‘Driving’ out anger, frustration

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop … splash.

That is the sound a golf club makes as it whirls from the shore into the deep, dark waters of a Florida lake. I’m sure that’s the exact sound, because I was the golfer who threw the club. The splash of my 4-wood hitting the water was preceded by the splish of my golf ball landing just short of the distant shore.

Mike, David and I played this golf course every year during our annual trip to central Florida. David lives in Sebring. Mike and I would fly down every year to spend several days visiting with David; eating, laughing, playing cards every night and playing a round of golf every day.

This specific golf hole had become my nemesis.

The tee box for this wicked, par-4 hole was just a few yards from the shore. The golf drive had to carry the ball the entire distance of the lake for it to land safely on the other side. From there, it was still a good iron-shot to the green. But first, the golf ball had to fly over nearly 200 yards of water.

I am not a very good golfer. I admit that, but still it’s frustrating to always fall short. Falling short is not what we expect to do when we get up and start our day.

So, on the day of that splash, I had a plan.

Years before, I had purchased this old 4-wood at a yard sale. It was emblazoned with the name Chi-Chi Rodriquez. He had started his professional golf career in the early 1960s. Chi-Chi won eight PGA Tour tournaments and has been inducted into the golf hall of fame. Not only was he a great golfer, he was entertaining to watch.

I really liked his signature 4-wood. It was old and actually made of wood. It felt good to hold. If felt good to swing. I usually made good contact with that old club. It was my favorite.

After several years of use, I pulled it from the golf bag one day and whacked my ball off the fairway out at the Elks Golf Course. I heard a sickening sound. The wooden head of the club now had a big crack in it.

I didn’t have the heart to throw the club away, so I kept it in a corner of the garage.

Years later, as I was packing for our annual golf trip to Florida, I thought about that nemesis, water-hole that was waiting for me. I stuck my Chi-Chi Rodriquez 4-wood back into my golf bag. I still had a use for it.

That day, I felt like I was ready. I stood in the tee box near the edge of the water.

Short, green fairway grass was taunting me from across the lake. I gripped my driver and lined up the shot. Good stance. Grip was right. Slow back-swing. Head down. The swing felt good. Good contact. As usual the ball started a slight fade to the right. It had a chance.

Splash. It landed about 5 yards short.

Without saying a word, I walked back to the golf cart and returned my driver to the golf bag. I then pulled out the old, Chi-Chi Rodriquez 4-wood and walked back toward the lake. Calmly, I drew back my right arm and launched Chi-Chi just as hard as I could throw him.

Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, splash.

I turned back to Mike and David and said, “Wow. That felt good.” They were surprised. They had never seen me lose my temper over a golf shot. When I explained that I had brought that old 4-wood as a sacrifice to the lake, they laughed.

That’s the way I like to deal with frustrations – calmly and deliberately. Everyone feels frustration from time to time. How we deal with anger and frustration can be the mark of our maturity or lack of maturity.

Getting angry and frustrated happens to people nearly every day. To throw a perfectly good driver into a lake would be stupid. It would be immature. That action would fall far, far short of acceptable behavior.

To get angry and express road-rage would also be immature. Rather than blaring my horn or flipping off another driver, I prefer to quietly say to myself how amazing it is that they can drive a vehicle while their head is firmly planted someplace it should not be. (I cleaned that up considerably.)

Before expressing anger in a destructive way, think about letting off some steam slowly, creatively.

If you do that, instead of an eruption or explosion of anger, you get a slow whistle of relief.

That type of controlled reaction feels better than showing the world how immature you can be.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.


Randy Riley

Contributing columnist