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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Darrell Remembers: Golfing With Little Old Ladies

I’ve been struggling with my golf game for several months.  Simply put, things have gone downhill.  My drives have gotten shorter, my fairway shots are going awry, and I’m even occasionally topping the ball on my trusty flop shot.

What’s the problem?  Has age finally caught up with me?  Have I, without even knowing it was happening, become one of those little old ladies who can’t hit her drive more than 100 yards, who uses her 5-wood to advance the last 75 yards to the green, whose hands are so knotted with arthritis that she can’t maintain a firm grip on her clubs?

I’ve listened to the younger women in the Star Fort Ladies Golf Association say of other senior women, She’s nearing the end of her golfing.  She can’t hit the ball any more.  Then they shake their heads slowly, look a little mournfully at their aging golf companions, and go on with their game.

I don’t want to be that woman they abandon, left to play 9 holes poorly, like an aging Inuit put out of the tribe, left to die on an ice floe.

I can’t stop the march of time and all the physical vagaries associated with aging.  My joints need routine attention from the orthopod.  Daily exercise is the 3-In-One solution to the stiffness in my back and hands.  Then, accepting the physical realities of my very experienced life and devising strategies to manage and accommodate those realities is what will keep me on the golf course.

I recently asked one of my Google+ pals, Darrell Williams, to allow me to use a story he told me about golfing with a group of senior women when he was a young and frisky single guy.  It took a bit of coaxing, but the memories he shared with me involve several important lessons about golf, including my current struggles.

Darrell wrote, “I truly never knew their age but I assumed they were in their late 40's to late 50's possibly early 60's.  Me, I was in my mid to late 30's at the time.” 

As Darrell remembered those rounds, golfing with those senior women “was a bunch of fun as they were pretty competitive and never gave any one an inch, including me. They loved to beat me on the holes we played and the ribbing I got was priceless:  What, a big strong boy like you can't beat a little ol' lady . . . ?

Then Darrell began to describe a game that was eerily familiar to me. 

“They had incredible short games and putted lights out – I always wished I had their putting strokes!  They never hit the ball very far but it was always down the middle. When I would slice one off they would say, Hey son, the fairway is over there!  Or if I would hit one in the water they would tell me, You should buy floating balls. They usually shot in the mid to high 40's for 9, but they sure enjoyed it.

As often happens on the golf course, relationships initially founded on a shared love of the game will, over time and golf, deepen and become much more complex.

Darrell dug a little deeper into his memory and recalled one woman in particular who “was a strong player and played many women's amateur tournaments and liked to play from the whites with me. She thought it gave her a competitive edge hitting longer clubs into greens than she normally would playing from the red tees.”

Over the course of their rounds together, Darrell discovered, as have many who love the game, that golf is an almost magical equalizer. “Most guys that played this little 9 hole course didn't care for her as she was a bit brash and fairly unattractive (was The Babe playing in Kansas 30 years ago?), but it never bothered me as she was fun and I always had a good time.  All you had to do was get to know her.”

Golf may be the only sport in which the person against whom we competed yesterday becomes our teammate, coach or cheerleader tomorrow:

“She watched me shoot one of my best 18 hole scores of all time there – I shot 9 under par and she had to tell everyone that she was watching one of the best rounds of golf ever played.

“She also talked me into playing a couple of 2-man best ball tournaments at this 9 hole course and she would move to the reds and we just killed them (as most of these guys knew she played with me from the whites all the time) . . . and those men just hated me for it . . . called it unfair.

“I still play that little 9 hole course very now and again. The women I golfed with 30 years ago are gone now and I truly miss those rounds with those little ladies that loved to whoop me on a few holes!

On behalf of all of us who intend to embrace the challenges of old age and, with the help of NSAIDS intend to continue to golf right on through our Golden Years, thank you, Darrell.

I need to do some stretching and get out to the golf course.