Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change

CHAPTER 48: “IF YOU WISH TO HIDE YOUR CHARACTER, DO NOT PLAY GOLF.”

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The quotation above is attributed to Percy Boomer whose fame is not exactly in a league with Tiger Woods’.

In the world of golf, nobody’s fame rivals that of Tiger Woods who, more than any other athlete, vaulted his chosen sport almost single-handedly into the stratosphere. Hockey fans know Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky. Basketball fans know Steve Nash or Michael Jordon. For every sport, there’s at least one star idolized by the fans and with whom they identify. But Woods is in a category by himself.

Everybody knows Tiger, golf nut or not, fan or no. And, sadly and ironically, Tiger could have benefited from the lesson contained in Percy Boomer’s words. Golf, more than any other sport, is a game of character.

If Tiger had been the biggest star in any other professional sport — basketball, baseball, football, whatever — his indiscretions (certainly a mild word for what was really going on) would have been forgotten and forgiven as soon as he managed a few crocodile tears, a convincing apology and a few well-placed dollars. But because of golf’s peculiar status in the character sweepstakes, there are thousands of still-disappointed fans unlikely to forgive, and less likely to forget. Count me as one.

Golf isn’t like other games. Along with being one of the few truly egalitarian sports, in that anyone at any age can play it — good, bad or dreadful — golf doesn’t give you character, it reveals it. It is on the golf course that a person is tested, because it’s so easy to cheat.

When J.T. Hayes called a penalty on himself in 2008 during a PGA qualifying tournament, he was honouring the code of golf in which players police themselves. The code isn’t limited to the names we all know. A minor player, Brian Davis, in line to win his first tournament, called a penalty on himself and lost the match.

As Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive linesman, Doug Brown, wrote recently in the Winnipeg Free Press: “In a world of doing everything but slitting your competition’s throat to win, how refreshing that golf uncovers a man who really paid attention in gym class in the fifth grade when they teach you that it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

Percy Boomer knew all about character and what makes a good golfer. And he knew it long before golf became a game dominated by technology and long before golf courses were the manicured and manufactured parterres of upscale housing developments. Boomer, born in 1874, turned pro in 1896 and won a few tournaments. But his fame comes as a result of his 25-year teaching career before he died in 1949. He wrote one of the classic books, On Learning Golf, published in 1942 and still considered among the best.

I started this year-long campaign because I wanted to be able to walk 18 holes of a hilly golf course in the heat of summer without being exhausted or having to take a cart for the last nine. I thought the answer would be healthy eating and exercise. So spring is here and now I get to find out how close or far away from my goal I am.

(In my campaign to walk and golf, I don’t include Silvertip, the magnificent albeit expensive course carved into the side of a mountain outside Canmore and named after one of the region’s famous residents, the grizzly bear. It’s one of the courses where you must take a cart, although for curiosity’s sake I once wore a pedometer and logged 7.5 miles or12 kilometers — my pedometer doesn’t do metric — up and down the side of that mountain because of the 90-degree rule. The experience convinced me to try to improve my golf game before tackling that course again.)

As was said by the former U.S. president, Gerald Ford, whose klutziness caused me to believe we must be related, although we are not: “I know I am getting better at golf because I’m hitting fewer spectators.”

My favourite T-shirt says: Will Golf For Food. In order to get it, I had to talk its owner out of it, literally. I was abetted in this by his wife who said: “For God’s sake, Don, give the girl the shirt. You’ve got two of them.” Don’t you just love practical women? It’s one of my prized possessions.

If I could take two of the many stupid decisions in my life back, it wouldn’t take me long to decide which they would be: learning how to golf and learning shorthand. Both of those opportunities were offered to me by my father who strived at the former and thrived at the latter.

As a court reporter, long years before machinery took over the job, he could take shorthand faster than most people talk. It was a valuable talent — along with his tremendous vocabulary which stood him in good stead during Alberta’s many oil and gas hearings, when a skilled reporter was needed.

I still kick myself everytime I remember I told him I wasn’t interested in either golf or shorthand.

In a 40-year career in journalism, it’s not hard to figure how many times I’ve regretted not having the ability to take down more than the occasional quote verbatim, without having to resort to the reporters’ best friend, the tape recorder. (One of the painful penalties of not being able to take shorthand is having to listen to politicians and their ilk more than once in order to accurately record their various bits of bafflegab, braggadocio and bullshit.)

But the inability to take shorthand didn’t really impede my career. Not accepting Dad’s offer for golf lessons is another matter. I can remember as a teenager saying to a friend that golf “was a stupid game.” I have lived to regret, many times, telling Dad I wasn’t interested in learning how to golf.

Had I started then, when I was a kid, had I learned the “muscle memory” that Percy Boomer stressed in his teaching, I could have left the game for years and likely still be able to retrain my muscles to remember, much like riding a bicycle. But the memory was never implanted as a young child and the various boyfriends who came and went in my life, some of whom were golfers, never indicated much interest in the task of teaching me to golf, although a couple did try.

Marriage hasn’t proven much better in the golf sweepstakes: my first husband preferred tennis and promptly bought me a Prince racket and lessons, while the second has started buying me golf clubs, but adamantly refuses to have anything to do with the game.

Curiously enough, golf is much like dieting: If you eliminate the negative thinking, if you don’t get depressed because you messed up, if you concentrate on what’s positive, it will all work.

Slowly and surely, golf teaches you what works. Implanting the memory and the visualization of a single well-executed shot, keeps one coming back to the game.

The first time out this year, last week, was a pathetic exercise in flubbed shots, balls lost in water hazards, and my unerring ability to find the sand traps on every course.

But what I actually remember is the thrill of a 5-iron shot to the green over the water on a par 3. Those kinds of memories keep me going back.

Here’s the difference between golf and dieting: In golf, one of these days I’ll even keep score.

NEXT: Too many choices is no choice at all.

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Written by Catherine Ford

May 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. the golf courses in our area have very green and very healthy lawn area that everyone adores`~,

    Audio Power Amplifiers :

    October 28, 2010 at 12:57 am

  2. when choosing golf clubs, i always prefer to use an iron””,

    Optoisolator :

    October 28, 2010 at 9:57 am


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