A little over three years ago, just before my 70th birthday, I announced to the world that I intended to shoot my age in the very near future. Since then I’ve continued the quest, enduring one disappointing round after another, until I actually began to think that it would never happen. There have been times when I’ve come close, moments in fact where I started rehearsing my celebration speech while still on the course, but always something would happen…I could be playing well, but my brain always seemed to let me down. Negative thoughts with all their insidious power would pop into my head and I couldn’t figure out any way to erase them.
Until today!!!!!! Today on the friendly confines of Ken McDonald Golf Course in Tempe, Arizona, with temperatures heading toward 108, I finally shot my age!!! Aside from last month’s eclipse there really weren’t any indicators that the day was at hand. I hadn’t been playing particularly well and had been struggling with my rhythm…though I had made some progress with my putting. Last Monday, in the Senior Tournament even the putting deserted me and I shot an 83. So today when I showed up for the regular meeting of the Luther League I wasn’t brimming over with hope. I was mostly anticipating a good morning with some of my friends…expectations were not high…and when I bogeyed the 4th and 5th holes I was pretty much reconciled to another mediocre round, especially when I left an easy birdie putt short on number 7. But I had a good rhythm, was swinging well, and managed to birdie holes 8 and 9 to finish the front nine at even par.
Then my mind started to go to work on me. My friend, Larry, an avid baseball fan, was keeping score and knew exactly where I stood…but in the best traditions of baseball no-hit superstition, he kept his mouth shut. As the back nine began I had a set back on the easiest hole, bogeying number 10, but rebounded with a birdie on the tough 12th. Then it was a matter of hanging on and I managed to get to 17 still at even par. Once again, just like last February I stood on the tee needing only a par and a bogey. I did everything I could to erase the memory of that triple bogey debacle from my mind…and hit a terrible drive! I rebounded with a good second shot and another saving putt for another par. All I had to do was bogey 18! My second shot into a green-side sand trap made things a little dicey…sand is not my friend, and this was my fourth trap of the day. Negative thoughts were rattling around my brain and my explosion shot wasn’t pretty…I caught it a little thin and hit it over the green. I was left with a two putt from the fringe for 73. The putt was stroked a little firmly, but right on line, and it hit the pin and bounced out of the hole, hanging on the edge. Larry groaned…he thought I was still 72. I was exultant…and almost hugged them both. The monkey was off my back!
So…now what? Do I quit golf? Silly question! As I told my friends at the 19th hole I’ll be saving this scorecard…and I want it to be the first of hundreds. I love the game for the way it engages my whole person…and I love the joy it brings me. This has been a fun quest…but now that I’ve achieved my goal I’m nowhere close to giving up…and there’s plenty of room for improvement.