Sunday, December 13, 2009

Memories: Golf’s Cruelest Trick

Golf Green Island
(Photo credit: jurvetson)
My wife and I both agree that there were only three things in my life that ever really made me angry. Other than these tormentors, I have always been a pretty calm character.

First, there was my 20-year-old daughter. Well, she's 20 years old now, but she's not the one that drove me crazy. It was the teenage version of her that drove me crazy. She's grown into a fine young woman and we get along quite well now.

The second thing that drove me crazy was the play of my sports teams. Sometimes they did the stupidest things even though I'd instructed them, via yelling at them on the TV, to do otherwise. Why wouldn't they listen?

The third thing that drove me crazy was golf. Before I became disabled I was a decent athlete. I could run fast and jump high. I could hit and catch a ball, and make a basket. In high school I was a three sport athlete (football, basketball or indoor track, outdoor track). I also played a passable game of tennis and ping pong. After having a billiard table in my basement for a few years I could hold my own at pool. But golf? I could never understand that game, except one day a long time ago…

Our daughter Amy was born in May of 1989, well before my MS diagnosis. One Sunday morning that summer I took my turn with the 4:30 a.m. bottle feeding. I put Amy back in her crib at around 5:00 and prepared to return to bed myself. But I had just purchased a golf membership at the local 9-hole course, and it was a beautiful morning, so instead I quietly snuck out of the house and headed for the golf course.

When I got to the course nobody was there. The clubhouse was dark and quiet, but that was not a problem. The flags were in the holes and I had a membership, so I set out to play.

The first hole was a par four. I have no idea what I scored on it, but likely something well over par. The second hole was a 172 yard par three. I pulled out my 3 iron (this is evidence to any experienced golfer that I was a neophyte since the standard club for this length shot is more like a 5 iron, and Tiger would use an 8 iron if his wife is not chasing him with it). My tee shot went straight and rather low, as is standard for a well struck 3 iron.

The hole was cut just over a ridge in the green, so that I could not actually see the cup from the tee box. Most of the flag stick was visible, just not the last couple of inches and the cup itself. I was pleased with my shot because it appeared to have landed either close to the front of the green or on the green itself. I put my three iron back in my bag and trudged down the fairway.

As I approached the green I was a little disappointed. The ball was neither in front of the green nor on the green, so it must have run past the putting surface. There were some shrubs behind the green, and I started looking under those shrubs for my missing ball.

Then it happened. Remember, it was very early in the morning, just after sunrise, so there was still a heavy dew on the green. I stood there in disbelief as I noticed a curved track in the dew, running from the front of the green into the center of the cup, as clear as if it had been drawn by the finger of God himself. I shook my head in disbelief.

I approached the cup and dared to peer down into it. There was my ball. I had made a hole-in-one. Instinctively, I looked up and surveyed my surroundings in preparation for sharing this glorious moment with my fellow golfers. Let the congratulatory hand shaking and back slapping begin! But there was not another human being in sight. Well, that was not exactly correct. I could see the owner stirring up near the clubhouse. I left my golf bag beside the green and jogged up to where he was cleaning off the golf carts.

“Good morning, Jim.”

“Good morning, Mitch.”

“Jim, I have a problem.”

“What? Is it the mosquitoes?”

“No," I chuckled, “I just shot a hole-in-one and I have no witnesses. But I can prove it to you if you'll just come with me for a minute.”

We got in a golf cart and headed off for the second green.

For those of you who are not familiar with golf etiquette, holes-in-one really only count if they are witnessed. Otherwise any unscrupulous, attention-seeking hack could claim he hit one when nobody was watching. I was a hack, but I was of the scrupulous variety.

When we arrived at the second green I was pleased to see that the dew, and the evidence it possessed, was still intact. I told Jim my story and asked him if he believed me.

“I believe you Mitch.”

That didn't make my hole-in-one completely legitimate, but it was better than nothing. I never got another ace, witnessed or not, even though I golfed for about 15 more frustrating years.

In a sense this was the cruelest trick golf ever played on me, and it played some really cruel ones. To allow me a hole-in-one, but without a witnesses…ah, touché golf. Well played.

