit the ball will strengthen my resolve to do better and strengthen the patience of my golf buddies. In fact, they will feel better just by laughing at my meager attempts to hit the ball, which some might mistake for a seizure. Yes, it’s possible for me to be terrible at something and laugh at myself because I’m not defined by a golf score.
My apologies to all of my blog followers who aren’t golf fans. Next week I’ll write about something more familiar like bocce ball or Candy Crush. If you didn’t get enough of all my golf humor, check out Love Akron’s Facebook page tomorrow, which will feature my best attempts at golf definitions, Mark style!
By the way, Congratulations to Hideki Matsuyama who won this year’s Bridgestone Invitational by shooting a 61 in the final round to tie the record with Tiger Woods. I too shot a 61 at Firestone – but that was just the first three holes.