I Took a Mistress This Holiday Weekend — Her Name Is Golf

Cup'pa JoeGolf is an acquired taste, hobby, passion, obsession, devotion. I acquired it early in life, when my Uncle Mike sawed down an adult set of irons for me and wrapped genuine leather grips on them before my 8th birthday. Gifts of passion are always the best kind.

My high school boasted a 9-hole course that wrapped around campus in charming and dramatic slopes and hills. I played 1,000 holes on it if I played one. Once I shot a 74 at the University of Maryland’s course, but most often I played an erratic game off of the tee box and rarely broke 80. I never took lessons; rather, I simply applied the same motion with my arms and hips in my summer movements as I did in my shooting ones in hockey skates each winter. The two sports are like fraternal twins of body motion. I once followed Washington Capitals’ defenseman Darren Veitch, playing as an amateur, in the Maryland Open. He shot a 65 that day and was more talented than many of the PGA touring pros I’d seen for years at the Kemper Open.

To many hockey fans golf is little more than a derisive term associated with a team’s termination from competition. It’s understandable but unfortunate. A great many hockey players play golf greatly, and that feat should be celebrated more.    

Golf and I grew apart in my late twenties and thirties. Nationally the game, aided by technology targeting Everyman’s participation, exploded in popularity, and local courses became clogged even during late weekday afternoons. I had grown up playing golf unimpeded by popularity, in the company of a best buddy, always walking and with free replays. It wasn’t uncommon for my buddy and me to play 54 holes a day in June’s prolonged daylight.

Professional careers often erode insidiously at a devoted golfer’s access to the game. Such was the case with me in my thirties. I figured I’d had my fun with the grand game as a young man and now would spare myself the tormenting anguish of once-a-week, sloppy, errors-on-every-hole Saturday outings. Contemporary golf was notoriously expensive, unfriendly to walkers, and ever congested, and I didn’t have the time to work at being good at it anymore.

But a funny thing happened late last year. A colleague in my office had the addiction I once did, and on Monday mornings he’d regale me in his weekend ups and downs with the grand game. In a commiserating way I enjoyed his narratives. Additionally, we worked in a business that made somewhat of a habit of sponsoring and participating in charitable golf outings. Some of them were lavish. He kept prodding me to join him in those.

I began to ponder the potential effects of investing in updated equipment — in a closet somewhere were 25-year-old forged blades, decent in their day but today laughably medieval in their technology. Taking those out to any course now would be like working out at the gym with a Walkman. What if, I began to think . . . I could still make decent passes at the ball but swing the new-age metals and spank “hot” balls? I had the means to invest if I wanted to.

I began visiting area golf merchants after work in the evening. I perused the walls bearing sets of shimmering irons. So many choices, and expensive, all. Always a forged blade player, I could never surrender to the cavity-backed, perimeter weighted advanced designs. I’m very old school in that regard. I’d hit a few balls with those when friends would bring them to driving ranges, and they never delivered the other-worldly feel that accompanies the perfectly struck ball with a forged blade. If you’ve ever struck one great shot with a forged blade you’ll never forget the millisecond moment of reward, one that runs hard and thorough up through your arms at contact and arrives on your brain before the ball has left the tee box or the fairway divot has landed. The Everyman’s irons always struck me, too, as blights upon the eye relative to the artistry of the forged blade.     

In my golfing addiction days I never had the means to afford a set of Mizuno forged irons. Mizuno alone among all manufacturers refuses to this day to pay golf pros on tour to play their blades, and still they are the most popular brand in tour bags. That says everything. In my golf store surveys Mizuno still offered a premium forged blade, and I began handling it in address position. It was love at first touch; I didn’t need a single test hit to know that this was my new club.

Out of curiosity, I went on eBay last autumn to see if there were any deals to be had on the set I wanted. Sure enough, a full set of Mizuno MP-32s was available, and they boasted Rifle shafts. A serious golfer owned them, and he lovingly cared for them. I saved about $400 in that auction, but what matters more to me was that the clubs belonged to a terrific player, and their new owner aspired to be terrific again. I remember vividly their arrival in front of my home after work one evening. I opened a good bottle of wine and waggled each blade at address position. I may have even played a Sinatra disc. Luck Be a Mizuno Forged Blade next spring. My addiction had returned.    

This Memorial weekend I remained in the area and did little but play golf with my beloved blades. I bashed pre-round balls until my back ached and calluses formed on my left hand. My playing partner was named Icy Hot. I walked 18 holes three times by virtue of waiting for twilight access and rates. I loved being back in exquisitely mowed fairways late each day as the early summer sun sent dwindling rays through tall oaks. Very early in the morning and very late each afternoon there is, typically, enticing serenity to be found on the links. I’d missed that all these years.

I had a lot of rough holes bearing a lot of rust on my game this weekend, but I also had some dandy ones, including consecutive birdies on two decent par 4s on Sunday. That was the moment I knew I’d made a wise decision reuniting with golf.

Golf I think is alone among all sports in affording a graceful diminishing of physical skills among its aging players. Tee to green Tom Watson played his finest golf in his forties; Kenny Perry damn well nearly won the Masters this spring near 50. Technology I know played a part, but I blasted a 280-yard power fade on one long par 4 this weekend. In hockey and every other athletic endeavor at my age I am a withering wannabe, wherein the heart is willing while the body rebels. But not on golf’s tee boxes.

Next weekend I’m reuniting with a golf buddy with whom I haven’t played in 20 years. I can’t wait. 

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3 Responses to I Took a Mistress This Holiday Weekend — Her Name Is Golf

  1. JG284481-37-5 says:

    The only way I’ll ever get into a PGA event is with a ticket. Im lucky to get to range now. Played Penderbrook in Fairfax once, never lost so many balls on a course. That was before water hole, basically two tee boxes and green with water in between boxes and green. Oddly enough one of the best rounds I ever played was at Eagles Landing (outside OC MD) which was designed by a PGA player, the supposedly easier public courses are what gets me.
    One of favorite ranges is the one on Route 29 at the Montgomery / Howard County border, mainly because there is plenty of room, and the dirty looks are few when a bad shot is hit. Plus the old car about 175 yds out that I actually hit on the fly once, wasnt trying to just happened. Sports Illustrated actually rated this as one of their favorite ranges a few years ago.
    Suprised there was time for golf with the tight Conference Finals Schedule.

  2. nadir says:

    I played a couple times this weekend myself. I had some good holes put had to put myself in the “penalty box” for a couple holes on Sunday. The hole I started playing again was a squirrely par 5, #1 handicap hole, and I birdie it(driver, 3 wood, wedge from 30 yards to 3.5 feet).
    In a tournament that I play with friends, I played the best golf of my life. I shot a natural 37 on the front side of Old Hickory GC in Woodbridge. I thought to myself “So this is what it is like to play golf like the pros.” I ended up with a 77 on the card but most likely would have shot around an 80 or 81 if i had to play the 2 drives we didn’t use.
    I play with someone every so often and he plays Mizuno’s. He loves them and has the same thing to say about them as above.

  3. Burgundy says:

    It’s funny, I never thought I’d like golf, but a good friend of mine insisted I try. Instantly, I was hooked. I’m not great but I’m getting better. I’ve only got one full summer under my belt, but did shoot a 99 as a personal best.
    You’re right, it’s an acquired skill, but a very cool challenge none the less.

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