The Scots are smiling

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Despite the cold, the snow and rain, despite the wind chill temperatures that can freeze skin in minutes, we all know this is winter in Ohio.

We also know that it doesn’t last forever. Spring is just around the corner. That means we need to start thinking about those fun things we do in the spring, summer and fall.

Next month is the official start of spring. It is also the month when a few dozen good friends go to Myrtle Beach for a week that is called “Seminar by the Sea.”

In the morning, we talk about scriptural and biblical issues. In the afternoon we play golf. Later, we meet somewhere for a nice dinner. In the evening, several of us enjoy playing a little poker while sipping on some fine whiskey.

I’ve been playing golf since the early 1980s. I’m not sure why. I just do.

I blame a friend named Mike for introducing me to the game. Every time we played, we competed on every aspect of the game — number of fairways hit from the tee box, number of greens hit in regulation, total number of putts and, of course, lowest score.

With rare exceptions, Mike kicked my tail on every aspect of the game. I never lost much money, but it seemed like I was always buying him something to eat.

After a few seasons of consistently losing, I started getting really frustrated with the game. I would go out for a few hours of fun in the fresh air and sunshine and I would wind up getting hot-tempered and angry.

I either needed a new hobby or a new attitude. Since I had already spent a lot of money on golf clubs, shoes and equipment, I calculated that it would be a whole lot cheaper to simply change my attitude. So, I did.

I wish more people would.

In the past several years, I have played with people who take the game way too seriously. Screaming, cursing, throwing clubs and kicking things isn’t pleasant. Usually, I just never play with them again.

If someone wants to be miserable doing something that’s supposed to fun … fine. , just leave me out.

Some of the folks who I most enjoy playing golf with are truly excellent golfers. There is no hesitation in their game. When it’s their turn, they walk up, address the ball, swing away and watch it fly.

They routinely beat me, but watching them swing the club with such grace, confidence and strength is encouraging. Then, watching that stupid white ball take-off and rise as it sails down the fairway is a joy. I always wish I could do it, but I love playing with the excellent golfers who can.

Even the professional golfers can play stupid at times. Recently, Sergio Garcia, an amazing professional from Spain, had to apologize to other players for getting angry and damaging several of the greens. It was not his first time. He as been disqualified and suspended from tournaments in the past.

Sergio admits he has anger issues and needs to get control, but it’s just not easy. Emotions can certainly be destructive.

Many years ago, a friend asked why I didn’t play golf with Mike any more. I answered, “Would you want to play golf with someone who gets angry after every drive, swears every time his chip shot misses the green and yells like a crazy man and throws his ball into the lake whenever he misses a putt?”

My friend said, “No. I don’t think I would.” I said, “Well, neither did Mike.”

OkK, that’s an old golf joke, but it describes many golfers.

Credit for the invention of the game of golf goes to Scotland. Hundreds of years ago the Scots established the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at Saint Andrews. They spent hours and hours walking the links and heathland while chasing a little leather-wrapped ball just to whack it again with a club.

They decided they needed to get the ball in the little round hole eighteen times before they would consider the game over.

It has been said that it is no coincidence that a golf course has 18 holes and a bottle of scotch holds 18 shots of whiskey. Numerous tours of Scotland are available that will gladly combine great golf with great whiskey. I would just hate to inflict my mediocre golf skills on a great golf course in Scotland, but a nice taste of Scotch Whiskey… that’s another thing.

Good scotch would never be wasted on this Irishman, and I would certainly be willing to share a shot or two with a friendly, smiling Scotsman – on or off a golf course.

That could chase away the winter blues.

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

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist