Lessons from a Boomer’s (almost) Lifelong Love of Golf
The Teen Years – Other Sports Rule
I grew up the only girl in a sports-minded family. But it was not a golfing family. In my youth, my perception was that golf was played by those who belonged to country clubs. Thinking back I can recall some Dads who played but not any of the Moms.
Another impression I recall: My bewilderment over the fascination of watching televised golf with people hushing other people all the time. To a child, who preferred “action” sports, this was right up there with watching paint dry.
I did play miniature golf and didn’t see the big deal in putting a ball into a hole. And when my brothers and I did venture to the driving range, our style was more about swinging for the fences than anything resembling finesse.
Of the many sports I played and watched, golf didn’t enter into the equation.
The lesson: Never say never
The 20s – Golf Gets its Hooks in Me
Life moves on and things change. To make a long story short: I sustained an injury that ended my participation in any sport that involved running. Home from college one summer my mother arranged for a golf lesson. The talented instructor worked with my coachable, youthful self to compensate for some physical limitations. In no time (or so it seemed), I hit a golf shot that all golfers know: The kind that keeps you coming back. Sweet! All my competitive drives that had been forced into dormancy were awakened. But I didn’t have friends who played the sport so it waited for me and I didn’t forget.
Mid-20s and the first job is building momentum and life seems to be falling into place. I see an ad for a new golf course offering a summer membership at a steal and I was all over it. Lessons, practice, play a few holes in the evening, more lessons, more practice and on it went. I was completely hooked. I was reading golf magazines, watching televised golf, and playing every chance I got.
The lesson: To everything there is a season
The 30s – Not Just a Player Anymore
All that early work on my game had its rewards. I got my handicap down to a 14 within a year, won a set of clubs in a tournament, and met wonderful people that I otherwise would not have met.
In my early 30s I changed career paths and began working in the golf industry. An ad in the paper for the National Golf Foundation seemed like a great fit for me. I learned about the business side of golf. I learned that women comprise only about a quarter of all U.S. golfers. I learned that statistics prove women are not slow players as others would have you believe. And many new doors were opened for me along the way.
One of those opened doors led me to meet Nancy Oliver who was working in golf course marketing with a distinct disadvantage. She didn’t play golf … but she had an idea.
She felt that if she was intimidated to take up the sport alone, other women might feel the same way. And she knew she was missing out on opportunities with business colleagues because she wasn’t out on the course with them. So 20 years ago, she promoted a clinic where women could learn the game together. That clinic led to what is now the EWGA (Executive Women’s Golf Association).
I knew she was on to something and I threw my support into the ring with her. I knew too many women from pre-Title 9 days that hadn’t benefited from sports and lacked the confidence to just dive in. I also knew golf was a sport anyone could play, no matter what physical limitations. I knew it was a sport that could be played all life long. And I knew what a great sport it was for meeting great people, seeing great places and enjoying great experiences. I knew that the sport had given me so much and I wanted others to benefit. I also knew that for many the intimidation factor prevented them from giving it a try. I did what I could to provide support and watched in amazement and with pride as I saw groups springing up all over the country and the ranks of EWGA members continue to grow.
The lesson: You can mix business and pleasure
The 40s – A Deepening Appreciation of Golf
In my early 40s I became employed by the EWGA which at the time had over 12,000 members in about 90 groups in major U.S. cities. If I thought I knew the EWGA before, I was wrong. I learned up close and personal that EWGA members are among the most passionate people I’ve ever met. They are passionate about golf and about their EWGA friends. I have never met people happier to play the game and I never saw a group of people close ranks so quickly around someone in need.
Golf seems to attract the greatest people. What I started witnessing as an employee of the EWGA was stunning. Whenever a member in any city had a problem with a child, a parent or their own health, the entire group rallied round. I’ve seen charity events quickly organized to help one of their own. Dinners delivered to families whose wife/mother was in the hospital. Emails go through the network reflecting the type of caring seldom seen outside of one’s family. Golf is the binding agent for all these great people. They rally around you when you do something great on the course and they rally around you in time of need. Who couldn’t use more of that kind of support?
The lesson: Tend your garden of friends
Mid-50s – Lasting Love of Golf and all its Facets
Life moves on and things change. Colleagues in the industry agree that those who work in golf don’t play as much as they did before. Ironic, isn’t it? In the last decade I had been divorced and was raising my child alone. Playing golf began to take a back burner to other of life’s priorities.
Life, like the game of golf, is a journey. In golf, the course is mapped out for you. In life: not so much. In both, you will have wonderful moments and moments you’d soon forget. Both test your character and your patience. Both put on display for all to see your honesty, humility and humor. My Dad always said golf was the truest display of the makeup of a person. He was right. I like to think that if one is open to learning, they can take much of what golf teaches to live a better life.
I know golf will be waiting for me as life moves on to another season. The swing will be rusty and there will be new aches and pains to accommodate. But golf accepts you as you are. The trick is to be able to accept yourself as you are.
This Baby Boomer wanted to share a personal story to demonstrate the immeasurable value of this wonderful game. It’s a game played between your ears so there is the blissfulness of solitude. And it’s also a game played with and among great people so it’s a social game. Like life, you’ll never quite master it. But it’ll keep you coming back with those sweet shots you’ll never forget and in between you’ll learn patience and perseverance.
And in this day in age where people’s social skills are being reduced to Twittering, I encourage everyone, my fellow boomers and our children especially, to take up golf and develop life skills that will see you through anything life can throw at you.