Eli Jameson hopes his kids don’t wind up inheriting his handicap
Frank Sinatra famously sang that he’d had regrets, but that they were “too few to mention”. (One has to wonder what those regrets would have been: Letting Peter Lawford into the Rat Pack? Cozying up to the Kennedys? The famous “two-dollar whore” remark on his 1974 tour of Australia – if only because it inspired the dreadful The Night We Called it a Day?)
Personally, I try to live much of my life by Sinatra’s credo. Sure, I don’t punch out blackjack dealers (much), can’t stomach Jack Daniel’s, and my wife isn’t named Nancy. But I do believe that it’s good to keep the regrets of one’s life to a minimum. Looking back on my life, however, there is one thing I would have done differently.
I would have learned to play golf when I was much, much younger.
In fact, I grew up overseas, in a city where golf courses were pretty inaccessible except to those who had the money for a pricey membership, the time and fanaticism required to camp out for a tee time at a public course, or both. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and was living in a golf-mad town that I finally picked up a club, when some mates announced they were going to the driving range after Sunday brunch. Having nothing better to do on a hot summer afternoon, I asked if I could tag along.
To make a long story short, I was hooked two minutes after first picking up a club. (I sliced thirty seconds after picking up a club, but that’s another story). My friends put a 9-iron in my hands, gave me a bucket of balls, some basic tips on set-up, stance, and swing, and I was off. The memory is hazy, but I know that only about half of my first dozen swings even came close to connecting with the ball, and those that did saw shots skitter wildly across a 120-degree field of fire that managed to include the course’s first fairway.
Then it happened: the one magic shot that took off high and straight, describing a parabola, before settling down to earth with a satisfying thup and little puff of dust, a la Wile E. Coyote when he has one of his unfortunate run-ins with gravity. Like the caveman at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey who discovers the power of an old bone as a club, I had discovered the power of the 9-iron as, well, a club. The following day I went into the office, ordered up a set of clubs off the Internet, and pestered my friends to take me out on the course the following week. (In a tremendous dose of beginner’s luck, my very first shot on my very first hole – a par-3 – was a 5-iron that landed nicely on the green. Everything about both me and my game has gone downhill since.)
And that’s the problem: I will never get to be really, really good at golf. Breaking 90 is a pipe-dream. Perhaps if I were a natural-born athlete who’d done sporty stuff his entire life, I could have adapted my other skill sets to fit the game, but there’s really no chance of that happening at this point.
That’s why I’m determined that I won’t make the same mistake with my kids. I’m going to do whatever it takes to be the Earl Woods of the Southern Hemisphere. I’m going to turn my offspring into stone-cold golf nuts with negative handicaps by the time they turn 18 and have the world wondering when they will take the US PGA by storm. And as their manager, I’ll never have to worry about how my super is doing again.
OK, maybe that’s a bit much. Still, though, I hope they decide to gather their rosebuds – or work on their mid-irons – while they may. I guess it’s a case of another aphorism that I first came across in a Tiger Woods book about golf strategy: Never make the same mistake twice.
Or something like that.