Aces and excuses of golf

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Before my recent week of golfing in Myrtle Beach, that East Coast mecca of golfing, I was convinced that I was ready. I felt like I was just as good as any other duffer who ever played the game.

I liked that feeling. I had that feeling right up until I tried to hit the ball. Then a baffling thing happened.

My practice swings felt good. I stood behind the ball and lined up the shot. My foot placement was perfect. I addressed the ball just like a pro. The backswing was slow and deliberate. The start of the swing felt good.

So, how did that stupid, little white ball end up 20 yards behind me? It practically went between my legs. Instead of sitting up brightly on the short, green grass of the fairway, my ball ended up in the brambles where brand new golf balls go to die.

Excellent and good golfers are always looking for an “edge.” Something that will give them more distance and more control. I have officially given up looking for an edge. Now, I’m just looking for excuses. It doesn’t even have to be a good excuse. Any excuse will do.

Next month, I’m going to have knee replacement surgery. That will be my excuse for the next few weeks. Then, throughout the summer I’ll be able to say, “Ouch, my knee. You know I just had surgery on my knee in April.”

With that excuse, I think I’m ready for the Wilmington City Golf League.

We play the golf league, at the Elks Golf Course, and it is great sport. Actually, it’s hard for me to think of golf as a sport. My idea of sport involves some degree of running and sweating. Golf involves riding around in a cart. You can take a small cooler of beer and even smoke a cigar while playing golf. How can that be a sport?

My brother-in-law farms for a living. He has called golf a terrible waste of pastureland. Mark Twain has been credited with saying, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”

Golfers have been accused of being the biggest group of liars and cheats outside of Washington, DC. I’m not sure if that’s being unfair toward politicians or golfers. John Updike, American poet and novelist, has stated that, “Golf appeals to the idiot and the child in us. Just how childlike golf players become is proven by their frequent inability to count past five.”

Golfers have been known to kick dirt, yell, scream and curse. They have been known to get disgusted with a bad shot and throw their golf club into a lake. I saw that happen once. It looked somewhat satisfying.

I used to go to Florida every summer to play golf with my friends, Mike and Dave. One of the courses we always played had a hole that required a tee-shot that traveled a long way over water before landing safely on a narrow strip of grass.

I could never make that shot. No matter what I did, the result ended in a splash. It was infuriating. So, one year I slipped a cracked 4-wood into my golf bag. After my drive that, as usual, ended up in the water, I calmly pulled the cracked 4-wood out of my bag and threw it into the lake. Wow … it felt good.

Oddly, despite the frustration of the game, I can’t imagine quitting. The possibility of making a magical, or miraculous, shot keeps drawing me back to the game.

Sometimes, when a golf shot hits the water, the ball doesn’t sink – it skips across the water. Mike hit a shot on number 14 at the Elks. It hit the water and started skipping like a stone. It made it to the edge of the lake and hit a rock. The ball ricocheted off the rock, hit the green and stopped just a few feet from the hole. Without missing a beat, Mike said, “Play the rock.”

Several years ago, my son, Josh, made a hole-in-one on the third hole at the Elks. The following year, my sons Josh and Danny and my Dad, joined me at the Elks in a best-ball scramble. As we finished the second hole, Josh told Dad about his ace the year before on the next hole.

As the four of us stood in the tee-box, Dad said to Josh, “Okay, boy. This is your hole. Show us the way.”

Josh shanked his shot into the sand-trap, so the Old Man said, “Here. Let me show you how it’s done” Whack! The ball flew 175-yards toward the green. It had a little left-to-right flight. It hit just short of the green and started rolling toward the hole. It was the shot of a lifetime. Not only did Dad make a hole-in-one, he called his shot.

That is what brings golfers back to the game time after time — the possibility of making the perfect shot.

As of now, I’m ready for summer. The clubs are clean. The golf bag is packed. The little cooler is ready. The flasks are filled. The cigars are on hand and, most importantly, the excuses are ready.

“Ouch, my knee.”

I’ve got that one down pat. Bring it on. I’m ready.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist