Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The People We Meet

Last week I talked about the horrible experience of making two sets of older men angry. Yesterday I returned to the same golf course to use the next-to-last rain check I have, but I went with some apprehension. I was hoping the 90 degree heat would scare off people, and as I pulled into the parking lot I knew the heat had indeed done its job.

As I said last week, I play golf for the purpose of staying alone. Also, as I play, I play at a fast speed. While I do enjoy golf it is something that I rush through. You won't see me lining up a putt from a reverse angle, or spending any amount of time deciding what club to use. I find the ball, hit the ball, repeat until over.

When I arrived at the par 3 11th hole there was a person riding to the green. I reached for my phone to continue my current obsession with chess, and after about 10 seconds I heard someone yell, "Go ahead and hit!" I instantly got scared.

Go ahead and hit? But why? He was on the back side of the green and what if I hit him? I had been long on all par 3's and my heart sank. "Here we go" I thought, "a repeat of last week. So much for golf!"

With much worry I got out my 9 iron and hit the ball. It went left, way left, into the trees. It looked like a horrible shot, but I wanted nothing to do with landing my ball anywhere near the man who told me to hit.

I drove the golf cart to the green area and I noticed that the man who told me to hit looked like he didn't belong on a golf course. I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just that I wouldn't expect a man of about 60 in jean shorts,with an Indianapolis Colts t-shirt, and with a unkempt beard halfway down his chest to be playing golf.

This man knew exactly where my ball was and pointed to the tree I was beside. He also said, "Son, you can join me, play behind me, or play through me. It does not matter much to me." I initially didn't respond as I processed the pros and cons of each. As I was processing I hit the ball from behind the trees into the bunker and then from the bunker to the green.

Once on the green I stated my reason for my decision, "Well, seeing that I play really fast I think I'll play through." The old man responded, "Wow, I used to play like you, but 50 years ago a man I played with told me that golf is about rhythm and finding a groove. The groove isn't just in the swing, but it is also finding yourself on the golf course. I take the same amount of time each shot, and will line up each putt the same way. Sure, I get yelled at and play slow, but I have found, at my age, to enjoy each round like it is my last. Why do people rush so much? Golf is something to be enjoyed, not rushed through."

I must admit afterwards I started to line up my putts with a little more effort. The words didn't really get processed until after the round and it made me think of the contrast between this old man, and the ones last week. Last week I wonder what those men are like off the golf course. How do they converse with people? Do they yell a lot? And how about this man I passed through yesterday? He doesn't look to be the yelling type, but I wonder if he speaks his wisdom and experiences to others? Every day we meet people, and every day others will meet us. I don't want to sound sappy on this, but how do you want to be remembered? For those of us on the spectrum chance encounters can be much more. One bad experience can live with us forever. Those men last week almost destroyed my desire to play golf, and yet yesterday this man talked about a man 50 years ago that taught him to play to enjoy the game. I may, over time, pick up the habit of savoring golf instead of playing speed golf and I wonder if I do indeed do that if, say, 50 years from now I will be the one talking to some twentysomething about the man that taught me the wisdom of enjoying the game.

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