I do hope you are staying safe, sane, and healthy.
Rather than offer you reminders of how we should all wash our hands and not touch our faces, I wanted to take a few moments to pontificate about golf, and perhaps mull over an eternal question.
For those of you in the know, the answer is 42. And that’s not what I shot on the back nine yesterday. But the number that’s the answer to life, the universe and everything else. This is according to the supercomputer Deep Thought in Douglas Adams’ novel, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” one of my favorite sci-fi stories, which reminded me how things currently don’t make sense.
For example, it makes no sense attempting to explain to my 7-year-old why she cannot get close, let alone hug, grandma for 14 days, or why she cannot go to her best friend’s non-existent birthday party, or why she has to take a bath in hand sanitizer.
Therefore it seems appropriate to what we’re living through that the ultimate question to the answer of 42 is, “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?” Oops. My 11-year-old son told me that doesn’t compute. Exactly. Not much makes sense at the moment. Thank you, Douglas Adams.
These times of social distancing got me thinking about golf and how it benefits our society and, maybe more importantly, our sanity. Golf is one of the easiest social distancing (or rather, physical distancing) sports.
A good walk in our fresh Island air, while smacking a little white ball toward a target, can do wonders for your mind and soul. Perhaps more importantly, and as we profess to our junior golfers in the Gardiner’s Bay’s Junior Golf Program, golf as a pastime teaches us worthy traits — honesty, integrity, courtesy and respect. As I only have time for one column, let’s take one of these notable attributes, integrity.
Playing golf, you are your own referee; golfers calls penalties on themselves. Some golfers may recall a former Master’s Champion and PGA Tour player (I’ll let you guess who) who had difficulties with his personal integrity recently. He was caught on camera performing some spring cleaning behind his golf ball in a bunker in the Bahamas. A rules violation, yes. Was this a blatant exhibition of a flawed character, perhaps? According to the general public judgment on social media, absolutely. The PGA Tour member was vilified online.
Then there is the other end of the integrity scale, Bobby Jones. If we wanted to take lessons in how to become a gentleman, we emulate the behavior of Mr. Jones.
Throughout his life he was a golfing genius, not just for his physical and mental prowess, but the wisdom he exuded and the exhibitions of character he displayed on and off the golf course were exemplary. Bobby’s most famous example of sportsmanship play came in 1925, during the U.S. Open at Worcester C.C. near Boston.
Playing his approach shot to the 11th hole’s elevated green, his ball fell short into the deep rough of the embankment. As he took his stance to pitch onto the green, the head of his golf club brushed the grass and caused a minuscule movement of his golf ball.
No one saw it, but Jones was adamant that the ball had moved and assessed himself a one-stroke penalty. This cost him the major victory, as he went on to lose in a playoff. Praised for his classy move, Jones quipped, “You might as well praise me for not robbing banks.”
But back to our walk in the fresh air. With spring comes Passover, Easter and rebirth. The early morning’s bird song is beautiful to behold. If we had lambs here they’d be leaping. However, we can enjoy Wordsworth’s “Host of Golden Daffodils:” “Beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”
Golf was called “A good walk spoiled” by Mark Twain. It provides us with many benefits, including physical exercise. When played alone, golf offers us time to think, to reflect on life’s challenges, our personal tribulations and triumphs, all in peaceful solitude. Ah! Peaceful solitude, which only a month ago, was in very short supply in our hectic modern world.
All of a sudden, many of us have more time on our hands than ever before. Let’s not jump on the nearest screen and whittle away the hours on the black hole of the internet. Let’s use it wisely. Take a walk. Mashomack is magnificent and our beaches are beckoning for a stroll. Or take that good walk spoiled on a golf course — whether it’s Goat Hill or Gardiner’s Bay, it’s chicken soup for the soul.
Then, following your foray down the fairways, while you dwell on your deck about the birdies and bogeys of the day, don’t reach for the iPad. Perhaps read a book. I have a spare copy of, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” if you’d like it.