Giving thanks for a game like no other in a year like no other

On the oddest Thanksgiving any of us have ever seen, some people might have trouble finding reasons to give thanks after eight months of turmoil.

But not this grateful golfer. I am thankful for far more than eagles and birdies.

First and foremost, I simply am thankful for the opportunity to have played our great game for nearly 58 years.

I still recall that first shot, a 7-iron on the par-3 course that has been gone for years. I hit it OK, but it didn’t land on the green. Still, it was so thrilling to finally get out there, at age 8, and hit a regulation shot on a regulation course, albeit one where the longest hole wasn’t even 200 yards. That was the right length for me back then.

I think about that day often. I hit a lot of bad shots, but I had fun. Oh, how I had fun. I was hooked for life. Right there.

I am thankful for the way golf has rebounded during the pandemic. Courses have done a great job of adapting by removing items that could spread infection, but we were perfectly positioned as a sport you can play at a time like this.

It needs to be outdoors. Check.

It needs to allow for physical distancing. Check.

It needs to be in small groups. Check.

Even one of our new rules was timed just right. Before the last couple of years, leaving the flagstick in the hole would have seemed so strange. The first thing you did when everyone reached the green was take out the pin. Now, you can’t touch it – and the new rule makes that just fine.

I am thankful for one my one eagle this year. What a shot that was, that 3-wood that ducked under the tree and screamed toward the hole, hitting the flagstick hard and stopping next to the hole.

It was that kind of day for me. I shot 75 – best round of the year – and felt dialed in all day. There’s nothing quite like that feeling when you finish a great round and can savor some huge victories over the golf course.

I am thankful for each and every one of my 17 birdies this year. I played 28 rounds. I wish the birdie total was in the 20s – at least. I know exactly why it wasn’t: Too often, I am satisfied with a routine par. Scratch handicaps don’t think that way. Par is acceptable to them, but birdies are where it’s at. I need to change putters and change my thinking.

I am thankful, believe it or not, for my 27 holes this year in which I made triple bogey or worse. Almost one per round … yikes! It sure would be nice to flip that total with my birdie count in 2021.

But every blowup hole is a learning experience. If you can’t accept making a big number once in awhile, you shouldn’t be playing golf.

Sometimes, you’re going to hit it sideways.

Sometimes, you’re going to have bad luck.

And, most of the time, your terrible triple is going to be capped off with a three-putt. Count on it. Ever notice how people who chip and putt well rarely make worse than bogey? The correlation couldn’t be more direct.

Finally, I am thankful to know people who feel as strongly about golf as I do. It is a privilege to play alongside them. I look forward to it every time. They do, too. We walk down the fairway and tell each other, “What a day!” We laugh. We joke. We cheer each other on. There is nothing quite like it.

Most other sports don’t have what we have for one simple reason: Their happiness with their game that day depends on defeating their opponent.

Maybe golf is that way for you, too, but it doesn’t have to be. See if you get more joy out of just playing the golf course rather than trying to take five bucks from your friend. If you need that $5 Nassau to spice it up, fine. But don’t let it detract from the overall experience.

And after every round, no matter whether you played well or poorly, be thankful for what you just experienced. We have a good thing here. No amount of turmoil can change that.      

Leave a Reply