This bit of holiday gratitude isn’t par for the course

As we contemplate what to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I’ve got one that probably doesn’t come to your mind right away.

I’m thankful for bogeys.

Don’t get me wrong. I despise bogeys. The only way a bogey feels good is if it should have been a double bogey or worse, but you made a great shot or putt to save bogey.

But if you put the bogey in the context of life, it has its place in the Thanksgiving Day parade of gratitude, which for me starts with just getting the opportunity to play our great game.

Imagine if you never made a mistake in life. Every day would be like a birdie – perfect drive, perfect approach, perfect putt, lah-dee-dah.

Would your days be celebrated the way a birdie is? Not for long. You would come to expect perfection.

And could you keep that up? Probably not. You would become complacent because you never had a mistake to learn from. The minute something went sideways, you wouldn’t know what to do.

The bogey is golf’s way of reminding us that we can never stop working at our game and must always be vigilant about just how difficult it is.

It can bite you in so many ways.

The typical bogey starts with a bad drive. Being straight off the tee isn’t the most important shot in golf, but don’t minimize the importance of putting the ball in play. The minute you miss the fairway, especially on a par-4, the Bogey Monster raises its ugly head.

You also face the pressure of making bogey as you try to get the ball on the green. I think that’s why, for years, par-3s bothered me more than fours or fives. You have only one chance to get it on. Put it in a bunker or just miss the green, and you quickly have to deal with the possibility of a bogey.

But the worst bogey of all is when you hit a great shot and have a relatively short putt for birdie. You’re ready to celebrate, and then you ram it a few feet past the hole and miss the putt coming back. That can ruin your round.

I know that the pros are hunting birdies every time they play, but it’s not like that for the rest of us. Unless our game more resembles theirs, we’re trying to earn a string of pars with an occasional birdie.

But when you come right down to it, we’re trying to avoid bogeys. And if we’re being perfectly honest, an even bigger mission for us is to not have any double bogeys or worse on the scorecard.

That’s why you hear so often, “Take your medicine and just try to make bogey.” It’s good advice. Virtually every big number is the result of trying to do too much when you’re in all sorts of trouble.

I’m sure there are golf instructors out there who would shudder at the idea of being thankful for bogeys.

But bogeys are what drive me to hit the range. I’m thinking about bogeys when I practice putting on the living room carpet all the time.

I’m not going to hit every shot just right, and I’m not going to make every putt. But if I can just be competent, I can avoid bogeys and make more pars. If I happen to play a hole particularly well and make a birdie, it’s truly a moment to celebrate.

So raise a toast to the bogey as you celebrate Thanksgiving. And then get right back out there and try to make fewer of them.

This is one medicine I’d rather not have to take so often, but the only cure is to practice, practice, practice and play, play, play … and learn, learn, learn why they happen.

I may be thankful for the bogey because of what it teaches me, but I can do without the Bogey Monster. He isn’t invited and then eats into my game way too much.

Talk about lousy table manners.

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