I'll Live in the Moment if It Kills Me

I am a golfer.

I am a very bad golfer.

Every time I pick up a club, I’m not quite sure that I’ve ever held one in my hand before, the game seems totally unfamiliar, the rules are blurred, and every time I look down at that little white golf ball perched on top of a hand-me-down tee, it wears the face of a sworn enemy.

Fairways are foreign to me. I obviously prefer the creeks and ponds, and I am on a first-name basis with almost every tree on the course. All golf has done for me is broaden my vocabulary. I now utter words that, in an earlier life, I didn’t even know.

I believe that anyone who buys a sand wedge is cursed.

I believe that anyone who carries a sand wedge is beyond all hope.

I believe that anyone who has the audacity to use a sand wedge should be shot and put out of his misery. They shoot horses, don’t they?

If I am playing a par 4 hole and am within shouting distance of the green after four shots, I feel that I have a chance a make a pretty good score. If I lose the ball in the woods and find another, I never penalize myself a stroke. I just play the ball that God left on the ground for me to stumble across. It is the one sign that He still loves me.

I am forever reminded of the radio sportscaster who interviewed Ted Williams and Sam Snead during the prime of their playing careers. He asked them both the same question: “Which sport is the most difficult to play? Baseball? Or professional golf?

Ted Williams, the splendid splinter, spoke up first. He said, “Well, it has to be baseball. In baseball, you have to hit a round ball with a round bat while the ball is coming toward you at ninety miles an hour or faster.”

Sam Snead grinned.

He cocked his head to one side and said, “Yeah, but in golf, if you hit a foul ball, you have to go out an play it.”

I know. I play a lot of foul balls.

The legendary Sam Snead

I often wonder about how the game of golf was even invented. What would you do if you were sitting around in a Scottish bar some afternoon, throwing down one pint after another, and some fool came running up and yelling, “I’ve got an idea for a new game.”

“What is it?”

“Well, let’s go out in the pasture behind some farmer’s house, dig a little round hole in the ground, back up about four hundred yards or so, then charge a hundred dollars for every bloke who wants to grab a wooden club, hit a little old ball, and see if he can find the hole we dug.”

You and your friends would all draw the same conclusion.

He’s mad.

He’s drunk.

He’s touched in the head.

Too much sun.

Too little beer.

Here, have a drink. We would have all been so much better off if he had just thrown away his shovel, sat down, and had a little beer.

In reality, I play golf because my wife plays golf. She doesn’t hit the ball far. She hits it straight down the middle. We tee off, then head off in different directions. She’s somewhere out in the short grass, and I’m hitting off roots, rocks, and an occasional stand of poison ivy. If we do happen to meet again at the green, it’s been a right good hole.

We were out late this last week on Hideaway’s East Course, and I had swung a nine iron, topped the ball, and sent a screaming worm burner straight into the sand trap.

I didn’t curse.

I didn’t throw a club.

But I was seething inside, and my wife knew it.

“If you want to play better,” she said, “you need to read Bert Carson’s book.”

“Which book?”

Fourth and Forever.”

“Bert doesn’t play golf,” I said. “He runs. He’s a marathon man.”

“But the book is about living in the moment,” she said undaunted. “You can’t worry about yesterday. It’s gone. Can’t change it if you wanted to. And don’t even think about tomorrow. You can’t do anything about it until it gets here.”

“So what does that have to do with golf?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about your last shot,” she said. “You can’t hit it again. You can’t do it over. And quit fretting about your next shot. You haven’t hit it yet. You don’t know whether it’s going straight or not. So don’t worry about it. Just be glad you’re here in the moment. Blue sky. Bright sunshine. It’s a perfect day even if your shots aren’t.”

She smiled.

I nodded.

She hit down the fairway.

And I stood on the tee box trying my dead level best to live in the glory of the moment. She was right. It was a beautiful day. It was a perfect day. At least, it was until I swung the club, felt a sickening crack, and watched the ball disappear into the thick underbrush of a pine forest behind the blackberry briars.

And I knew at last why Bert Carson could write such deep, meaningful philosophy in such an entertaining book about war, football, and the American way.

It was easy for him to live in the moment.

He was a runner.

Bert Carson doesn’t play golf.



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