Another Letter From the Left Coast
By Jerry Gervase
The AT&T Tournament arrives in our lovely neck of the woods this month so I thought I would tell you my woeful tale about quitting golf or walking away from a demanding mistress.
Golf first fluttered her capricious eyes at me on a dried-out barren municipal course with fairways so hard you couldn’t tunnel out a divot with a John Deere backhoe and a jackhammer. At seventeen I was impressionable and easily lead. I couldn’t resist golf’s glamour. Thus began a decades long love affair with her.
I couldn’t afford proper equipment back then. I played with six or seven unmatched sticks and golf balls with more smiley faces than a computer screen full of emojis. Courses with manicured greens and fairways were beyond my means. Often the greens I putted on were slicker than a casino croupier with pomaded hair. Golf became a demanding mistress insisting on more and more of my time. Her coquettish nature faded into neediness as she always wanted more of me.
It is said that to have an illicit love affair one needs two things – time and money. In my twenties that happened to me when a decent job allowed me to join a modest country club and renew my relationship with that alluring lady. It is not surprising that golf and I got along so much better when I had enough time to work on my technique. We became a hot item and I scored with a consistency that brought respect and even envy from other men who flirted with her.
Those were good years. She loved to travel so I took her to Doral Beach, Oakland Hills, Palm Springs, Puerto Rico and Bermuda. I had a difficult time keeping up with her at some of those places but I was determined to swing with her. She didn’t make things easy, often setting traps, kicking sand in my face and being responsible for enough strokes to keep a neurologist busy for a year. I didn’t care. There was always the promise that things would get better between us.
Then life happened. Marriage, kids, new job, new house and constant travel ate away at my enthusiasm for her. Time and money were not enough – my longing for her was overshadowed by more pressing responsibilities. Many years went by without ever coming in contact with her. Oh, I saw her occasionally on TV and, of course, read about her in the sports pages of the newspaper. Seeing her on television kept bringing back memories. There were many times when I was tempted to run off and chase her again.
Marriage counselors say that one negative experience wipes out at least four positive ones leaving little favorable sentiment. The opposite is true with golf. One positive experience, one perfect connection between club head and ball sending that pimpled white sphere screaming 250 yards down a fairway wipes out dozens of bad memories.
Several years passed. Then one day while on a business trip I saw her at Pebble Beach. I had never seen her looking so lovely. I didn’t try to avoid her. I followed her around for eighteen holes constantly distracted by her beauty. I gave it everything I had but couldn’t get the magic back. Nothing worked. I was miserable. I spent so much time lost in the rough I thought my playing partners would report me to Missing Persons. The day petered out while I puttered around artlessly. It turned out to be nothing but a tawdry one-day stand. I guess there were limits to my feverish yearning to get her back.
For the next twenty years I stayed away from her completely, content to let the good memories I had soften my brain enough to keep me thinking there were more good times than bad. Then, while visiting in the Los Angeles area, a friend talked me into playing a Par-3 course in Pasadena. I had no clubs but he said we only needed an 8 and 9 iron, a wedge and a putter so I could use his. I don’t know what it was, perhaps muscle memory, but I started to get that old desire back and thought, “You know, you can do this again.”
Back home, I dusted off my clubs and full of hope, or rather, full of the triumph of hope over experience, met her head on at a local course. I sensed that this would be my last chance to win her back – if she still had any interest in me. But I was past my prime, too old to keep up with her. I was toiling in the vast garden of self-delusion. As Yeats said: “That is no country for old men.”
In the end it was knee replacement surgery that did me in. It was months before I could even think of another go-around with her. It’s funny. We live such a short time yet wish to do everything and then when we get older we wish to recapture everything. Kierkegaard said: “Happiness is my lot in life if my wish coincides with my duty.” That is where I am now. Without her I am bogie-free, living a life that’s at peace and at par with the world.