My friend Bill Moore suggested I write a blog about Matt Kuchar winning the Players Championship. I guess he is as weary as I am of the political chatter. We say what we have to say and they say what they have to say. And neither side is listening. On and on and on…
So let’s talk golf. I have played golf pretty steadily for nearly six decades, and I still find it therapeutic. I can think of no other athletic endeavor that someone my age could participate in with any hope of enjoyment. I will be 80 in a couple of years, and – God willing – you will still see me out there on the golf course, hacking away.
Of course I don’t hit the ball as far as I did. And I certainly don’t score nearly as well as I remember scoring back in the day. But memory can be tricky.
My brother Bill gave me a golf towel for my birthday. It is inscribed: “The older I get the better I was.”
Even with my diminished strength, I can still score an occasional birdie, and a few pars here and there. But that’s not the point. As anyone who plays golf will tell you, it transports you to a different world, in which the anxiety and the frustrations of the workaday world simply do not exist.
I don’t know why golf is so absorbing. Perhaps it is a kind of alternate reality, a replica of life’s experiences in an environment where the stakes are not so high, where – as in a dream – however bad it gets you return to the real world eventually with no harm done.
To professionals like Matt Kuchar, though, golf is the real world.
It can be a wonderful world at times, but it can also be cold and cruel. Kuchar was a brilliant amateur who won the hearts of viewers when he smiled his way through the Masters. But even the U.S. Amateur champ is still an amateur – as Kuchar learned when he turned pro. He failed on the PGA and was demoted to the Nationwide Tour, where he faded into obscurity for a while. But he did not give up.
He went back to the drawing board and found a swing he could could win with. It’s probably not a swing that you or I could copy. Like Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer – and so many others – Kuchar has a swing that works for him but wouldn’t necessarily work for anyone else. For some time, Kuchar has come close to winning and even won a time or two, but it wasn’t until last weekend that he claimed a really big prize.
He battled his way around that mean-spirited PGA course in Jacksonville,older and balder than in his amateur days but smiling still . And he held off the world’s greatest players in an epic display of nerve and grit to win one of golf”s greatest titles. (Photo above shows him celebrating the winning putt).
That’s what golf is all about – triumph over adversity, refusal to give up, the belief, as Lee Trevino expressed it, that “I’ll play better tomorrow.”
Sadly, some golfers never play better tomorrow. David Duval comes to mind. Even Arnold Palmer eventually lost his magic touch.
Which brings us to Tiger Woods.
He may well have lost his magic touch. But it seems he still has a golfer’s heart.
“It’s a work in progress,” he keeps saying, as he shows an occasional spurt of brilliance only to sputter once again.
Kuchar changed his swing and gained a second spring. So did Steve Stricker. A lot of good golfers have done it. It’s possible that Tiger could do the same.
But you never know.
Golf is never predictable. And that is perhaps its greatest charm.
Maybe we’ll play better tomorrow. Maybe not.