Tuesday, November 29, 2016


The King, RIP, Blue Hills CC, MO.

I learned a good lesson long ago from one of our previous pastors upon his return from dealing with a heart attack. He mentioned that prior to this game-changing event he would frequently get agitated and emotional when things didn’t go his way. That applied in spades when it happened to be something that was out of his Type-A character control. I can concur from personal experience. But, of course, there is always one thing we can control and that’s how we react to the situation. He used the example of a recent airline trip that was delayed due to severe weather in the Kansas City area which can be expected during the violent tornado season. He now simply pulled out a good book that he had brought along for just such an occasion, found a secluded seat in an inactive gate area and waited for the storm to pass.

Ever since I heard those wise words I’ve made it a point to bring a good book along for the ride, especially airline flights where a stranger in the cockpit is in complete control of my life as we soar through the skies in an aluminum tube. I had saved Arnold Palmer’s last book, A Life Well Played, for my recent Thanksgiving trip to Chicago and finished it on the return flight back to North Carolina. Thankfully, all my connections were on time and the book was a good traveling companion. Sadly, it was the last ride into the unfriendly skies for my long-traveled Road Warrior sidekick. The trusty ballistic nylon luggage bag had danced its last with one too many disgruntled baggage handlers. It emerged from the bowels of the airport conveyor belt with a ripped leather handle, a missing ID tag and the tongue of a lonely sock protruding from the wry smile of a broken zipper.

In the chapter on temper Arnold relays the story of throwing his putter in disgust over the gallery and some small trees when he missed a short putt at a junior golf tournament. He won the title but the ride home with his parents was total silence. Then his father told him, “If you ever throw a club like that again, you’ll never play in another golf tournament.” To Arnold’s Pap it was all about sportsmanship, “there was nothing worse than a poor loser—except being an ungracious winner.” Tiger’s dad Earl always told him to walk ten steps before doing anything after a poor golf shot.

That reprimand was life changing and reminded me of my high school tennis “career” where I lettered all three years in a new sport. As the first season progressed I had talked my parents into purchasing a rather expensive glossy black racquet for me. That was the kind of luxury that they seldom treated themselves to in those days. Later, I had observed the older players in practice tossing their racquets out of the court when they were disgusted with a poor shot. So, on one fateful afternoon as I hit a shot just outside the line, I wheeled around and tossed my racquet over the tall fence behind me. And then I watched in horror as it flipped and the frame caught the horizontal support pole which shattered the wooden racquet into a million pieces.

I anxiously returned home like the sad prodigal son. I was repentant and knew that saying all the older boys did the same thing was no good excuse. My parents weren’t happy with the loss of the shiny black racquet and most importantly my behavior. Later, I was informed the racquet would be replaced since I was doing a good job on the courts, but that would be the last one. Arnold finished his account by stating that “I never threw another club again.” Me neither. But I may have dropped a few golf clubs later in life before learning about the ten-step rule. I need to share that tip with a certain baggage handler!

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