My second wind had hit me, and I was confident that nothing was going to stop me from finishing my round.
So, there I am, on the tee box of number 14 at the Reserve in Aloha, Oregon. I’m standing at my push cart, huddled under my umbrella. I’m soaked through and through. My shirts and pants are sticking to my body, and my feet are freezing from the mud and water soaking through my shoes. My head and hair are so wet my glasses keep sliding down my face. I’m channeling my inner Clash thinking, should I stay or should I go? I elected to stay (my addiction is still that strong). I bent over and teed up my very last golf ball, some Nike I found in the rough, and pushed my glasses back onto the top of my nose. I grabbed my 8 iron for the par 3, addressed the ball, and swung.
I don’t have to tell you that keeping your eye on your ball, both before and after you hit it, is probably the most important part of your golf game. Let me tell you, after that swing, I physically could not keep my eye on my ball, because with the momentum of my downswing, my glasses flew off my face and landed ten feet in front of me in the fairway grass. I ran to pick them up and held the lenses in front of my eyes, praying that I could somehow find my ball as it sailed through the air. The grey sky gave me nothing as I scanned it. Dejected, I slid my club back into the bag, zipped up the rain cover, and trudged on, regretting my decision to stay with every drop of rain that made it past my umbrella.
I was standing at the portable restroom off the 14th green, huddling under my umbrella against the wooden shed encompassing it, when the Clash came back into my head. I was soaking wet, cold, and tired (36 holes on foot in two days will do that to you), not to mention I had a five hour drive waiting for me, and perhaps most importantly, I was out of golf balls! With defeat looming over me, I sighed and dug through the pockets of my bag looking for my car keys and wallet so I wouldn’t have to wait to find them in the parking lot. I put my wallet in my back pocket and found my keys. They felt heavier than normal; I struggled to lift them out of the bag. As I held them, with the rain still pouring down on my bag, and me, and the mud still squishing through my shoes, water sprayed from my lips as I muttered one word loud enough for only me and the Golf Gods to hear, “No.”
I thrust my keys back into my golf bag, zipped up the pocket, and pushed my cart as close to the portable restroom as I could. After making sure the rain cover was completely zipped I took off running down the cart path to the clubhouse. What’s a little rain? I thought. The clubhouse emerged from the fog like land to a sailor lost at sea, and it had the same re-energizing effect on me as one would expect. I walked into the pro shop like Aragorn into Helm’s Deep.
I purchased two sleeves of balls, ammunition for my renewed assault on the course. I must have had a look on my face that inspired pity as well as compassion in the man behind the counter that knew only too well what I was going through. As I turned to leave, he said, “Hey kid, take this,” and tossed me a key to a cart. Seconds later, I was flying down the cart path with a towel around my head. I was rallying. My second wind had hit me, and I was confident that nothing was going to stop me from finishing my round. And then it occurred to me that this round, wet and cold and uncomfortable as it was, had been the most fun I’d had playing golf in a while.
I’m a competitive player. When I play, I want to beat my old records. If I don’t beat them, I don’t necessarily not have fun (I have fun doing anything golf related), but it’s just more satisfying to set new records. I call it the pursuit of truer nobility (“True nobility is being superior to your former self,” said Ernest Hemingway). But that day in the rain at the Reserve I wasn’t concerned with pars, birdies, or bogeys. I was playing golf in its purest form. I was free of concern. I was connected to nature, the course, my clubs, and my fellow players, though I hadn’t seen anyone on the course except for me for awhile. That connection I found in the rain is difficult to describe, but if I could describe it in one word, it’d be ethereal. I had this immense feeling of serenity and pure appreciation for the game, the course, and myself. In the mud and cold I had found the essence of this wonderful game. I was filled head to toe with an incredible lightness of being and an appreciation for golf.
After toweling myself off I stepped up to the 15th tee box and teed up a fresh ball. The rain was still coming down and I looked out over the fairway. It was a long par 5 and I couldn’t even see the green from the tee box. Feeling the spirit of golf in me, I addressed the ball and swung. Fortunately, my glasses remained on my head and my ball sailed down the fairway . . . along with my driver.
Ok, so much for heroics. Ethereal be damned. It was a nice feeling as long as it lasted. Defeat? No. Rain check? I’ll Reserve the last four holes, and play them twice next time I go.