Austin Gisriel: Par for the worse

Column by Austin Gisriel
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With our record snow now melting, local golf courses will soon be dotted with duffers everywhere. My only question is: Why?

The problem with golf is that the fun is fleeting, but the aggravation is permanent. Golfers talk about the need to work on your game, as in “You know, if you worked at your short irons, you might break 100.” If golf is a game that you play, then why do you have to work at it? “Play” is supposed to be much more fun than “work,” but that’s not the case with golf.

And don’t tell me that a bad day on the golf course is better than a good day at work. No, it isn’t; it isn’t even better than a bad day at work, because if you have a bad day at work, you can blame your boss, your coworkers, your suppliers, your clients, or even the guy who made the coffee in the office lounge, but if you have a bad day on the golf course, it’s your fault! There’s no denying it. You can’t say that your secretary shanked a drive into the pond that cost you a score that doesn’t even have a name because there’s no such thing as a heptuple bogey.

There is never any permanent satisfaction in golf. If you have one bad hole, your entire round might well be ruined. Think about it: No one has ever seen a satisfied golfer. Even if you are good enough to shoot one over par, that “one” will bug you for the next week. If, during the next week, you shoot par, the one shot that kept you from breaking par will bug you for the next two weeks.

Conversely, you can miss every shot you take in a pickup basketball game, but if you steal the ball one time and dish it off to a teammate who drives to the hoop for a lay?up, you are a winner! You have contributed to the team! Try telling yourself that you’re a winner after parring #18, which keeps your score under a cool 110. No, that par is all the more aggravating because it shows what you could have done as in “If only I’d worked at my short irons I could have broken 100.”

Golf is supposed to be a gentleman’s game, of course, played with decorum and good manners, but this is patently ridiculous. It is impossible to maintain any decorum when your swing falls 1/32nd of an inch out of alignment, which results in a drive that sails straight down the fairway for about 150 yards and then decides to find some shade, making a hard right to rest under the trees on the next fairway over.

I once saw a fellow golfer walk up an adjacent fairway at the Shenvalee in New Market, only to discover his ball had nestled under a cherry tree. His slow, but determined walk and his stony, silent expression looked oh so familiar, and I had no doubt what was about to happen. Sure enough, he chunked his shot, at which point he did a magnificent impression of George Washington. Using his pitching wedge for a hatchet, he commenced chopping at the limbs of that cherry tree hanging just above his head until a small brush pile appeared.

Other sports celebrate childish outbursts of joy or frustration because, well, they are appealing to the child in all of us. We love to see Lou Piniella sprint toward an umpire, his face red, his arms waving, his feet kicking dirt on home plate; and once he gets tossed out of the game, then he really goes nuts and tears up first base and flings it down the foul line, then hurls the gum bucket and the water cooler and a few bats onto the field for good measure as he makes his way down the dugout tunnel to a thunderous ovation. Such a tantrum is cathartic.

The PGA ought to encourage this kind of behavior in its golfers. I want to see Phil Mickelson rim one of those two-foot putts and then fling his club at the caddy and cuss him and cuss the hole and then pull the ball out of the hole and cuss it and then not toss it into the crowd, but zing it at the idiot who is always yelling “Get in the hole!” and then dump his golf bag all over the green and stomp off into the clubhouse.

By the same token, if Phil makes a 40-foot downhill curling putt for eagle, I want to see him spin his club like a champion baton twirler, then run up to the cup, retrieve the ball, and spike it while tearing up the green, moon-walking across it in his golf shoes.

Play time is too important, too valuable in our adult lives to spend it playing golf. I want to run, not walk; I want to shout, not whisper; I want to get dirty for heaven’s sake, not dress as though I am going to CCD class at Our Lady of the Terminally Tacky. Play time should be fun time and it is far too important a time to act like an adult. Now, let’s store those clubs and play H-O-R-S-E down at the playground. Wearing blindfolds. And the loser has to run naked through the neighborhood. Well, maybe once it warms up a little bit more.

Austin Gisriel is the author of Safe at Home: A Season in the Valley, a chronicle of the 2009 season of the New Market Rebels Valley League Baseball team.


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