I have been playing some great golf lately. Breaking 80 is only a lucky putt or two away. I have had scores ranging from 81 through 84 over the last month when I have not been blogging (too busy actually playing the silly game maybe? It was a songwriter who once told me that happy does not a good song make…and I have enjoyed my golf lately leaving me less perhaps to blog about it…)
Anyway (again with the anyway…crikeys it has been a month you would have thought I would have a new word by now…),
So, anyways…I received an email last week from a good friend that he broke 80 for the first time last Thursday…and how I responded says a lot about the man I am…
He and I have been involved in a small group competing to see who could be the first to break 80 in 2011. And in truth one of the outcomes of that competition has been this blog (somewhat sporadic lately I will admit…life gets in the way sometimes). I knew of course that it would be me who would be the first to break 80. I mean, come on, I write a blog for goodness sake, I am DEDICATED. And of course I would be magnanimous in victory, showing that I was a humble, genuine human being who, whilst clearly being the higher achiever, was also able to understand how the other felt when they had not yet achieved this milestone. I practiced, I played consistently well and was improving the fastest of all of us. I drove further, played delicate little flop shots that lighted next to the hole, shot regular birdies and knew that it was only a matter of time before I broke 80. Everyone knew this too. And then my friend just went and did it. Where I have played at least once a week this year he has played half of that. Where I have read books and gone to the driving range he has continued with his life uninterrupted. Where I have studied the game, kept statistics, and religiously pored over the results of each game, reliving each shot, he has been gently following his game but not obsessing, enjoying his golf but not letting it dominate his life, and just quietly playing within himself.
I was so happy for my friend achieving this milestone. Really happy. Did I mention that I was happy for him? It was 11pm when I saw his email on my iPhone. The title was simply “79”. I was so happy to see his good fortune that my partner, who heard me yell out a word that I will not print here, thought that I must have fallen and injured myself, a family member had passed away, or nuclear war had been declared. Or perhaps all three. Hardly the sounds of a gracious loser.
And I had just beaten this friend in a match play not one week before this…in that sad world of alpha males and egos I was his better; at least I was. I did not see this coming. Like Ali taking down Foreman in Manilla his KO came suddenly but, looking back, not entirely unexpectedly.
I did not immediately reply to the group email. It took me a couple of minutes to realize what the feeling was and why his success did not make me happy. It took me another minute to realize that this was a character test that I was failing. And still another minute before I could send off a reply that, if not genuine, was at least the right thing to do; saying simply “Well done mate”.
It took me two days before I was able to congratulate my friend in person. I even, sadly, asked him not to mention it until I was ready. I smile to myself as I write this now but for all those out there who think I am being a wanker, look inside and ask yourselves if you have really always enjoyed other people’s successes…especially when it involves beating you.
Golf is often quoted as revealing character. How you play a round of golf says a lot about who you are as a person. I really believe that I have improved as a person by playing golf – not just by playing but by playing through bad golf. I will report some recent scores and whatnot later this week but recently I played a game and started with two doubles – more or less taking the sub 80 round off the table after only three holes – and yet I played on, narrowly missing a couple of birdies, and then finishing with an Eagle on the final (par 5) hole that gave me a 38 for that nine. It was my lowest ever nine and was only possible because I played through a disastrous start. I finished with an 81 and a smile on my face. I have developed my character by focusing on certain aspects of my golf this year. Character is like a muscle that we can improve with training. I honestly believe I am a better person because of it. And then this new challenge came in. Breaking 80 has been such a part of my life for 2011. Everyoneknows that I am trying to do this. Even people I have never met know about me trying to break 80; such is the power of the internet. Losing your cool when you are playing your own round of golf is one thing but not being able to enjoy a friend’s success? What does that say about your character? I guess, like golf itself, we have to continually strive for improvement. Oh great, another weakness discovered! I will be worthy one day…
I watched Darren Clarke win the British Open this weekend (yes THAT explains the black rings under my eyes). It was obvious over the last couple of days of competition that the golf gods had decided it was his time; that he was worthy. Even as Phil Mickelson’s roaring challenge over the front nine on the last day cranked into motion the golf gods did not falter. They gave Darren Clarke an Eagle on an early hole and then when he needed it they bounced his badly hit ball over a very nasty bunker and rolled it up to the green. The golf gods had decided that Darren Clarke was worthy. I know that one day they will chose me to break 80; one day I will be worthy…one day. And I will keep working to gain their respect until then. That’s all I can do…