Memorial Day has passed, which means that here in
sunny warm rainy cold highly variable New England, summertime is getting underway. And summer getting underway means two things in this household: horseback riding, and golf. The Wonder Horse is still in a rehab program from the last time he bunged up his leg and went lame, that time as a direct consequence of getting all pissy because Some Other Horse was getting to Go Back Into The Barn first. Before him. And, as you may be able to guess, this is Simply Unacceptable and Complaints Will Be Made. Unfortunately, as it turned out for him, Making Complaints by kicking the hell out of his paddock gate was not very effective at Making Changes Around Here, and meanwhile, he managed to injure his tendon sheath. I’m torn between two platitudes from my youth: It never rains but it pours, and My God, it just never ends.
When you see horse people making jokes about wanting to roll their horses up in bubble wrap to keep them from getting injured, this is the kind of thing they mean. Huey usually settles for connective tissue damage that makes him lame, although he did take a brief excursion away from Leg Injury Land when he got into the Face-Biting Fight and got himself cellulitis this winter. I think I’ll go with My God, it just never ends.
In any event, riding is more about physical therapy and less about the Waaa-Hooo! stuff that horse girls dream about when they’re little and not personally responsible for vet bills.
All the excitement in the house these days is coming from that most-hated of all sports, ever: Golf.
Roy and I got a bunch of lessons last year, and things are improving. They’re improving at the same rate that glaciers get made, but progress – if you look carefully – is discernible. Roy is probably doing marginally better than I am, because he had fewer problems to start with. Mostly, I think, he just needs to settle down and focus instead of panicking when he sees that tiny white pimpled orb laughing up at him from the grass.
I had one of the several Truly Devastating Golf Curses: short hitting. Or, as I said, I can hit a ball 100 yards with any club in my bag. Which was awesome, except that I couldn’t hit a ball more than 100 yards with any club in my bag. Given that your par 5 holes on a course have a green that can be 400 yards away from the tee, this is a huge problem.
Also, it’s demoralizing to go to the driving range and be tinking one ball after another between the first and second flags, while everyone else, even the little kids, seems to be clocking them right out into the back of the range. The person next to me could be 10 years old, an 85 year old granny, a middle-aged guy with plumber’s crack, a college girl out for the first time with her boyfriend trying to teach her to hit, or a giggling 6 year old with a kiddie club, and still, they’re hitting Wham Wham Wham Wham, and I’m hitting tink tink tink tink.
My golf lessons haven’t been about hitting the ball farther, they’ve been about hitting the ball up in the air. I do understand that whole thing with friction, and the effect that bouncing has on speed, and I do get it that hitting the ball farther requires it to be up in the air first. I get that. And things are progressing on that front.
Roy always tells me how “great” my swing looks. I can’t tell you how much worse it makes it when I tink the ball 50 yards with my 5 iron and then have Roy yell over “But your swing looks great!!” from some nearby tee. If my swing were great I wouldn’t be tinking the ball 50 yards. I’d be sending that sucker into the next zip code. I’m always at a loss how to respond to this. I’m certainly not going to say “Thanks!” for an entirely bogus compliment. I’m not one of your gold-star babies that needs praise for trying. In my world, it’s do or do not – there is no “try”. Nor does it seem quite the thing to snarl “SHUT UP YOU LYING DOG” through clenched teeth, which is usually my first impulse. Nor can I just pretend I didn’t hear it, because then he’ll just say it again and louder, and what happens next is that he’s attracted the attention of the Golf Gods.
