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Having fun at the game of golf

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / July 6, 1998

The U.S. Open at the Olympic Club brought smiles to the faces of dufferseverywhere. Here were the best players in the world complaining about thelayout of the course, the height of the rough and the placements of the pins and shooting scores in the 80s.

Sound familiar? Golf is an universal game. The best players can shank and chili dip; theworst players can manage a great shot every now and then. There are noGreg Madduxes to throw you a changeup on the tee, no Patrick Ewings to block your iron shot from the fairway, no Charles Woodsons to intercept your chip shots and no Dominik Haseks to slap away your putts. It is justyou against the course.

Of course, there are times when a golfer wishes there was a Ewing or a Hasek around interfering with their shots. Then they would have somethingto blame when the course puts a serious whipping on them as will happen more often than not.

Bob Hope once said that “If you watch a game, it’s fun. If you play it, it’srecreation. If you work at it, it’s golf.”If that is true, some of us work harder than others. I like to tell peoplethat if I am going to plunk down $20 for a round, I want it to be worth it.

And if my scorecards are any indication, I get a lot of strokes for my money.

At least that’s the reason I give for my handicap, which would be pretty good if I was bowling. I have had some rounds where I have taken morestrokes than an Olympic swimmer has in his lifetime.

I usually play at Audubon Park, but a friend, knowing my tendency to hit a lot of forest shots, suggested we play at Bayou Oaks where he said I would have to work hard to hit a tree. Trust me, I must have worked pretty hardthat day because I felt like Robin Hood and his merry men.

I still like to know how I can miss a green 40 feet wide but can hit a tree 3 feet wide. That friend has come to learn that if he wants to avoidgetting hit by a golf ball from me, the safest place to stand is in the middle of the fairway. Or to put it another way, if I had been the captainof the Titanic and that iceberg had a flag with a number on top of it, James Cameron would have had to find something else to make a movie about.

Harold Segall called golf “an adventure, a romance…a Shakespeare play inwhich disaster and comedy are intertwined.” In that case, my golf game isa masterpiece, a work comparable to “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Mid Summer Night’s Dream.” To see me play golf is to laugh and cry at thesame time.

I am like Ben Crenshaw who said, “I went fishing the other day and missed the lake with my first cast.” Actually, I did go fishing with my dad and mybrother on Father’s Day, and my first cast was like my first tee shot, short and off-line. I actually should be good at casting. I am used toputting things in the middle of the lake, but I usually just call them golf balls.

Actually, I am getting better at the game. My front nine score would nowbeat Tiger Woods’ score for a round on most of his better days. Of course, Ishould be getting better; I have had enough practice. I read someplace thatGreg Norman hit 6,000 shots a week. There have been some rounds I feltlike I did that in four hours.

Why do I still play golf? Leslie Nielsen summed it up best. “I don’t playgolf to feel bad,” he once said. “I play bad golf and still feel good.”Or as English writer Robert Lynd put it, “It is almost impossible to remember how tragic a place the world is when one is playing golf.”A golf place can be one of the most serene places in the world. Standing atthe fifth tee at Audubon, looking down a long carpet of green with the bells of Loyola University in the background, it is easy to forget the cares of the world amongst the beauty God created. And like life itself, nomatter how bad you play, there is always another day and another round.

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