Sunday, July 8, 2018

GIMMIE A MULLIGAN

"While We're Young!", Blue Hills CC, MO

SECOND CHANCES

A Mulligan in golf or a Gimmie putt is never allowed under the rules, but has become somewhat commonplace for the friendly, social game and recreational golfers that play less for trophies or money and more for the enjoyment of the golfing experience.  Both of these practices can also speed up the game and allow the group waiting behind you to keep playing at a reasonable pace.  Or as Arnold would say, “While we’re young!”  However, if either of these concepts involve an official competition or a “money shot” such as playing skins, then they’re not allowed.

A Gimmie putt is generally agreed upon and given by other players in the group if it is inside the leather of a standard putter grip and the hole.  A Mulligan is simply a second chance or “do-over” and the first errant shot is forgotten and now out of play.  So, if your Mulligan turns out to be in even worse trouble, tough luck!  If you go ahead and putt a Gimmie that has been conceded and you miss, you must also count the missed putt.  You do not have to pick up a Gimmie, but the whole point is to move along off the green. 

Most Mulligans are given off the first tee, especially when golfers have rushed to make an early tee time or have not played for some time.  If the shot is winged into the woods or a lake, a second shot in play can keep the game moving, as long as the golfer doesn’t spend extra time searching for the first ball.  However, in more recent times, golfers running a charity tournament have quickly found that they can easily raise extra money by selling limited mulligans to team members to be used for any errant shot during play.  That practice seems to have given rise to some groups allowing Mulligans off the front and back nines for tee and fairway shots, but not putts. Purists say “golf isn’t a matter of life or death.  It’s much more than that.”  They lose sight of the reality that it’s a just game.  Games are played with an agreed upon set of rules.

Nobody is quite sure when and where the term Mulligan originated, but it must have preceded 1949 when it made its way into P. Cummings’ Dictionary of Sports.  Most agree it may have started with an Irish golfer named Mulligan or even a bartender taking a freebie shot.  Somehow the term just meandered into the sport, quite probably because the practice is such an equal opportunity for everyone in the group.  If you don’t use a Mulligan in a round, you’ve probably had a very good day!  Besides, golf is a career to the professionals who play a very difficult game at another level.  But it’s a game and needs to be somewhat fun to the poor slob that is attempting to escape from the everyday world and simply enjoy life for a few hours.  And the universal second chance for just about everyone will always lift your spirits and give you renewed hope for redemption on the next shot!             

Thursday, June 28, 2018

THE ROAD IS LIFE

GMC, Summerfield, NC
Farmall, Summerfield, NC

I find a lot of inspiration for writing while driving out into the countryside with no particular place to go.  I try to be alert to my surroundings and to the thoughts that wander in and out of my mind as I experience stimulus in the world.  I was detoured by county sheriff cars this afternoon on my way home from a golf practice green as crews were laying a new pipe line next to the two-lane highway I was crusin’.  The smaller country road led me past a rustic weathered barn somewhat sheltering a rusting GMC truck and a fading red Farmall tractor whose patina nicely blended with the rust.  Our human legacy remains dust to dust while machinery’s condemnation is rust to rust.  Elvis was ironically streaming on my sound system, singing of “memories pressed between the pages of my mind, sweetened through the ages just like wine”.

The sight of large hay bales in the barn triggered summer memories of my high school and early college days and those sunny days in the hay fields trading honest sweat for minimum wages.  Yet, that was enough to fund those glorious warm evenings with my friends dragging the gut in our small central Kansas town.  And the 1973 coming-of-age film American Graffiti perfectly nailed the essence of those beautiful nights before finally capitulating to a responsible adult lifetime of married commitment, family, mortgages, credit cards, business travel and endless meetings.  That was all good for the most part and the pay was certainly better, as were the adventures out into the world.

It was also during that time when it was apparent that hormones were kicking in attracting teens to the opposite sex and developing a somewhat rebellious attitude that facilitated the time-honored impetus needed to jump the nest and stretch out wings.  We were reading books like Knock on any Door where the motto was “live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse”.  Of course, everyone at that age is immortal, so that was merely a rallying cry to summon up the courage to make the leap of faith.