The last thing I want is the attention of the Golf Gods. Lady Luck has nothing on the Golf Gods for capriciousness. They are jealous, these Golf Gods, and respond very poorly to praise delivered to anyone but them on the golf course, and what they do when that happens is that they fling down a Golf Curse like a thunderbolt. This isn’t the same kind of Golf Curse that can be heard being uttered on any hole with a significant water hazard. While it is cursing, it’s not A Curse. And Golf Curses are the worst. Just ask Tiger Woods. I don’t know what he did to anger the Golf Gods, but when he missed a 5-foot putt and lost his own golf tournament last winter, I knew. Any golfer who saw the start to Tiger’s season this year knows. He got a Golf Curse. Probably made the hideous mistake of expressing satisfaction aloud over one of his own drives. Or – because the Golf Gods are super capricious – it might not even have been him that angered them and got the Golf Curse. It could have been a buddy of his who said something stupid like “Tiger, you’re going to have your best season ever!” That kind of thing definitely gets the attention of the Golf Gods, and if there’s enough hubris in the statement, the Golf Curse could be something really bad. And long term. Like it obviously was for Tiger.
I know this. I know this because I’ve recently had a visit from the Golf Gods, in spite of my best efforts to remain completely off their radar. Two weeks ago, I went to the driving range, expecting to have yet another dispiriting session of tink. tink. tink. while the pre-teen on the next mat waled her entire bucket of balls into another time zone.
Unfortunately, at my last golf lesson, Roy spent at least five minutes telling me how great my swing looked, which attracted the attention of the Golf Gods, and they put a truly terrible Golf Curse on me.
When I got to the range and settled in with my basket of balls, I received the surprise of my life: I could not hit a bad shot. I wasn’t sending my balls into orbit, but every one of them was shooting out high and far and straight. Every one. Nine out of ten balls I hit were beautiful shots. 90% of my shots were – for me – great.
Now, any golfer reading this will be having the same response I did: Wait, 90%? What? That never happens!!! That’s amazing.
And it was.
And a lot of golfers will be having the other response I did: Oh, no. Please, no. tink tink tink was better than this.
Because I knew. There is no way in hell that I was hitting 90% awesome shots, not without some kind of supernatural intervention. The only other viable alternative is that I was using my entire quota of good shots for the season, and wasting them all on the driving range.
I don’t know which alternative was worse. I mean, I don’t want to use my entire quota of good shots all at once, and not on the driving range either. But the worse option, I think, was that the Golf Gods were involved.
My stepson offered a third alternative later that evening: maybe I’d had a breakthrough from the lessons.
Could be, I said. Could be.
So I waited a day or two and went back to the driving range, and while it wasn’t 90% of the shots being awesome, it was definitely 80% of them.
So I thought, maybe, breakthrough. That would rock.
I called Roy, who was out of town, and told him that I might possibly have had a breakthrough. And shared with him my tremendous success rate at the range. Foolishly, I was happy.
Several days later, it happened. Roy and I went out to the range, and he said “We should play a round soon! You’re really going to be kicking the course now!”
And I knew. I broke out in a cold sweat and told him to take that back. RIGHT NOW, TAKE IT BACK.
Alas, it was too late, as I knew well it would be.
On that trip to the range, out of an entire small bucket of balls, I hit three (3) acceptable shots. For a success rate of, what, 5%? It was a disaster. I couldn’t hit to save my life. I knew it wasn’t a good thing that I was suddenly able to hit great.
This is the worst Golf Curse I’ve ever received. It would have been bad enough if I’d just been turned into a more mediocre version of my previous self. That would have been torment. But hitting like I had been was like drinking the nectar of the gods, it was like touching the gates of heaven. The agony of being suddenly turned into a profoundly lousy hitter, instead of simply a mediocre one, was magnified exponentially for having seen the holy grail. How much greater the anguish and woe of the fall from that pinnacle of glory than if I’d simply dropped down a single level. It has been torture.
I’ve got another lesson lined up, and I know already when I relate this absolutely devastating course of events to the golf pro, he’s doing to peer out from the brim of his cap and say “Yep, that’s golf for you.”
Because it is. You can run, but you cannot hide. The Golf Gods will find you, and their wrath and vengeance will destroy you. The only way to avoid it is not to play at all, and we can’t be having with that, can we?