My mother and father both played golf, often with one another. When they did, my mother would often beat my father, driving him crazy. In her life, my diminutive mom probably never hit a ball further than 150 yards; however, she always was in the fairway and seldom had more than a single chip and putt on any hole. On the other hand, my dad would drive the ball 240 yards, would be close to or on the green in two strokes but then would three-putt. Their games together made him sputter, curse and led him to adopt the martini as his favorite drink.
When I was twelve, my mother insisted that I take up golf and arranged for lessons at a local country club. I well remember the pro’s smooth, effortless swing and how the ball would sail through the air. I also recall my frustration as I tried to emulate said swing, as my ball would hook left or slice right. It was then I began to think that golf was not the game for me.
After high school I gave my clubs to my nephew and gave up on the game. Thirty years later I realized that, for business and personal reasons, I needed to play golf. I was then working as the Executive Director of the Florida Wood Council and as such would attend council and other meetings, where often I would be left on my own when everyone else played golf. On the personal side, I had the same problem; my buddies were all playing and I was the odd man out.
A good friend moved close by and we decided to take up the game together. He had his dad’s old set of clubs and, since his wife was tall and had a man’s set of sticks, loaned me her clubs. About three afternoons a week we began frequenting a driving range and a nine-hole par three course not far from our homes. After a while, I felt confident enough to play real courses and eventually I began to play at industry events and with Florida Wood Council and FBMA members and friends.
It was a golf match on a chilly day during a Florida Wood Council meeting at White Oak Plantation that I began to develop a reputation for weird things happening to me on the golf course. I was playing in a foursome that included Ed Dietrich and Scott Whiddon. The signature hole at White Oak has an elevated green with a pond immediately in front of the green. A miracle, I was on the green in two and putting for a birdie. Slowly, as I aligned my putt, I backed away from my ball; suddenly, I realized that I had stepped into the pond. My first thought was that my shoes were going to get wet; my next was that my hair was going to get wet. The pond was fifteen feet deep where I backed in. Luckily, before I was completely underwater, I managed to catch myself with my elbows, so just my shoulders and head were above water. Since I had made a straight down and silent entry into the water, at first my partners didn’t realize what had happened. When they did, trying not to laugh, they pulled me out, bundled me up and rushed me back to the cottage where we were staying so I could change into dry clothes. And no, I did not make the putt.
One afternoon upon returning from playing eighteen holes, I found my wife Terri, who encouraged me to take up golf and was delighted that I did so, in tears from the frustration of spending a day waiting for me to return. Recalling how my mother and father had enjoyed playing together, the next week I surprised her with a set of clubs and lessons. Well as Yogi Berra said, “It’s dejavu all over again.” My diminutive wife, like my mother, doesn’t necessarily hit the ball far but she hits it straight and her chipping and putting is getting good. If I didn’t carry a “lip-wedge” in my bag, she would probably beat me soundly and often.
Not the challenge of the game but the desire to be with my friends and association members compelled me to take up golf. Later wanting to spend time with Terri prompted me to buy her clubs and arrange for golf lessons. Not just the building supply industry but life itself is about relationships. Spending time with others is essential to our business and personal success and well-being. Even in tough times, carving out time to do so is not a luxury but a necessity. So, get out of the office or house, play golf, take someone to lunch or buy your wife dinner; the time spent building relationships is far more important than that consumed by worry and busy-work.