What a unfortunate way to celebrate my 350th post. Through the first 350 there have been highs, humorous points, and struggles. Today I talk about another struggle.
This week and next week I am on vacation in Indianapolis. Actually, I'll be in Maryland with a USAC race this weekend, but anyway, I went to play golf this morning with one of three rain checks I have at this course (my friend, Ryan, his dad, and I played last Thursday and we got rained out after five holes. They're in Massachusetts so I got their credit.) I was shooting great after the first five holes and then I caught up to a foursome of older men.
I am very respectful when I approach another group as I want to do everything so they don't know I am there. I make no effort to show that I want to play through (or in common terms, them letting me go by them) because that may make them mad. I, above everything else, want to stay isolated. I don't know how to interact with strangers on the golf course. This is why I love golf courses in the middle of no where as the course is usually empty.
Well, on the 6th hole, a par 3, they let me play through. I hit a towering shot that found its way into the sand trap. I instantly felt my heart sink because I can truly take 20 swings of the club to get out of the sand. As I got to the sand trap I saw that my ball was half buried on the up slope; this was not going to be an easy shot. With all the older men watching I swung the club and my ball went straight up with a slight arc, cleared the trap, and landed about a foot from the cup and instantly stopped. It was one of my best shots ever. The foursome collectively congratulated me on such a stellar shot.
I rushed to my ball to finish the hole and two of the men told me, "Don't worry about it, take your time as we are in no rush." I made the putt for par, thanked the foursome, and moved to the 7th hole.
There was another group of four older men in front of me and I had to wait for them to go further down the par 5 fairway before I could hit. Once they did I crushed the drive for a near 275 yard drive. I was highly elated.
I drove to my ball where I saw that I was about 200 yards from the hole. The group in front of me wasn't on the green yet and I had every intention of trying to get to the green in two so I waited. And waited. And waited some more. The group in front of me gave slow golf a new meaning, and meanwhile the group that let me play through was starting their 7th hole.
While I was waiting I was answering e-mails on my phone while keeping an eye on the group in front of me. The group now was on the green, or at least three of them were, when I thought I heard a thud of a ball landing. I looked to my right and saw nothing so I went back to replying to an urgent work related e-mail.
During my wait the group behind me had teed off, hit a second ball, and was now 80 or so yards behind me. I looked behind and as I turned I heard yelling, and lots of it and it wasn't pleasant at all. Here's the watered down version but please understand there were a lot of words that could not be said over the radio, "Kid, What the _____ are you waiting for? Hit the ______ ball? You don't have the skill to hit it that far! We're trying to play golf here!"
The rant continued on and I was confused. What had I done? I had driven 275 yards and had 200 to go. I could hit the green, and I had just two holes ago hit 210 with my five iron. This didn't matter as I was now pushed to my limit as my hopes of being invisible was crushed. Most people play golf for the company of others, I play to go through 18 holes alone, and now I was, for some reason, the main attraction, or distraction, on the 7th hole fairway.
I began to shake, and I was already dripping in sweat from the heat today, and I didn't know what to do. I wasn't going to "lay up" (that means to hit short of the green, or short of one's ability) so I decided to hit the ball.
With five iron in hand I got to my ball just as one of the old men's ball came sailing past me. I was now angry as I'm sure being struck in the back of the head by a fast moving golf ball hurts, Granted, those men aren't Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els, but nonetheless I wanted no part in the golf ball to head game. Also, I was angry because they told me, quite plainly and calmly, "Don't worry, take your time." What more could I do? What I did was take my five iron, with an angry swing, and as I feared my shot was on and my ball rolled up to the green in sight of the four men who were on it and now those four men looked at me with waving fists. I was stuck between two foursomes of angry men who wanted me gone.
I slowly drove to the green wondering what to say. Could I say the group behind me pressured me? Could I say, "Wow, I've never hit the ball that good before" no, that wouldn't work as it would not be the truth.
When I got to the green it was more words like the group behind me and they never really let me say anything. I had my sunglasses on and decided not to acknowledge any bit of what had happened. It was the only thing I decided I could do so I went back checking my e-mail. Was this the appropriate reaction? Probably not, but it is what I needed at the time. Had I tried to say any words, well, I probably would have made further mistakes because I was to my limit. The sequence of events puzzled me so much, and came out of oblivion, that my frustration levels were pegged as I tried to make sense of what had happened.
Needless to say after that hole the following 10 holes were nothing but a miserable display of golf as I had no composure. Halfway through the back nine I thought back on my life when there were other experiences when I got yelled at, and I remembered so many times when I was race directing and people didn't like my calls and I further remembered there was no adverse reaction to that. In that environment it isn't expected, but it does happen and I am fine with that. That's part of the game of the sport, but this, today, is golf. Isn't golf a GENTLEmen's game? Isn't the golf course a place one goes to be with the grass, the trees, and occasionally play on the beach? If so, what happened today? I still have no idea how I made the group behind me mad. I fully understand the group in front of me, but what did I do? I see no logic as to what happened and I'm somewhat fearful of using the other two rain checks because golf, today, became a sport that I know I can't stay invisible. Events like this stay with me a while and I can still hear the words echoing in my ear as if the man is now beside me instead of 80 yards away.