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I had a 1:30 tee time the other day. It was a beautiful October morning with a high blue sky and moderate temperatures. I had breakfast with my bride about 8:00 AM and after watching the morning shows and reading the paper I roused myself to get ready for my round of golf. Golf is my passion and I look forward to my weekly round with great anticipation. Most weeks I play with my good friends Vince, Joe and Chet. We all play about at the same level. Vince is short off the tee but very accurate and he does well with his long putter. He had struggled with the yips until he found the wonder of long putters. Joe is the big hitter. For his age at fifty something he can really pound the ball. Chet hits it a ton but he never knows where it is going.

My son-in-law had given me a new putter so I thought I would give it a try. I liked the heavier weight compared to my Bullseye. I practiced a few putts on my living room carpet. My thoughts were of my recent putting woes. Vince teased me a lot when I missed a makeable putt, except of course, when he was my partner. I felt a queasy feeling as I imagined three putting or Vince snickering when I missed. I’ll show him, I thought. Back and through, back and through, “there is no such thing as a breaking putt, just hit it where you see the line.” A pro told me that once, he also was noted as a terrible putter, so why am I remembering that advice? I got my clubs out of the trunk of the car and cleaned them with an old towel and 409. The irons gleamed in the morning light. A few days before I had purchased a new utility club called “The Perfect Club”. It had been advertised a bunch on the golf channels so I finally caved in and ordered one. Even though I had not practiced with it I thought I would put in the bag and give it a try. I pulled out another utility club that I had assembled a few years back. My next decision; which driver do I take? I had just reshafted a driver with a new light graphite shaft but I had not practiced with it. It really feels good to swing but do I try it untested? I'll decide that at the course, I thought.

My recent rounds had not been particularly good so I began to think about how I would play the course and how I might cut a few shots off my score. Recently I have had to cough up a few bucks regardless of partner. It was getting almost embarrassing the way I have played. With plenty of time I thought that perhaps I would get to the course an hour or so early to put in some extra practice and warm up. I got out my last scorecard from the week before and looked it over. After I play each week I mark down my fairways hit, greens in regulation, number of putts and number of ups and down from around the green. The week before I had not hit many greens in regulation. My irons were fairly new so I began to wonder why my iron shots were off the mark. Then I noticed that I had three putted on four holes. Wow, that’s not good. Suddenly I detect that I am perspiring. My hands seemed clammy. Here I am getting nervous about a weekend game of golf. The thought of this makes me angry.

As I sat there in the family room, slouched on the sofa, day dreaming about my upcoming round later in the day my lovely wife walked through the room and said, “what a gorgeous day you have to play golf. You should have wonderful time. Say hello to the guys for me.” It was at that moment that I realized I was getting nervous about playing golf, and with good friends. My wife was right, it was a super day and the last thing that I should be concerned about it how I am going to play. Here I am sitting around the house obsessing over a weekend round of golf. What is this I’m going through? It is like I am going into battle or something similar. This is not war, it is a game. I walked over to the book shelves and pulled out the dictionary. I turned to the word, “game”. The first definition was “a way of amusing oneself. A diversion.” It occurred to me that I was taking this hobby as something way more important than I should. I was tense, nervous, planning my shots ahead of time. It was like I was planning for combat. All I needed was a helmet, back pack plus an assault rifle.

I told myself, this is a game! It is for fun and relaxation. Already I was feeling better. I took a deep breath, smiled and forgot about the round. As I drove to the course I only had thoughts of having fun and being outside on a really special fall day. When I got to the course I directed my attention to my friends and others around me and never had another moment of worry. I relaxed and just played the game I love so much and it was a terrific day. I played well and had a relaxed day of “diversion” with good friends.

Sometimes, I suppose we take this game of ours a bit too seriously. Don’t go to war, go have some fun! Now, if I can only remember all of this next weekend!  Have a good day!

Tom Finley



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