Golf Character: Men, Women and Morale
I was glad to see some order restored to the universe as Tiger Woods won at Torrey Pines, rather handily in fact. I wondered how he did it, in terms of guts, and figured that he remembered who he once was, and that regardless, he was still among the best. He just needed things to come together on a given week, and they did.
What about the rest of us, though, the ones who take our golf seriously, but have limited talent and time? For at least some, I believe that the game of golf is a metaphor for our inability to reach an extra inch and grab the brass ring, any brass ring, and for our off-course hopes.
The round I fantasize on the way to the course is, in every case, different from the one that happens. Like a date with the perfect person you’ve only seen from afar, the chances of it working out as well as it has in your head is remote. One needs only to search the body of golf humor to see our alternative to weeping.
“Error must go somewhere” – Most of us know that for whatever is going well, something else in the bag will go cold.
“One good shank deserves another” – For those of us who have sat ten feet in front of a par 5 green in two, then shanked a simple wedge into the bunker, don’t bother with metaphors. Go right ahead and weep.
“Scoring a birdie means that three triple bogeys must follow to restore balance in the universe” – Even finishing up the best holes of our lives, some of us say “Wow, I’m one under – If I shoot bogey golf the rest of the way, I could break ninety.” That is a fateful sentence.
“A ball in the rough that you can see – is not yours.” – the ultimate sentiment of a golf victim.
Clearly, this is the perfect game for Eeyores and Charlie Browns. Specifically, one of the most important differences between Tiger and the rest of us is that once we’ve hit our first bad shot, we can’t score well enough to recover. We can’t reel off six straight birdies. On the first hole, we placed the score card and pencil in a prominent place. By the second tee, we have changed the scoring goal, perhaps all the way down to a good shot here and there, along with some beautiful scenery – all because we can’t recover. Our fantasy for that day is gone. Tick a ball ten yards off the tee box on a 600 yard par five, and you know that it’s now the longest par four of your life, and that there’s no way you can pull it off – or is there?
Perhaps that’s why so many men don’t like to play in the presence of women. We are, perhaps, hard-wired from Cro-Magnon days to look reliable and skilled in front of women. With our buddies, we can just be the clowns we really are, and just pretend that we’re still good golfers with everything to hope for. Perhaps we disguise the humiliation of being imperfect by placing the onus on the women, telling them that they just don’t play the same game the way we do, or think of it properly, as a man would.
A few of us adapt well to being so-players. For us, an 81 is a bad day, an 80 is a good day, and a 79 is the greatest day of our lives. Others need more to fulfill expectations of the self. They will be the ones who implode and go into hysterics on the course.
If it were ever easy for men to weep, it should be while playing this game. Meanwhile, women have largely solved the problem by couching it within a deeper collaboration among friends, so successfully that for some women, it is almost a team sport. For the others – there, there.