I didn’t immediately act on any serious attractions to girls, because I reasoned that an early bond would probably derail my future plans to follow my bliss in the footsteps of the 1949 Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell and the 1957 travels On the Road alongside Jack Kerouac; " I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future…Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”

I had experienced enough by my senior year of college to understand that the adult world awaited me and it was time.  I was open to meeting the love of my life that year and she was introduced by the future wife of a friend.  We were instantly bound as soulmates and engaged within a year.  Her parents’ only caveat was that we hold off marriage until she also graduated and that time flew by and into forty more years until breast cancer claimed her life.  One day we were carefree students and the next we were separated, but I have the knowledge of another meeting that will be even sweeter than Cana wine.  And I have sweet memories.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

DEWSWEEPERS




Dewsweeper, Greensboro National GC
Footprints in the Dew, Greensboro National GC
A Great Friend, Jamestown Park GC

A golfing friend recently loaned me his copy of Final Rounds by James Dodson about a bucket list trip to the origins of golf with his father who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Dodson turns out to have grown up in this area in Greensboro, North Carolina, and his subsequent book on the experience became a bestseller and 1996 Golf Book of the year.  I enjoyed the book so much a quick search on Amazon scored another book on The Dewsweepers, Seasons of Golf and Friendship.  Early Dewsweepers were sent out at first light to swipe the dew off of golf greens with a long cane pole.  Dodson defined a Dewsweeper as “a guy who takes the game but not himself very seriously”.  I finished this book on the eve of an early June tee time acquired by a regular group of Dewsweepers at Greensboro National Golf Club the next morning.

This group of senior golfers has a lot in common with my golfing friends in Kansas City where we played many rounds of golf through the liquid sunshine on sparkling fairways.  I actually set my alarm around 5:00 each Saturday morning for years and drove to a public course where tee times were issued in the order of the golfers assembled on a wooden bench next to the clubhouse door which was unlocked at dawn. 

 The Dewsweepers had three cardinal rules which were uncannily similar to our rules:
*  We only play to have fun.  Nobody takes this game all that seriously.
*   We never play for more than a buck—no big money to be made here.(keeping things friendly) 
                                             *  We play a Floating Flannigan (McDonald)—a mulligan that carries over from the first tee and can be used on any tee.

Dodson notes that “when you’re simply out on the golf course enjoying the surroundings and the company, you have achieved the blessed state of stupid happy and reached NATO—Not Attached to Outcome.  Accept what the game gives to you.  That’s the secret to a good round—let it happen.  Golf can become a form of personal therapy and the holy grail.  Golf really isn’t about greatness—it’s about goodness.  Good shots, Good friends.  And ultimately, good memories.”

Our Dewsweeper round yesterday morning morphed into a very hot and humid finish.  After missing about four putts within three feet I also missed my chance to finish into the desired 80’s, so I drove over to our local practice range this morning to specifically work on that distance.  It’s been said that sometimes you stroke it and sometimes you tap it.  The trick is to know which you should do!

Somehow, I had never noticed a memorial bench unobtrusively placed between the practice putting green and chipping green.  Not being a local native, I didn’t know the man memorialized here, but the three words under his name summarized the game of golf nicely, “A Great Friend”.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

EXPANDING BOUNDARIES

Youth Bike, Jamestown, NC

Passing through the neighborhood this morning on my way home from the gym, I noticed a youth bicycle that had been painted Carolina blue and parked against a tree as a yard decoration.  I had just been driving for a few miles in the latest of a long line of carefully selected automobiles representing my lifetime romance with the road less traveled.  Leaving the sanctuary of my home block was never in my thoughts this morning or any morning in recent memory.  I ventured out with no compunctions of crossing streets or staying within designated boundaries.

But the sight of that bicycle resurrected long-lost memories that flooded back into my thoughts.  I remembered the idyllic summer days of my childhood when I rode my first bicycle in endless circles around our city block.  I was under strict orders not to cross the street and venture out into traffic or suffer unknowable consequences that would not be pleasant.  So, I pedaled around the cracked sidewalks with increasing speed and agility to test my wings for the great escape!

