Recovery and Change in the Human Golfer

Change is a Constant – Recovery is Mandatory

We have been visited this week by a family member who loves everything about golf. It’s a person we all want to see more of, so I’m taking the opportunity to do just that. The two of us  are making our first trip to the range after a long winter. He is much younger, but has had his share of recent health problems, mostly gastrointestinal. I, on the other hand, am going to see if I can raise a club over my head. The state of stiffness over the past year or two has set in as the sciatica rages. If I can still hit the ball, the next barrier is to see if I can walk from shot to shot over the course of an afternoon. Yes, I could take the cart, but walking the course is a huge part of it for me. Our separate generations are hurting in different ways, and we are recovering using the paths open to us. One way or another, we will bounce back, and it almost always works.

I noticed that Suzanne Pettersen, a new mother, is already planning her way back to contention on the LPGA Tour.  She is in her late thirties. For her, it’s a different sort of recovery. The body has undergone trauma , but is still young and strong. She will bounce back, albeit with a new perspective. Where golf was once the trunk of the destiny tree, now it’s one of the flowers. I feel certain that Pettersen has not lost the competitive edge. She has a wonderful pugnacious quality that way. It may never fee quite the same, but she’ll adjust.

Love him or hate him, Tiger Woods wins the 21st century recovery award for what many of us thought was mission impossible. Bouncing back once looked like a pipe dream, and many of us secretly opined that maybe he should just hang it up and call it a day. And then came the Augusta of 2019. Yes, he is amazing, and plays on a high level, but considering what we go through to hold on to what we love doing, we are all amazing.

What my young visitor needs is inner balance, not the metaphysical kind, but the body chemistry kind. I need a stretching regimen more helpful to my age, and to stop waltzing up to the tee with a 20 year old’s mentality that will never come again. What Suzanne Pettersen needs, I theorize, is to become acquainted with a different body, work out her schedule by he own priorities, and tee it up again. Tiger has written the text book on recovery, and we will see if he can hang on to what he has gained.

The point of this entire line of inquiry is not only to point out how amazing and resilient we are as a species , but to make a point about the game of golf itself. From the first tee to the final green, we are conducting an exercise in recovery and adaptation. We might think more idealistically on number one, but we will still spend the whole day adapting and recovering. It is a metaphor for all those trials brought by change, a kinder metaphor than hospital stays, businesses gone bad, or relationship difficulties.

Much is lost, “but much abides,” to paraphrase the bard. I will find a way to get those old muscles moving, stomachs will smooth out, Pettersen will win again, and even if all the problems haven’t been eliminated, Tiger will persist. We will all persist in the life lesson we call golf. In the end, we are all ‘wonderfully pugnacious.’

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