by Ed Arnold
My grandfather seemed to only watch three things on television, SEC football, Lawrence Welk and golf. I could tolerate two. During Welk segments, I tapped putts through the shag carpet to the mouth of one of Mema’s drinking glasses. I’ve probably never putted with more accuracy or dedication than when I was trying to avoid the grotesquely saccharin sounds of the Lennon sisters.
It never amounted to anything. I spent my teenage years believing that golf was something for those with too much money and too much time on their hands. I had big important things to do. Mostly writing crappy poetry and dying my hair colors that got me searched at airports. I had to grow into something approximating an adult to appreciate the game.
Golf has entangled and pissed off millions for generations. The modern game is traced back to fifteenth century Scotland but the true origins are murkier than muni water hazards.
Golf is based on the Roman game of paganica. Or some crooked stick and leather ball game played in the eleventh century played by the dutch. Or maybe on the eighth century Chinese game Chiwan. No one really knows and most duffers don’t care. We just know it feels old.
Here begin the contradictions. Despite its age, golf is also the most technologically advanced of sports. New balls and clubs made from materials only recently limited to space exploration bubble up as often as fad diets.
Golf teaches patience, honesty and the strategic value of high, dry ground, all the while pressing you into sand pits, rushed shots and a desire to lie like drunken fishermen. When you play, you play against everyone and no one. Golf gives you everything you need to know to live a good life, yet it offers no real advice other than to “shoot straight.”
By the time my friend Scott forced me to developed a love for golf, Grandpa Pop had been gone for nearly a decade. I never played with him but I’ve never really played a hole without him either.
He rides in the cart, keeps score and reminds me to not try to kill the damn ball every time I stick a wooden tee in the grass. I can imagine him more clearly when I play than any other time.
Now I take Pop’s great granddaughter with me. My play has chased off all but those who truly love me. I’m lucky to share it with her and to share her with the game. If Pop is anywhere, he’s with us when play.
Ed is the genius behind the People I Know project. Every few weeks, he sits down for an interview with someone he knows. “It’s a podcast. People talk, you listen. We try to keep it snappy.”
You can read his blog, Talking to Nobody,on Tumblr.