Golf-free summer: Dreaming of the real thing

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sept. 3, 2009

Dear Patty,

The summer almost gone seems as if it hardly was here. Someone turned the heat down. DC and I have cooled the house with only window fans instead of air conditioners, we've pitied kids shivering through 8 a.m. swimming lessons and we've blamed the balminess in part for my garden's limp harvest.

Our dogs Hank and Lucy certainly like these days and these nights already dropping into the 50s. Hank, robbed by age of his muscular build, snorts in the morning air and runs around the yard the way he did in his prime. Plump and arthritic, Lucy still moves slowly except when Hank leaves his food bowl unguarded.

DC laments that her tomatoes never reddened. In her view, any divergence from normal could be another sign of global warming, and certainly green tomatoes could be one of them. I could try to reassure her that one cool summer isn't necessarily the end of the world, but disasters are a few of DC's favorite things. I wouldn't want to spread sunshine on her sense of dread.

I would dread another mostly golf-free summer, this one caused by an injury. I read golf books and watched major tournaments on TV, but the sparkle of dew on your shoes, the smell of just-mown grass and the parabolic arc of a well-struck golf ball are a few of the pleasures only the experience of playing holds.

The course I often play has been closed for renovation most of the summer anyway. During normal summers, one of my pleasures is going to the course before sundown and playing just the first three holes. Usually the only golfers remaining on the course are finishing their rounds. I can play two balls and take my time.

The first hole requires a drive over a small lake followed by a shot to a green far above. Few local golfers have the ability to stop their second shot on the green because the elevation is considerable and the depth of the green is not. I am not one of those few, but the challenge keeps me trying.

The second tee box waits at the end of a walk through a canopy of trees up a steep hill that always leaves me a bit winded. The tee shot rides into the sunset and drops like a waterfall into a little valley.

I just try to keep the ball in the fairway all the way to the green. By now the sun is dipping into the horizon. Birds in the trees surrounding the fairway are making good night sounds. On the green I putt from all corners until darkness begins quieting the birds.

A worker has already driven around a cart collecting all the flags, so the cup on the third hole is impossible to see from 160 yards away. It doesn't matter. My friend Rick made a hole-in-one here one morning, but none of our middle-aged eyes actually got to see the ball go in the hole.

I simply aim for the middle of the green, make a few final putts and shoulder my bag for the short walk to my car. Evening has come, and whatever might not be right with the world has been forgotten.

So it hasn't been a normal summer. A little abnormality can make you realize how good normal can be.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.

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