Pardon the pun, but golf is in full swing right now.
I recently watched 26-year-old Cameron Champ take home his third career win by claiming victory at the 3M Open in Blaine, Minnesota. He struggled with the heat but clinched the deal finishing at 15 under, two strokes ahead of his challengers.
Earlier in July, I watched young Collin Morikawa hold up the claret jug trophy on the 18th green after he took home his second major, winning the coveted British Open Golf Championship. It was held at Royal St. George’s golf course in Sandwich, England. The tournament finished on July 18, but for those of you not familiar with these tournaments, they start several days before with players either rising to the top of the leaderboard or fading into over par status (meaning, it has taken them more than the prescribed number of strokes to get the ball into the hole.)
At 24, Morikawa showed such professionalism, maturity, and grace in his acceptance remarks, paying particular tribute to the British fans who had shown up en masse; many of the tournaments in 2020 were played to empty stands.
And then there was the U.S. Open. I watched a jubilant Jon Rahm become the first player from Spain to win the prestigious tournament. He dedicated his win to Seve Ballesteros, his Spanish golf idol, who never won a U.S. Open but certainly tried. Rahm’s win came just a few weeks after he had been forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament (where he had a six-stroke lead) because he tested positive for COVID-19.
Although vaccinated, he tested positive again and won’t be traveling to Tokyo for the Olympics. Such angst amid his recent glory.
There are such displays of fortitude among these players. When that tiny ball teeters on the edge of a hole after traveling some 20 feet to get there and you know a whisper would make it drop and it doesn’t—these are heart-stopping moments for the players and the fans.
I’m a golf devotee. I’m not a player. I’d like to be a player but my skills on the course are sorely lacking. I grew up with an avid and, quite good golfer, my father.
My earliest memories of Saturday mornings include the early rising of my father, cleaning and polishing of clubs, gathering balls, donning handsome cardigans, putting on sporty caps, giving me a smile, and then putting his golf bag in the trunk of the car and heading out.
Over several decades, he played with the same group of guys. They were a close and closed club. Sometimes it was a foursome, sometimes two foursomes, but the rotation of names was consistent. They were competitive but in a gentlemanly way. My father once shared that they played for candy bars.
When I was about 12, I approached him about tagging along … as his caddy. He looked at me as if I had committed blasphemy.
“What’s the matter with you … are you crazy or something? No place for women on the golf course.”
That didn’t deter me, though, from continuing to ask him over the years.
To my mother’s chagrin, my father would often, I believe, take out his frustrations at the office on the living room carpet. He would bring out the woods and practice his golf swing. She preferred when he gently practiced putting the ball in a glass from 10 feet away.
For Christmas one year, I got him an apparatus for retrieving golf balls from tough spots. I thought myself so clever for finding this contraption that folded up but untwisted into this long, grabbing metal hand. When he opened it, he looked at me, went to his golf bag, and produced one. There was nothing that I could get him related to golf that he didn’t already have.
Frustrating but, for me, my father was the ultimate golf connoisseur. He consumed the game with a passion and later, when he and his buddies were retired, they would vacation in Hawaii and play golf there.
Also, on many weekends, I would find my father comfortably ensconced on the couch watching golf. Often, I would join him but managed to keep my chattering down as he intently scrutinized every play. From that, I gleaned the difference between “par’” and a “birdie” or “eagle.” The announcers on television always spoke in such hushed tones.
In this country, men and women have been playing the game for more than 100 years. It was 1895 when the U.S. Amateur Championship and the U.S. Open were played for the first time at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island. The U.S. Women’s Amateur Gold Championship was also played for the first time at Meadow Brook Club in Long Island.
The Scots are credited with the origins of the game as we know it in the 15th century. Curiously, in 1457, the game was banned for a period in Scotland as was football because the two sports interfered with archery practice, which took a higher priority—national defense. But by 1500, the ban was lifted and within a year or so, King James IV of Scotland took up the game himself.
Golf is a psychologically powerful game. Lots of force but contained. It’s definitely mental. It’s a game of finesse. It’s a game of strategy. It’s exasperating and it’s exhilarating. In my mind, it tests your mettle. It’s also a lot of fun and for those out on the course at the PGA, it’s their job. It’s what they do to earn money.
For many years, it seemed that one of the corporate mantras was doing business while you are playing golf. It’s easy to understand how managing a business and managing yourself on the golf course can go hand-in-hand. The same type of skills are needed.
I know that there are reports that golf, as a sport, is losing followers, but I choose to believe that those reports are wrong or at least partially inaccurate. You wouldn’t know it by the number of fans who are coming out to watch post-COVID. For me, I love the game.
My bucket list includes being able to play golf with some competency. I have my father’s clubs as a reminder to go at life full swing.
Anita L. Sherman is an award-winning journalist who has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for local papers and regional publications in Virginia. She now works as a freelance writer and is working on her first novel. She is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to four, and she resides in Warrenton, Va. Anita can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org