Golf is unique in that it can be played for a lifetime in a variety of ways — recreationally, socially or competitively. It doesn’t matter when a player has been introduced to the game they will often continuing playing until they no longer can’t. Maybe it’s an injury sending one to the clubhouse. It could be due to job constraints or family obligations. For professional players it might be the result of deteriorating performance. Death is certainly the ultimate play stopper.
The question is how do you know when to walk away or on the flipside, what keeps you in the game? Golf’s allure is magical. Once it gets your attention it’s tough to leave.
Two recent decisions by professional players illustrate opposite ends of the spectrum. Granted the majority of us don’t play the game for a living. Yet it’s interesting to look two recent events affecting two players neither one you might consider a household name.
I’ll start with a past Masters champion, Mike Weir. The diminutive Canadian lefthander issued a statement a week ago that he is taking a leave of absence from the game. Yes, this is an opportunity to poke fun at the situation (Geez Mike, I thought that’s been going on for awhile…). However anyone that follows golf knows Weir had the potential to be “one of those guys”. Injuries didn’t help since the green jacket found it’s way to Weir’s closet. He has struggled mightily the past several seasons and ultimately it looks like the exit door opened. He says he’ll be back but in this sport you never know.
Contrast this story with a journeyman professional that recently stepped into the spotlight at the Senior Open Championship. Marco Dawson, a fifty-plus non winner on the regular tour fought the elements in Britain to capture a major on the Champions Tour. You could say if anyone had reason to walk away from golf, Marco did. Yet in the final group on Sunday with Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer, Dawson outplayed the dynamic twosome to grab his major. His play was unexpected and inspiring. Imagine if a few years earlier he had decided to call it a career.
Professional golf never offers any guarantees, doesn’t play favorites and only recognizes the lowest scores not caring which name is attached. Week to week you may see the same assortment of names gracing leader boards but over the years those names change and some vanish into the void. Remember the promise of Anthony Kim, Trevor Immelman, Lucas Glover or Geoff Ogilvy? After stuffing their major championship trophies in their back pockets these days if you see them at all they’re likely to have their heads down with hands in their front pockets wondering where the magic went. Such is the nature of an individual sport. To stay on top you need to perform. Each day is a new game.
Which is exactly why so many of us enjoy the game. Golf provides its players with hope. It wipes the slate clean and when the sun rises to mark a new day the opportunity sits directly in front of a player to grab their clubs. A healthy attitude and looking at holes half full play a big part in enjoying the experience. It’s the same in life.
Here’s hoping that Mike Weir finds his way back to the game healthy and with renewed optimism. He can look at the play of Marco Dawson for inspiration. Dawson never won on the big tour but captured a title on the minor league stage of the current Web.com tour. Yet somewhere in the back of his mind was the belief and expectation that a better day would arrive. Ben Hogan faced the same challenge early in his professional career eating oranges he found along the fairways while competing in California. With little money in his pocket he promised his wife he’d return to Dallas, put his clubs away and get a real job if his scores didn’t produce results. Imagine if had done so? Imagine what he might have done had he not been run over by a Greyhound bus? Golf was his salvation. He looked at each day as a possibility for improvement.
If you play golf you have a fantastic activity to participate in every day. I don’t play every day but I’m usually fidgeting with a club, teaching or coaching, hitting some putts, practice swinging in the house (a no-no) or reading. I wake up each morning looking forward to how golf will afford me chances to add to my day. There is no way I could walk away from it no matter how poor my scores are.
If you’ve walked your last fairway, struck your last shot or holed your final putt my hope is that you’ve gained access to the most heavenly of courses. Should you still be a resident of planet Earth consider coming back. There are plenty of good shots available, lots of birdies out there, tons of great natural settings and a bunch of good stories to be told with friends. The positives far outweigh the negatives. From a professional standpoint, there is one more tournament to win. If you don’t think so, ask Marco Dawson.