The Lonely Game

Golf’s third major takes place this week in Scotland where Muirfield Golf Links will host The Open for the 16th time

 

There are very few feelings that match it. Up early, sun breaking through, getting ready to tee off with your regular group. Stretching, gentle ribbing, some practice putts, a few swings and you look out at the tree-lined temptress.

 

Settling into the first hole of the day is the most enjoyable moment in a golfer’s week. Good friends and all the promises to come. No matter the skill set, golfers of all stripes are ever optimistic that this will be “the day.” It will all come together over the next five hours and we are one with the ball. Or club. Take your pick. But Zen is in there somewhere.

 

Generally, or perhaps simply in my case, the illusion starts to wilt by the third hole. Every golfer, every athlete, has a weakness. And golf will always find the soft spot. Always. There is no escape. Regardless of the stakes, no matter how friendly a round, I will be faced with that dreaded very makeable putt to keep the score trending well. However honestly, there comes the time, on the green, when I’m begging for someone to say, “It’s yours”. When that bell tolls my hands turn into Irish stew, the hole disappears and I am alone. Utterly alone. Then the rest of the game becomes a battle of will, confidence and the shattered dreams of the BEST SCORE EVER. It’s just the way it is.

 

All of us weekend links warriors have our demons. We may not talk about them but soon enough that miserable little gnome of failure will start talking to us. First a whisper that grows to a scream in our ear. Then…yips, chunked chips, snap hooks, the weak fade, the shank. Oh….the shank. Once that devil appears it’s hard to shake. Playing partners generally just clear their throat a little and offer some aggravating encouragement. But you know they don’t really mean it. They are on their own 12-step program.

 

This week we get one of the nastiest, certainly the weirdest, tests of golf in the world. The British Open. Or as that side of the universe reverentially calls it, “The Open”. Tuque golf on a pasture and I love it. I have such admiration for these guys. As good as they are we know, we KNOW, they too have their black doubts. And this tournament definitely exposes those. The game spares no one and there is no place to hide. There are no teammates to deflect to, to carry them through the rough patch. There are cameras floating around catching every bit of the carnage. I have no idea how they can even get the club back at times. I just know I’d be looking for a jug of Guinness and a steak and kidney pie pretty darn quickly out there.

 

The beauty of golf is we can relate to it. Let’s face it; we do not know what it feels like to be hit by a 255 pound linebacker who runs a 4.5. Unless of course we’ve been in a head-on collision recently. And that 100 mph fastball? I think I can guard LeBron or stop Crosby. Ah, the safety of the couch. But we do know the feeling of golf. The gnawing of self doubt. We’ll see it and vicariously feel it in Scotland this week. No question. It is Golf, the Game of Lonely Figures.

 

Enjoy. I’ve got my tuque ready.