Fore-ever: An affair (with golf) that became true love
I was 48 years old before I started my first – and only – affair. It began with the words," I can't believe the four of us are going to Hawaii and I have no one to play golf with!"
The year was 1998, and my business partner and I decided to take our spouses to Mauna Lani Bay Hotel in Hawaii to celebrate a banner year for our firm. Though my husband and I had never so much as picked up a club, I naively responded, "No problem. We’re up for a game!” After all, I told myself, I’m reasonably athletic, having played tennis for years. Common sense says it’s easier to whack a stationary ball than to dive cross-court and return a 70 mph jump-serve.
As you can imagine, with such an impudent mindset, my affair with golf was not love at first sight.
I was humbled from the outset.
Almost immediately, I learned there are specific rules and protocols governing the lifestyle that is golf. For instance, during that first outing in Hawaii, I arrived at the golf course at 8:58 a.m. for a 9 a.m. tee time. While parking the cart, I heard a voice over the loudspeaker booming. "Howze party, you are late to the tee box." As I hustled to the first tee at 9:02 a.m., my partner hissed through clenched teeth, "You do not show up late for tee times and you should arrive at the practice area half an hour early to warm-up before you hit the course!”
Undaunted, and probably much to the chagrin of my partner, my husband and I embarked on our first round. That day provided (in corporate-speak) a few key “takeaways”:
1. Golfers should never be without an abundant supply of balls. We were so clueless that my husband and I each brought one sleeve of three balls to last a week. We ended up going through 30 balls each for three rounds of golf, all of which were provided by my partner who grudgingly parted with his new top of the line “Pro vi” golf balls.
2. Golfers should have their own clubs. My husband and I borrowed a set of clubs and bag from a client who happened to be 6-foot, 4-inches tall (my husband I are both short). Imagine trying to hit a ball with the one of those devices that help you reach a 10-foot ceiling to change a light bulb.
3. Golfers should always strap their bag securely to the cart. We learned this as we drove the cart up a steep hill to the first tee, by the observation gallery. The bag, clubs and their contents scattered all the way down the hill. I can still feel my cheeks flush as I recall the hooting from the deck.
4. Golfers should know where their cart is at all times. Simple concept, but one that proved to be the most embarrassing part of the round. Our second hole was a 500-yard par five. Because we were newbies, most of the time we swung and missed. When we did make contact, the ball went about 10 yards. So with club in hand and oblivious to the cart, my husband and I chased our respective balls toward the hole.
My business partner, who had reached the green in three swings, had been waiting for us to arrive on the green for some 20 minutes. As we approached, he said in a firm voice, "Ummmm.... Guys, where is your cart?" After blaming each other for losing it, we looked way back and saw the cart proudly parked 10 feet in front of the tee box – with an angry foursome unable to tee off, shaking their fists at us, “suggesting” we come get the cart.
After our six-hour round, I had to face the facts. I had not done well. Not even as well as I'd hoped. In fact, I was not able to get one ball in the air.
Yet despite the embarrassment, frustration and feeling of total incompetence, I was falling for golf. And despite that inauspicious beginning, our relationship quickly blossomed into a full-flamed romance.
For one thing, it is impossible to worry about the day's stresses when you are focused on your golf swing. And to be able to walk through green fairways in the splendor of Mother Earth is always a sacred experience. Spending four hours (or five, six or seven…) with a group of dear friends and watching the sun go down as you approach the 18th green are magic moments when all seems right with the world.
And then there is always that one shot. That first day, after hitting 150 bad shots, I took a whack at a ball lying 50 yards from the pin. The ball skidded like greased lightning and hit the pin. Was it a great shot? Hell no! But it had stopped a foot from the hole. Golf gave me what I call a "cosmic wink" that said, "I'd like to see you again.” I was hooked.
From that very first day, I found golf to be fun, aesthetically pleasing and able to bestow small miracles. And it didn't hurt to run into a prospective client in Hawaii who said, "You play golf? We absolutely need to get together for a round back in Houston.”