MS really sucks. But there are one or two silver linings. MS gets the credit for finally making me a quit a game that cost me too much money, caused me to spend too much time away from my family, and left me miserable more often than not. Unfortunately, MS took all those other sports away from me as well.

So as I mentioned above, my daughter no longer drives me crazy. Scratch that one off the list. My MS had made it impossible for me to continue golfing. Scratch that one too. What’s left?

If the Patriots and Red Sox can just win every game they play for the rest of my life…no, wait, that’s not enough…if the Patriots and Red Sox will never make even a minor mistake in any game they ever play for the rest of my life, then I’ll have nothing in this world that makes me angry.

(I’m aware of how well I just set up the Boston sports haters…have at it in the comments section, Louie).
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  1. for god's sake, let's see if i got this straight. you've only had 1 hole-in-one in your life. your sports teams (red sox, pats, celts and bruins) aren't quite perfect and your daughter was a bit of a handful when she was young. my father has been playing golf for over 60 years and never had an ace, and this is one of the few areas where i am living up to his legacy. my most vivid sports memories are known by single words which convey heartache and misery to all of Northeast Ohio (The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Choke, The Move). We haven't had a champion since 1964, and to top it all off, the cover of Sports Illustated last year, which declared Cleveland the country's most tortured sports town, has my image right smack dab in the middle of it (seriously-it's a shot of the Dawg Pound as Elway completed The Drive). So quit your whining, at least until the Cavs knock the Celtics out of the playoffs (and thanks for letting me vent).

  2. Hi Mitch,
    Please come by and pick up your award.

  3. Louie,

    Just to clarify, I was not complaining about how many things make me mad. I was pointing out how few things make me mad. And right now it's pretty much down to my sports team.

    What is it about Cleveland that prevents its sports teams from winning it all? The teams are not always bad, of course. The 1980's Browns had some good teams. The Indians have had plenty of strong teams in the last 20 years. The freakin' Cavaliers were absolutely dominant last year, but didn't win. I don't get it. Maybe its the water. Come to think of it, I can't remember anything I've won since I lived there from '86 to '88, and I drank a lot of water.

    Maybe you need to try to get a hockey franchise?

  4. Mitch,
    It is a pleasure to meet you. I am pleased that you stopped by me blog and that your are following. I am not sure how you found me, but I am glad you did. I share the same diagnosis and I understand many of your feelings. Although I am still able to walk, I have lost much of my abilities in the past year.

    I agree with you - MS sucks. Unfortunately I disagree with your choice of teams to support. I think the Red Sox are great and so are the Pats, but sad to say I am a Cubs and Bears fan. I can't help myself - I always pick the loser teams. I suppose it could be worse. I could be a Yankees fan.

  5. Hi, Mitch--I'm Jo and am new to your blog!

    I have a good friend who lives in assisted living (he is only 53) who was diagnosed with MS in 1989.

    Because of him I became proactive in the MS cause and am embarking on my third annual 'MS Walk' (I blogged about it in late November titled; 'I Walk For Scott').

    Fundraising is off to a slow start this year but I still fight alongside my friend to raise money for a cause and cure for MS (and I work at an MS camp for a week in May every year--which I LOVE!) and always will until this debilitating disease flees our planet and those afflicted with it.

    I just wanted to send a hi your way, Mitch, and to tell you that there are those of us who care very much about the day to day trials MS brings about to those who have it.

    You have a new follower in me and I hope you will stop by and visit my little lonely blog soon--we'd love to have you!

    Stay strong and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    Peace, love, happiness and health,
    'Diary Of A Sad Hosuewife'

  6. Rae,

    Thanks for stopping by and joining.

    I found you through our common friend in Amsterdam, Herrad.

    Maybe this will be the Cubs' year. I'd much prefer that to another win by the evil empire.


    I'm glad you found my blog. I checked yours out as well. Very nice. I see that you are a vegan. I hope that my hunting post wasn't too offensive for you.

    I'm glad that you are such a friend of the MS cause. It's folks like you that breath new life into our efforts to find a cure. Have you read about the CCSVI craze?

    Merry Christmas Rae and Jo.