Dec 23

Golf, Christmas Past and Present

Christmas Had a Lot to Do with the Love Affair that is Golf

Difficult as it is to remember the specifics of childhood at times, the wonderful moments of under-the-tree ecstasy still ring loud and clear. Many of them, in fact were directly involved with the game of golf, and a great deal of magical thinking was required to make the whole thing work. Back in those days, the world was perfect and exciting, a place where no one suffered from anything, anywhere, or for any reason in our little deluded minds. For us, Christmas Eve was the highest symbol of “What could be wrong?” thinking. Added to our childhood folly was the belief that it was all about looking good. We, that is I and a few of my friends, believed that receiving the coolest stuff in the golf world under that tree actually neutralized the way we played. Titleist, MacGregor, and Wilson Staff golf balls might just as well have been gold ingots. They were like super heroes with distinctly specific powers. With ammo like that, our level of play would be transformed. There was no doubt about it.

On one of my early Christmases, the antique left-handed set I somehow acquired from my Aunt Helen was replaced by a gleaming new starter set. The woods were beautifully finished, and the putter appeared incapable of missing anything under ten feet. That belief was affirmed the next chance I got to play at the local pitch-and-putt. While my father stood in awe, I rolled in two putts  of 10 to 20 feet. I was right – the magic was everything I thought it would be. I wonder what the trajectory of my life might have been if I had missed either or both of those putts.
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As I got a year or two older, a fashion sense started kicking in. My requirements were few. Anything that made me look and/or play like Gary Player would do just fine. He wore a lot of black then, and I subconsciously carried the habit into young adulthood, until someone informed me that the job of Zorro was already taken. Early on, though, gloves were cool, even though I didn’t really want one. Classy club head covers were a must. With all of these components, I felt certain that my friends would take one look at me and believe that I was a much better golfer than I really was.  How could my golfing friends, twins I was particularly fond of,  ever beat me with a fashion sense somewhere between Ken Nagle  and a South Tyrolian yodeler? Not with my Gary Player powers, no sir – not going to happen. Finally, the gift of a 1-iron? That one rivaled the Red Ryder BB Gun. Receiving a 1-iron means that someone out there thinks you’re a man. Palmer used one, and Trevino joked about how difficult they were.

Those beautiful days have, alas, given way to other forms of magical thinking, but love for the game still abides. Still, today I see golf Christmas ornaments, and candy cane-striped golf bags. The transparent Masters ornament is pretty snazzy, but the bucket of balls and ball and tee decorations are a little “meh.” The three stooges ornament reminds me that I have too much pandemonium on the course already, and the 18th Hole Golf Nutcracker is just too scary. In terms of real golf, the UK is doing it right, as expected. The course-side Abbey Hotel is offering coffee, mince pie, 18 holes, and a “festive” lunch for 28 pounds per person. If the pie was razzleberry, I’d take them up on it, just like that.

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I am sure that there are many golfers among those who do not celebrate Christmas, and it would be interesting to hear from them about what caught their fascination with the game early on. Meanwhile, Ralphie and  I will spend the season dreaming of spectacular chip shots and birdies on the wing.

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