Life and golf - are they really the same?

July 03, 2011|By ART CALLAHAM

Count two items as checked off on my own personal “bucket list” over the Father’s Day weekend and the week before.

I attended the U.S. Open golf championship and was “inside the ropes” on four separate days (that’s one) and, by association, I made the cover of Sports Illustrated (that’s two).   

Three years ago, a group from Fountain Head Country Club volunteered at the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Two years ago, this volunteer work consisted of marshaling the 10th hole during the tournament. Marshaling work is considered “inside the ropes” since marshals are, in fact, on the course, up close with the professional golfers and actually inside the golfers’ work space.

There was a contest between marshals to determine which group did the best job during the tournament, and cash prizes were awarded. The Fountain Head marshals won $25,000 as the best group. The entire community benefited from this effort as the cash was divided and given to several local nonprofits.  

Last year, the tournament was moved to Philadelphia while preparations were being made at Congressional for the U.S. Open. The folks at Congressional called and asked Fountain Head if we would like to marshal a hole at the U.S Open. It didn’t take long to make that answer — a resounding yes.

Because of the number of volunteers required by the USGA, the Fountain Head crew was augmented with some local folks as well as a team from Loudoun County (Va.) Golf and Country Club. Our assignment was the 10th hole.

As fate and skill would have it, a young man from Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy, ran away from the field and won the U.S. Open. His picture, on the tee at No. 10 Sunday, in front of 45,000 excited golf fans — being kept quiet by the marshals from Hagerstown and Loudoun County — adorns the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. I was not at the tournament Sunday, but I checked off my bucket list item, staking my claim to fame through association.

So, what are the ties between golf and life?

First, what is golf? Mark Twain said it “is a good walk spoiled.” A walk, not a race. And why is the sport called golf? Some would say that all of the other good “four-letter words” were taken for a sport that is frustrating, at times causing visceral and vocal responses. Others believe golf is an acronym for “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden.” Yet today, men and women, and minorities and majorities of all nations enjoy the game. In fact, from an American’s perspective, the last two “number ones” in the golfing world were foreigners and the one before that was a minority. Just like life, golf is changing.

Golf has only 34 rules; the Bible lists just 10 commandments (or two, depending on the testament); and the U.S. Constitution, including all 27 amendments, is only 17 pages long. In many ways, each set is pretty simple. In golf, players police themselves and seldom does the policing cause a fuss or physical confrontation. Most golfers know and abide by the rules.

Forty-five thousand fans, mostly Americans, watched a foreigner win America’s own national Open and left the grounds in an orderly fashion. No city was burned; no riots occurred; no protesters were arrested — maybe hockey and some political events could learn a lesson.

Life should be enjoyed at a walk and not always at race pace. Life should be equal for all with no exclusions for age, race, religion, sex or national origin. Life shouldn’t end in the physical or mental abuse of others caused by personal frustration. Wouldn’t it be nice if life had few rules and each of us policed ourselves?

Today, I’m thankful for getting to check off two items on my personal bucket list — the opportunities allowed to me because I love golf and life. Tomorrow when I play golf, I’ll think again about a simpler and kinder life.

Art Callaham is a local community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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