By Jerry Wynn of St. Paul
My name is Jerry and I am an addict. Not the type that drinks in excess, or is hooked on pills; rather, I am addicted to the game of golf. We have a history that began over 60 years ago.
I was introduced to golf when my father brought home several clubs that were shortened, regripped to my length. The ball was plastic, and had holes in it, a whiffle golf ball, and could only travel about 50 feet, which was fortunate as the yard was only about 100 feet long. It wasn’t long after, to the chagrin of our neighbors, that I began using regular golf balls.
The first time on a regulation golf course was a nine hole course in my hometown of Wadena, playing with my father. It was a slow endeavor. When I did hit the ball, it would travel only a few yards. By the time that summer was over, I was able to play without being an anchor slowing us down. The scoring was not important, I looked forward to those times on the course with Dad.
In my early teens, my love for golf turned into an obsession. Each weekday, my father left me off at 8 a.m. at the golf course, and picked me up at 5 p.m. after work. We were monitored by Stella, the clubhouse attendant. She was strict and watched over us, but had a heart of gold. My friends and I were a bit on the precocious side, but found out early on, what happened at the golf course, stayed at the golf course.
Each summer for the next two years, my formative teen years were spent at the course. The typical day was playing twenty-seven to thirty-six holes. Pars and the occasional birdie became the norm rather than the exception.
My high school years were a bit tumultuous, but spring golf kept me focused. I knew that without adequate grades I would be unable to participate in the sport I had grown to love.
My golf clubs became necessary baggage after I graduated from high school. I took them to the state of Washington where I completed my freshman year of college. My sophomore year at Southwest State in Marshall. I was able to make the golf team. The highlight of that experience was not on the course, rather, as we headed to a golf tournament in Bemidji, we stopped at my home for a lunch prepared by my mother. I don’t know if mom and dad ever realized how proud I was to have the team and the coach meet them.
My studies were interrupted by Uncle Sam requesting assistance. My clubs were not allowed in basic training or AIT, but when orders directed me to Thailand, the clubs were quickly sent at my request.
The heat of Thailand was extreme, but the views and unexpected monkeys running across the fairways made it worthwhile. The most interesting aspect of golf at the course I played was the holes with water hazards. The water was surrounded by a half dozen “dek deks” (young children) who would dive in and retrieve any ball hit in the hazard. For a paltry sum of “ha baht” (25 cents) they would return the ball. Unfortunately the children surrounding the water often affected the shot because of the fear I might hit one.
On July 2, 1976, I wed the love of my life. For the next 30 years, golf played second fiddle to life, birthdays, family gatherings, and watching my children’s sporting events. Golf stayed in the back of my mind because of the joy of watching our children excel in their sports.
The other impediment to increasing the frequency of my golf after the children completed their college education was my employment, as it took up 55 to 60 hours of the week. I was able to play once a weekend for the past three decades. I am now looking forward to retirement in the next year or two.
I anticipate that golf again will take a more prominent role in my schedule, but not the playing aspect. Over the years I have been fortunate to have accumulated 14 grandchildren. Seven have already begun to hit balls at the driving range, albeit infrequently. Three of those have played their first round of golf with me.
In retirement I plan to give them a gift, sharing my love of golf with them. Teaching them the rules and fundamentals, but also the etiquette. In addition to the game itself, the breathtaking beauty is something that can be enjoyed by them even when the game does not cooperate.
The game is a microcosm of life. In golf, as in life, when you make an error you must face it intelligently. Taking chances can lead to more problems and frustration.
There will be a time when the game of golf passes me by, when my physical health impedes my strength to the point I am unable to swing. When that day comes, and it surely will, I will do as I have done so often.
When I have difficulty sleeping counting sheep is not the technique I use. Rather I play a round of golf in my mind, at my favorite golf course, just as if I was there. I step up to the first tee, place the tee in the ground with ball on top. Step away from the ball, take a practice swing, then place my feet, and swing smoothly, the ball flies long to the middle of the fairway. I then envision walking to the ball and completing the second shot...finally putting into the hole. Then I proceed to the second hole, third hole, etc.
Golf is the perfect game, as once you fall in love with it, you can play it to the very end, even if it us just in your mind.