And that momentous day arrived when my mother finally gave me permission to venture off the concrete sidewalks and across the forbidden asphalt street to visit a neighborhood friend from school, provided I stop and look both ways before proceeding.  From that day on my clipped wings began extending exponentially and before long I was riding with friends further out beyond the invisible boundaries of the world around me.  We eventually crossed one of the main thoroughfares not too far from home and explored the nearby college campus with its wide sidewalks, stadium track and scenic bridge over the local lake.

Later in life, I graduated from college and drove my first new car to the big city in search of a career job and adventure.  That experience then led to my first jet plane trip out of state to Chicago for a business meeting which pushed the boundaries even farther.  Those trips led to changing employers and opportunities to travel out of the country where people no longer spoke my language and considered me the foreigner.

My world has admittedly retreated somewhat these days even though I still enjoy travelling for pleasure and strictly avoiding those 6:00 am redeye flights.  I no longer ride a bicycle for safety’s sake except for the stationary ones at the gym that will not enable crossing the street.  But I still enjoy diverting my drive home many times and simply circle the neighborhood for old time’s sake.  And now that I think about it, I was also expanding a multitude of life boundaries while I was forever pushing those boundless physical boundaries!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

TIME ENOUGH

Early Morning Summer Day Lily, Jamestown, NC

HAIKU

A Day Lily has 
only one good day to shine.
That is time enough.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

MISCUES


This morning I accompanied a tournament threesome of American Junior Golf Association players as their scorer using an iPhone app. The world is in good hands with young men like those three from Texas, California and Portugal. They’re obviously still learning the mechanics and head game, but their game has already surpassed mine that has matured over five times the years that they’ve been alive!  They are very focused, driven to succeed and have a low tolerance for mistakes even though those are inevitable in life as we grow.  I found it interesting to reference that "a miscue in billiards and other games results in a failure to strike the ball or shot properly".  I’ve had a lot of miscues in billiards as well as golf over the years.  I mentioned to one of the walking fathers that Tiger Wood’s father wrote in his book about Training a Tiger that he instructed him to take ten steps every time he had a miscue before he did anything else to calm his mind and put it aside in preparation for the next shot.

We talked at lunch that miscues are part of the learning process and an indication that we’re expanding our present boundaries. Each one can be turned into a positive learning experience and we’ll never lose if we remember not to lose the lesson.

And golf imitates life.  I’m still learning and taking ten steps every day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

POSSESSIONS, TIME AND TREASURES


Storage Units, Jamestown, NC

A house is a pile of stuff with a roof over it.  A home is where love abides.  I recently drove past a cluster of storage units and it reminded me of renting one of these units when we were transferred to North Carolina.  Our Kansas City house like many others had a full storage basement which was touted by the builder as the best square footage value in the world.  I guess that would be true if it was put to good use, but we like so many ended up using the space to slowly and steadily store all manner of unused possessions.  We had moved my wife’s mother into an assisted living unit by this time and our basement cache included all those sentimental items of value that she no longer needed.  As life played out, neither did we.  Folks say that many times a job expands into the time available.  It turns out that also applies to the material things we possess which expand into the space that’s available.

Needless to say, when we arrived in a state where basements were not practical, the first thing we had to do was find extra storage room.  We soon found that we actually had no need for all these possessions after moving them across the country and paying to store them.  So, we began giving them away to local charities for someone who could actually use them.  In retrospect, we were paying to keep possessions that we had no need for anymore!  That’s approaching one of the definitions of insanity, which is what Jesus was referring to in his parable of the rich fool. 

Jesus taught about the man who had not learned the life lesson that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”. When the country gentleman had a bumper crop, his only thought was how to keep his hold on it instead of sharing his great blessing with those in need. So, he tore down his barns and built bigger barns to hold the great harvest. His plan was to lay back, eat, drink and be merry. But that night his life was demanded of him. What a sad legacy. His great harvest was left for his heirs to divide and his legacy was that of greed and gathering for himself instead of gratitude and gracious sharing with others.

Luke also records a chance meeting between Jesus and a rich young man who had followed all the commandments and wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus knew his heart and instructed him to sell all his possessions, give to the poor to store treasure in heaven and follow him.  The young man went away sad, because he had great wealth.  Folks don’t need to take this lesson literally and sell everything, but possessions were obviously a first priority and had morphed into a game changer.  Jesus taught people to store their treasure in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  And as with possessions, where you spend most of your time is that which you treasure most.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.