Thursday, August 11, 2011

In The Swing

The Scots invented golf. I imagine that they invented Scotch not long after, to help them to deal with the frustration of golf. (Or, perhaps, they invented Scotch FIRST, and after a long evening of imbibing, then decided that they should invent a sport that looked simple and super easy but which would, in actuality, make grown men weep and curse the fates with some regularity. It could have gone either way, I suppose.)

My father played golf when he was a young man, before my parents were married. And then he stopped. I knew that he had an interest in golf, but he didn't play.

("Keep your head down. Bobble heads don't swing very well," he says.)

At least, he didn't play until he moved to North Carolina. At that point, he rediscovered the game and began playing with some regularity.

("It's a GAME, Danielle," he says to me. "It's supposed to be FUN. Are you having fun? Because when you stop having fun is when it all starts to fall apart.")

He kept asking me if I wanted to go to the driving range. I kept saying no. There were a number of reasons for this, but the main ones were that I'm a little (or, you know, a LOT) competitive, and I didn't want anyone to see me making a complete buffoon of myself; also, I vividly remember my dad teaching me to drive a stick, and how terrible that was for both of us, and I thought that maybe combining a history of frustration with heavy golf clubs was an incredibly terrible idea.

("Don't think about the ball," he says. "Think about the swing. The goal is not actually to hit the ball. The ball is simply in the path of the swing. If you swing well, you can't HELP but hit the ball.")

But I finally went.

And I fell in love with it.

Which, honestly, was surprising, because historically, I'm not athletic. I am clumsy, goofy and awkward, and not known for being coordinated. I like hiking, but I pack a lot of bandaids and ace bandages because falling down is inevitable. When I play any kind of sport that involves catching (or hitting) a ball, the odds are high that at some point? I will be struck by said ball. Probably in the head. I'm not sporty.

In the words of a former colleague: "It's too bad for you that dressing up and accessorizing is not a sport. Because you have that down. Actual sports? Not so much." I couldn't be offended because it was true.

("That," he says, after a moment's consideration, "was an excellent swing." He gets back in the cart. "Good job, Danielle.")

So. I asked my dad to teach me to play. He thought about it.

"Yeah," he said. "Yeah, okay."

There are not a lot of places where my father and I are in tune. We often find each other difficult. However, when we're on the golf course, it's different. Something happens in the hush, with the sound of birds in the background and the slight jingle of the clubs as they rustle in the back of the golf cart. There is some sort of magic in the whoooosh-THWACK of a well driven ball down the fairway.

("Hooked it," he says. "But at least I didn't hit any trees. Baby steps.")

There are a million reasons why I love golf. If you've ever been obsessed with a sport (or hobby) then you know -- the reasons why are not necessarily understood by anyone who doesn't play.

But mostly, I love golf because I feel like it gave me a relationship with my dad that I didn't have before.

(We're watching a little kid on the driving range. He's about seven. He sets up his shot and swings. It's beautiful. He looks at his dad, who stands behind him, for approval; I can't hear what his father says, but I see him reach down and ruffle the little guy's hair. My dad says, "He's working on it."

Me too, I think. Me too.)

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