Sunday, May 29, 2005

Oh, its so TRUE!

Eleanor kindly sent me this:
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18 Round Holes and a Square Peg

By John Kelly (of the Washinton Post)

It is hard to expect much sympathy for badly sunburned legs when
you got them while playing in the Washington Post employee golf
tournament.

So I pretended to be stoic last week. When My Lovely Wife remarked
that my shanks were red, I just smiled and said, "It's not too bad."

I mean, what can I say? "Oooh, feel sorry for me. I spent an entire
workday reveling in the cloudless sky, cracking jokes with my
friends, playing a silly game, interrupting the game only long enough
to purchase chilled, alcoholic beverages from a girl driving a golf
cart. Then I won a door prize."

No, I can't say that.

The thing is, I'm not even a golfer. I don't know what I am. There
are different categories of golfer -- hacker, duffer -- that take
into account various degrees of mediocrity. I aspire to dufferdom or
at least to not being a danger to those around me.

I picked up the sport two years ago, prodded by my friend Craig,
who even bought me a subscription to Golf Digest (foul temptress!).
Golf looked like fun, and it seemed like the sort of skill I should
be able to acquire. I can do things that involve coordinating my arms
and legs: drive a manual-transmission car, play the drums, drink a
beer while walking and talking on a cordless phone.

So I took some lessons, the main legacy of which are the
grotesquely oversize grips the instructor insisted I needed to have
put on my bargain-basement clubs. I would like to blame the grips for
my awful swing, which is less a golf swing and more of a golf lurch ,
a ramshackle thing that looks like junk falling down from a closet
shelf.

But it's not the grips. The truth is I just stink. When I'm teeing
off, I'm capable of putting a golf ball places you'd never imagine it
could go. I will warn fellow players to move behind me, and they will
laugh as if I am making a joke.

They seldom make the same mistake twice, since my drive only
occasionally involves the club face cleanly striking the ball. (Golf
is a very anthropomorphic game. The club has a "head," a "face," a
"heel," a "toe," a "thorax" and an "occipital bone.")

I occasionally feel comfortable during my practice swings and have
even been known to breeze through the empty grass with a satisfying
shwish . But when it comes time to address the actual ball, whatever
comfort I feel evaporates. I see my shadow and can tell just by
looking at it that I'm crummy. I try to recite in my mind all the
things I'm supposed to remember: keep my left arm straight, keep my
wrists loose, keep my legs above the ball, picture an imaginary
parallelogram intersecting my thorax and my occipital bone.

And whatever I do, KEEP MY HEAD DOWN!

Then there's the math involved. I majored in English and married
someone who can balance a checkbook so I would never again have to
deal with numbers. But golf is full of them. Not only is every hole
numbered (from 1 to 18), there are digits scattered all over the golf
course, too, incised on little plaques that look like Claymore mines.
You're supposed to use this information -- how much farther it is to
the hole -- to pick the right club, which is also numbered.

I'm told that the club numbers correspond to how far the ball is
supposed to go when hit, though I've seen no proof of that. And I
think I might be more comfortable if instead of numbers the clubs
were lettered (consonants for irons and vowels for woods) or named
after figures in literature: "We're about 120 yards from the pin. You
gonna use a Winston Smith or a Willy Loman?"

Why is it so hard for me? It's amazing the people you see playing
golf successfully: pregnant women, fat men, old men pulling carts
with one hand and oxygen tanks with the other. They have odd, compact
swings made necessary by their girth or their catheters, and yet the
ball goes straight. It might be short, but it's straight, one of the
four possibilities that exist for every golf drive:

a) long and straight

b) short and straight

c) long and errant

d) short and errant.

I tend toward the errant side of things and consider it a
successful outing if the number of other people's lost balls I find
is equal to or larger than the number I lose.

I'm not a bad putter, legacy of a youth spent trying to time the
windmill just right on the indoor-outdoor carpets of countless
miniature golf courses. But before the putt comes the topped drive
that barely makes it to the ladies' tees, then the flubbed second
shot that wrenches my shoulder, then the slice into the woods, then
the ricochet off the tree, then the poison ivy and the "chip onto the
fairway" (hah!), then the splash, then the second splash. And so on.
. . .

When the ball finally goes in the hole, it's not so much a victory
as a capitulation.

Still, I had a great time at the Post golf tourney, in a foursome
with my friends, lazily driving the cart, getting to wear a really
ugly hat that I bought at a yard sale. And for a door prize, I won a
utility iron with a 22-degree loft. (Whatever that means!)

I can't wait to try it out. As soon as my sunburn heals.

In a recent column about how I receive e-mail from strangers asking
me to update my contact info or join their "network," I mentioned
spam from Nigerian scamsters, Viagra pushers and "bored, lonely
housewives." That last category was meant to refer to dirty Web sites
that promise adulterous introductions with what are, no doubt,
fictitious housewives, and not to actual housewives, from whom I love
to hear.

My e-mail:kellyj@washpost.com.

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