Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Need Help!

Okay, there’s no rhyme or reason for it. Why do I play this insane game? I’m talking about golf, of course!

After all, I’m a grown man. I like to think of myself as being mature. My role in the community as a minister is considered to be one of respectability, specifically as a pastor of a church, a position that carries a certain level of dignity and decorum befitting a “man of the cloth.” So then why do I humiliate and embarrass myself by continually attempting to play this outrageous game of golf? I need help!

“I can’t believe you did this!” my wife said the other day, holding up a pair of my slacks, looking at them, and then over at me. “You played golf with these?” Somewhat defensively I replied, “Yeah, so?” She laughed, shaking her head, giving me a side-long glance that said something akin to “You’ve got a problem!”

Here’s the story: A few weeks ago I was in New Orleans for several days of military duty. One afternoon I joined a chaplain friend, Commander Tom Webber, for a round of golf. It was a nice day. Not too humid. After paying the greens fees and loading our clubs on the cart, we proceeded to the first tee. We started out on a good note, each of us hitting the ball well. Things started to come unraveled, literally, on the second green. I was preparing to line up my putt. Looking very professional, I stepped back from my ball, pulling my trouser legs up slightly so as to take the pressure off the cloth as I squatted down to line up my ball with the cup. As I bent my knees, easily gliding into my normal position for such shots, I felt the seat of my trousers give. It wasn’t a tear. It wasn’t a rip. It was a complete release of the seam in the pants from the crotch up the back to my belt. Still in the squat position, I sheepishly looked over at Tom who was unaware of my dilemma. Catching his eye, I said, “Oops!”

Being the gentlemanly sort, Tom asked me what I wanted to do. Without hesitating, I said, “Play, of course! We’ve already paid for it.” We proceeded to play the remaining sixteen holes with my backside resembling a pair of little kids unbuttoned sleepers. Fortunately, we played the entire round without being joined by anyone else. After we finished it was a bit dicey loading our clubs in the car and making it out of the parking lot without drawing a lot of attention to my plight. I still had to negotiate the hotel parking lot and lobby where I was staying.

A couple of weeks ago I played in a golf tournament which was a fund raiser for the San Joaquin Teen Challenge ministry. The course we played, Stevenson Ranch, is a difficult course under the best of conditions. On this particular day we experienced one of the worst wind storms of the spring. A sane, rational person would seek shelter from such conditions. But not golfers! The United States Mail has nothing on dedicated golfers. "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." We played!

Last week I was invited to play a round with a couple of friends at their country club. Little did we know this was to be the hottest day of the year to date, setting records even for the Central Valley of California. It was 106 degrees! Did this stop us from playing a complete round of golf? Absolutely not! Hardy souls that we are, we laughed in the face of such withering weather. Lesser mortals would shrink from such a challenge.

Then this week I played in yet another tournament hosted by my friend, Rick Van Unen and his company, Van Unen/Miersma Propane. The “shotgun start” was set for eleven o’clock at Lockeford Springs Golf Course. The wind had really started to pick up at this point, so by the time we finished in mid-afternoon, the wind was in full gale. It never occurred to us not to play.

I got to thinking about why otherwise intelligent, level-headed men and women will subject themselves to such abuse and humiliation. My brother, John, and I have played golf in cold, rainy conditions with rain suits on and warm gloves. We were miserably cold, and our feet were soaked, but we played on! We’ve finished rounds of golf at 12:30 in the morning during the summer in Alaska. Granted, the midnight sun helps. But even though it is still somewhat dark, it was light enough to play. Then again, for a true golfer, the light inside a coal mine is sufficient to play! A couple of years ago we played one January day at the country club in Virginia where he is a member. It was cold. So cold, that it began to snow when we were on the fifteenth hole. Did we stop? No way! On the eighteenth green our putts were hilarious! There was already at least an inch of snow on the ground, so when we made our putts the ball would roll along to the hole, collecting all the snow in its path, eventually stopping and flopping to one side from the shear weight of the accumulated snow.

In looking at the word golf, I was curious to see that written backwards it spells: Flog! I have therefore deduced that there is a psychiatric condition that plagues golfers world-wide. It is a psychotic ailment called masochism, which is the tendency to invite and enjoy misery of any kind, especially in order to be pitied by others or admired for their forbearance. There’s something in us that makes us want to be hurt; or humiliated; or embarrassed.

If I was even moderately good as a golfer, I might understand the compulsion to play in less than pristine conditions. What’s wrong with me?

This September when I retire from the Navy, John and I are planning a week-long golf outing to Ireland. Ireland: part of the British Isles where it’s windy, frequently rains, often cold, but having some of the most spectacular golf courses known to man. Can’t wait!

You see! I really do need help!

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