Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change

CHAPTER 53: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DRINKS WITH UMBRELLAS?

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Half-way through Wednesday’ fitness class, Leslie leaned over and asked when “the” golf game would happen. For a moment, I had forgotten the entire point of this blog – to spend a year getting fit enough to golf 18 holes at the height of summer without being too exhausted at the end to even attempt that final putt.

It’s now August and we’re still waiting for summer. It has been a tease this year, promising hot weather and then delivering a stingy day of it with the rest of the week – and the weekends — characterized by rain and hail, cool temperatures (my basil plants are shivering and cuddling up to each other) and way too much thunder and lightning.

We’re still waiting for some semblance of summer. Instead of garnishing the usual summertime drinks, umbrellas have been needed this year to keep the rain off, although umbrellas and raincoats are not common in our closets. Here on the treeless plains and in the foothills, the climate usually resembles a desert than a rainforest. Few of us who haven’t lived on either coast have the requisite umbrella and raincoat that kind of climate requires.

It’s also not common here in the Alberta foothills, to look out over the landscape this late in the year and see rich fields of green rolling toward the Rockies. By August in a normal year, the unirrigated land would have been burned to an umber shade by now.

But this has not been a normal summer.

Those of you who don’t golf maybe don’t understand that hail, rain and cool temperatures don’t usually deter the committed, but lighting will clear a golf course faster than a bear can clear a campground. . Every golf course is equipped with an ear-splitting early warning system that sends a single message – get off the course and under cover right now. Being the tallest item in the middle of the surrounding landscape and brandishing a metal club is a recipe for disaster.

Six years ago, 19 golfers were stuck by lightning at a makeshift golf course in Colorado. They told the Today show that the bolt arced from man to man as they emerged from their cars — where they had retreated from the storm — thinking the danger had passed. In Canada, about seven people are killed each year by lightning and 60 to 70 injured. As late as last week, a 22-year-old South African working in Southern Alberta was killed by a direct hit.

The most famous golfer to survive a lightning strike is Lee Trevino, the first to win the British Open, U.S. Open and the Canadian Open in the same year (1971). Only Tiger Woods has matched that record. Trevino was hit during a tournament in 1975. He apparently joked that he’d been hit by lightning, had served in the U.S. Marines and he now feared nothing — except his wife. (Insert mandatory feminist groan here.)

In our family, we have a heightened respect for the power of lightning. More than 30 years ago, in the heat of August, my then-20-year-old brother, a university student, survived a direct hit while working on a paving crew for the summer.

That he wasn’t killed is a miracle; that he survived with no scars visible when he’s dressed is astounding. He joked while still in the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton that he stood a greater chance of being hit by lightning again than winning the lottery. It could be one reason why none of us buy lottery tickets on a regular basis, the odds being what they are.

Despite the weather this summer (who still doesn’t believe in climate change?) I do have one of those unmistakable golfer tans on my feet and my left hand (the one that wear the glove) is decidedly paler than the right.

Still, as I told Leslie, my dream of 18 holes without flagging is still in the distance. Of course I’ve golfed more than 18 holes this year, but no game has not required some mechanical help.

My friend Janice , whose knee has been acting up, has needed a cart to golf this year and has willingly given me a ride on the tougher holes, (There are a few at our golf course that seem to require the skill and mentality of a mountain goat.)

Nine holes have become a snap, although the course at which a group of us golf nine holes each Thursday evening demands more walking than seems normal. The day I wore a pedometer, I logged nearly eight kilometers, the average length (five miles) a golfer walks over 18 holes. Of course, some of that distance could be attributed to my crappy golf game which necessitates flailing all over the course.

When Mark Twain described golf as “ good walk spoiled” he likely had no love of he game. I don’t know what ignited my interest in golf, but to this day I regret not agreeing to my father’s invitation to learn to golf. I distinctly remember thinking it was a stupid way to spend a day, but I wish I could take all that back. At the very least, had I learned at a younger age, there would be some muscle memory available to me now. Like bike-riding, one never really forgets. Muscle memory remains long after the finer points of a sport has vanished with age and disuse.

Twain clearly didn’t have the argument that golf is good exercise to counter his ”spoiled” walk attitude. But writer Brent Kelly did, and he quotes a lengthy Associated Press piece outlining a sports scientist’s study that shows walking a golf course contributes to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. So those of us who golf and walk the course can be somewhat smug about the time and expense that playing golf requires

Kelly writes: “The study concludes that golfers who walk 36 holes a week will burn around 2,900 calories per week. The threshold of 2,500 calories burned in a week is an important one; according to the AP article, ‘studies have shown that those who burn 2,500 calories a week improve their overall health by lowering their risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer’.”

The only thing better on the golf course than walking is walking and carrying your own bag. Evidentially, carrying your own golf clubs while walking the course will improve your score, too.

Writes Kelly: “Many golf purists argue that walking the golf course is not only better for your health (no doubt about that), but also better for your score. The thinking is that when walking the course, the golfers sees more: He or she takes in what lies ahead of them on the hole, has time to consider options and to think about club and shot selection.”

Well, the caddying isn’t going to work for me, but I still hold out hope for the good walk.

NEXT: Hiking in the mountains, No, really.

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Written by Catherine Ford

August 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. As I remain one of the last Canadians who does not golf, I will comment only on your basil. Bravo! That your plants are “huddled together” suggests two victories – you can grow more than one plant and they are alive. My garden basil NEVER survives outside, as a matter of fact, it has become a family joke. This year, mine did not survive the first storm in June – and I chose to replace it with an indoor plant. Kudos to your golf aspiration – but I am humbled by your basil growing prowess.

    Jennifer Diakiw

    August 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm


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