Thursday, April 5, 2018

Sun burned Tonsils and the Masters

I took up golf later in life. Through the influence of a good friend who was a great athlete and gifted golfer my wife gave me clubs for Christmas in 1984. I played HS football, basketball and baseball and was always good enough to make the squads and was always a starter, first team and decent player. The various sports I participated in came pretty easily to me. Later on, I took up racquetball through the influence of a friend who flew big jets for Air Florida. I beat him consistently from the very beginning. I could never determine whether I was that good at the sport or if he was that bad. I am pretty sure it was the latter.

That brings me to golf. At 38 years of age I picked up a club for the first time. I am right handed so of course my wife bought me left handed clubs. However, that was OK because I always batted left handed in baseball and softball.I went to the range with my friend and pounded a couple of hundred balls. Mostly, I hit them very badly. It seemed that strength, swinging hard and getting angry when you missed a ball were all things to be avoided. 33 years later I still have not progressed much beyond that. I have scored 80 four times in the 33 years I have played. I scored a 77 on one course, one time out of hundreds of rounds. The best my handicap ever got was a 12.

Golf is a very funny game. The harder you try at it the worse you get. You basically have to play the game and swing the club as if you don't care about the result. About ten years into playing I took five lessons from a local Pro who is a wonderful teacher. He tried to talk me  into playing rightie. It was not worth the effort to switch. I heard many sayings about golf over the years. Most of them are not repeatable in mixed company. The one that I heard that was the most amusing and I think applicable was: " Golf is like sex. You do not have to be an expert at either to enjoy them."

I earned my living within the pharmaceuticals industry working 30 years for DuPont. It was a wonderful career and I enjoyed every minute of it. I worked my way up from Sales Rep to Government Affairs manager. As the GAM I was responsible for lobbying 3 states and staying involved with Professional Associations in medicine and pharmacy. When an issue heated up I would hire consultants to help me work compromises that would protect our business. These consultant/lobbyists became my friends. The money we paid them was decent for 3 months work surrounding the legislative session.So renewing the contract year to year was a lifeline for them all.

That brings me to the point of my post today. One of the consultants I had hired invited me to attend the Masters with him in 1999. I jumped at the opportunity. We played a round of golf on the way up and spent the night in Macon and then on into Augusta the next morning. I was in love with the game of golf at this point. Here I was attending the Masters on a beautiful spring day in April. After all the blood letting to find a parking place we gained admittance and there I was standing on the most famous course in the world. The place was overwhelming. I was very much like a Muslim making a pilgrimage to Mecca and walking around just soaking it all in.

Everywhere you looked there was nothing but the greenest grass you have ever seen. Azaleas were in full bloom. There was not a weed anywhere in sight. The greens were absolutely magnificent and the most lovely you have ever seen anywhere. Surprisingly the food and keepsakes, ie: hats, shirts, balls, etc. were very affordable. After eating a hot dog and some chips I was advised that I should find a space along one of the par three holes and get ready to watch the par three tournament. I did so. Sat down and prepared to watch the tournament. The onions I had eaten on my hot dog were laying sort of hard on my palate. I decided that I wanted to spit and I turned my head to do so. However, before I did the thought entered my head that " this is hallowed ground. This is Augusta National. You cannot spit on this ground." I forewent spitting and sipped my Diet Coke and got ready for the tournament. Such is the effect that that place has on golfers.

I was not prepared. I knew that they played a 72 hole tournament, however, the fact that on the Wednesday practice round they played this little par three tourney that was mostly just fun had eluded me. The professionals had their families including their young children playing down the fairways with them. But it was the who's who of golf that caused me to revere the moment. There parading down the fairway were all the greats of golf. Nicklaus, Palmer, Trevino, Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Crenshaw, Player, Singh, etc. I could have almost reached out and touched them.

I spent the day traipsing around the course. My mouth hanging open and savoring every moment. That is why I ended up with sun burned tonsils. I don't think I would ever go back. There are far too many people there nowadays and the parking is impossible. The best way to watch any golf tournament is on the television. However, that one day I sat in the presence of the demi-Gods who had perfected the game. It was a sight to behold.