Way Above Par
One afternoon I had the chance to meet a couple of friends on the course for a quick nine. We were paired together for a scramble at our church the next weekend and we admittedly needed the practice.
As I was driving to meet them, I started reflecting on my marriage. After seven years, we had become too predictable. No itches mind you, but more than enough rashes and hives from the children.
With the kids, the mortgage, the bills and, of course, the job to pay for all of the above, we had landed in a sand trap.
In college, it seemed like everything enjoyable in life centered around our time together. People always said that we were the ones who lit the fires, but lately it seemed like we had forgotten the matches.
Golf was an escape for us. I'd chase that stupid white ball around a deep green golf course and would never get any better.
My wife drove the electric golf cart, always wearing a shorts-and-tank-top set, dark sunglasses, and a white golf visor. For ten yards in either direction, you could smell the unmistakable scent of cocoa butter. The only reason she went was to get a suntan.
If the truth were known, the only reason I went was to watch her.
One afternoon, she studied my golf swing more intently than ever before. Finally, on the seventeenth hole, she came out with her notion.
"Let me try to hit one."
At first, I thought it was a novel idea. Then I changed my mind. Golf was a man's sport, or so I thought. "You? You can't hit a golf ball. You're a girl."
"Thanks for noticing. Just the same, I think I can lose golf balls as well as you can."
A very true observation.
I handed over my 3-wood and dug the tee into the hard clay at the tee box. Without even a practice swing, she promptly knocked the ball straight down the middle of the fairway.
When we got to our balls, her drive was five yards further than mine. From that day on, she started playing golf.
Some of the best times we shared early in our marriage were on the golf course. We'd go in the mid-morning before the temperature would climb.
The time we spent together laughing and teasing under the sun cemented our relationship. As I pulled into the parking lot outside the clubhouse, I realized how much I missed seeing her on a golf course.
All the guys at church looked forward to playing our annual tournament. Mike and Danny, a couple of fellow church members, were going to play on my team along with a mystery partner.
Hopefully someone who could drive and putt, our collective shortcomings.
Every team invited someone outside our church to play. Sort of a community involvement thing.
What I always found amazing was how all these strangers could hit the cover off the ball and always straight down the middle!
Let's face it, there are more ringers in a church golf tournament than in the children's bell choir.
When I got to the practice green, I saw Danny and his wife, Beth, pulling out Danny's clubs. A second golf bag was resting on the side.
"Whose clubs are those, Danny?" I asked, expecting him to say that next week's mystery golfer was already inside the clubhouse, paying for our tickets.
"Why, they're mine," said Beth as she threw them across her shoulder.
"Yeah, she's my secret weapon today. She tees off from the women's tee box, you know. With her drives, we are guaranteed at least a good one."
I snickered at the thought of a woman playing golf... then I caught a whiff of cocoa butter.
The three of us spent the afternoon chasing balls, hitting horrible iron shots and missing almost every putt.
Danny and Beth didn't care. They enjoyed playing golf together in a way that I suddenly recalled.
It's not the winning but the losing together that matters most.
As we were starting to leave, the conversation came to the tournament. Danny asked, "Well, do you think you can find a fourth player by Saturday?"
"Yeah. Playing this afternoon reminded me of the perfect partner."
I came home to find my wife in the kitchen. She smiled and asked, "Did you play well?"
"Nope. Just as hopeless as usual."
"How did the others play?"
"Hopeless as well. We need a fourth player for the tournament and I think I found one."
She looked up at me with those bright eyes and asked, "Really, who?"
Surprise grew across her face. "Me? I haven't played golf in years. I can't help you win."
"Can't help us lose either. But it sure would be nice to see you out there again."
That next Saturday, the four of us played golf on perhaps the most beautiful spring day that I can recall.
We laughed and teased all over the course as shot after shot missed the mark.
On the last hole, we finished with a score of 79, seven shots above par, buried deep in last place.
Afterward, the awards were handed out and we got the prize for having the roughest day, a kind way to say we lost.
Each of us received a sleeve of shiny pink golf balls for our hard day's work.
On the way back to our table, I put my arm around my wife's waist and whispered to all four of us, "These guys just haven't figured out who really won..."
Have a great day!