Excuse The Digression: When Golf Elevates Life
A few years back, after a mildly-successful team effort from the boys’ varsity golf team that I coach, I was going about my January business and began to reflect on one of my golfers. A relaxed southpaw with a wicked smile, he had narrowly missed qualifying on to the state level of high school competition. The manner in which he did so, as always, was maddening. I had decided, since he was a senior, to pair him with the other top-seeded players. My reasoning was, his career is nearly done, so let’s give him a chance to exeunt as a senior should: at the summit. Back to the maddening part: Colin found a way to miss qualifying by one shot, helped by his playing the par-five holes in five-over par, including a triple-bogey on the 18th. He shot a 79 or an 80, which tells you that he made a few birdies along the way.
After he finished, his wicked smile was joined by a furrowed brow, as he recounted the strokes. “Coach, I appreciate the chance to play number one. I’m sorry I let you down. I couldn’t get the long holes figured out. That’s what did me in.” That’s the gist of the conversation, at least. He knew how close he had come but, in the way that some reflective seniors have, was connecting the dots of the entire experience, coming to the conclusion that the good and the bad were at worst, in balance.
Back to January. After my reflection, I realized that I hadn’t seen Colin in a month or so. I had assumed that hockey had taken up the majority of his time and that my teaching duties had directed us in opposite hallways. It wasn’t until I spoke with his best buddy from the team, also a southpaw, when I realized that the wicked smile hadn’t made an appearance at school for a few weeks. After experiencing noticeable headaches, he had gone to a series of medical establishments where a tumor had been discovered. The lad underwent a rigorous treatment program and fought the beast into remission. He was able to graduate with his class (yep, standing ovation and zero dry eyes) and decided, again in that reflective way, to take a year off from school to regain his strength.
Thanks to the world of social networking, he kept me up to speed as he went off to school last September, to a school famous for its golfing prowess. Colin wasn’t on the team, but he simply desired the exposure to the players and history of the program. It was a decision close to the one that I had made in the early 80s, when I packed up and headed south to another university (Wake Forest) known for its golf program, and about to be discovered for its entire warehouse of opportunities. Unfortunately, one of his status updates revealed that he had come home for a routine scan and would need to stay around these parts for treatment: the beast had returned.
I’ve long participated in rallys for cancer fundraising in our area. I’ve ridden my bike long distances and played 100 holes of golf in one day. My hands can’t heal, but as I told a friend, I have an uncanny ability to separate my monied friends, colleagues and acquaintances (present and future) from their spare cash. Ergo (for you, Jack Duffy, wherever you are), I am about to go bald for bucks on March 19th and will participate in an open-water swim in August (I’m told that the funkiness of the water is the real challenge.)
In the interim, Colin heads to the Roswell Park campus today to find out his next course of treament. He has a support structure in place and has preserved the wicked smile. He is clear-headed, humble and realistic. Other than the par-five holes, he gets the job done, so my prayers and helping hand are being extended outward. Here is a photo of him, along with another of the young daughter of one of my school colleagues. Erin says that “bald is my thing in my family.” She graciously acquiesced (is there another way?) to let me join her as a human chihuahua.
I’ve set a bar for this particular fund-raising effort. My students are chirping me lately, since I’m “only” 60% of the way there. Knowing that these two former rug-rats won’t stop, won’t relinquish their hold on fun, keeps me going, despite the chirps. By the way, the coach of that golifng powerhouse, despite having not met Colin in person, had the entire team sign a team photo. He sent it north to the lad and continues to exchange emails, staying abreast of the young man’s trace. One of the former players, now on the PGA Tour, sent along a signed pair of golfing kicks. I continue to be amazed at the heights to which golf elevates life (cue smiley face and uplifting hash tag.)
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