An Affair of the Cart

A writer comes clean, sort of.

My wife thinks I am having an affair.  The signs are abundant; working late, unexplained absences, a marked increase in meetings, an inability to be reached despite pocketfuls of communication gadgets.  My appearance betrays me. My hair is frequently mussed, my face flush, my breath is sometimes just a bit too fresh, and my clothes usually rumpled.  I have even caught myself returning home in the evening in a different shirt than the one I left with.  And when confronted with questions about any of these, my responses are hesitant, ambiguous and evasive. 

Yes, I am having an affair.

But my adultery is not with another woman.  It is with the game of golf; a far more demanding mistress.  I am not proud of this.  It tears me apart, the cheating, the lying, and the misdirection.  My heart is heavy with guilt and my mind is taxed keeping this web of deceit from unraveling.  But the sick thing is, I mean the really twisted part is that I would rather have my wife think that I am having an affair than uncover my link slinking.

The little clues that could be my undoing require almost daily vigilance.  Pulling money from my pocket at the checkout line reveals a scramble of tees, ball marks, repair tools and other detritus of golf.  I must diligently police my pockets to retrieve a scorecard before it goes through the wash, pluck the receipt peeking from my wallet, or toss a stubby pencil before it can rattle through the drier.

I no longer wear cuffed pants.  They fill up with sand and grass.  The same goes for light colored trousers.  Try explaining the grass stain on your behind.  I have done it but I’m not proud of it.  When she starts to wonder why the rubber bottom is separating from the upper leather at the right toe of every pair of shoes I own, I’m done for.

My car must undergo a regular cleansing of the game’s flotsam and jetsam.  Loose balls roll around the deck; tees are wedged into the crease of every seat; range tokens clutter my cup holders; score cards, yardage books, and empty ball sleeves litter the back seat.

The ATM near my local course knows my name but the pro-shop does not.  I haven’t paid a green fee with a credit card since I have been married.  There is not a golf course in the county that knows my real name.  At one, I am Mike Palmer, another Mike Watson and less often since I got a quizzical look, Mike Trevino.  The guys at the counter comment on my apt name.

Last year I took a set of six lessons from a local pro; paid cash.  He still greets me as Mr. Kite.

Enter “g” on my cell phone, press “search“, and it will display every golf course within skulking distance.

I clear the calls made as a regular part of my commute and panic if I forget to erase the history of golf web sites on my computer.

I regularly exceed the speed limit sneaking off to make my tee time

And the deceptions are not limited to my spouse.  With my kids I reference the game as a model of behavior for life. Not just the obvious values involving honesty but importantly the skills of resiliency and focusing on the moment.  Then I tell them Daddy’s got to run some errands and shoot over to the range for a large bucket.  To the strangers I partner with as a single, I hold various cool entrepreneurial jobs that allow me to play in the evening.  Even to my regular playing partners, I cannot share the great shot I made last week or yesterday when I lipped out to miss my first sub 80 round.  I have come close to an ace more than once during my surreptitious rounds and wondered what the exposure could bring.

In a game where you are your own umpire, where integrity and honesty are valued above all else, I am a cheater. Not on the course but to get to the course.  I’ll hit a practice ball after a muff just to keep my confidence up during the round but I’ll play the original ball.  I only post online so I can lie about the date. I have been known to pick and clean in the winter, play a leafy in the fall, nudge a ball from casual water in the spring, but never when there is money involved, when in competition friendly or otherwise and never without announcing my intentions to my partners.  In anything more than a friendly round, I am meticulous about the rules.  But with my wife, I lie and cheat like a sociopath.

From tee through green I am as good a partner as you could want.  But on the links of relationships, I would be blackballed from the club.

 - Mike Trevino


Flirting with 79

For the average golfer Is there any better number to post than one starting with seven?

I am 47 years young, and I have been working golf since I was 10.  I am a respectable mid-teen index.  I know the etiquette, I know the rules, I know when to keep my mouth shut and I know when to pick up the pace.  In other words, I am a golfer.  What I don’t know is the joy of breaking 80.  All those who can empathize slosh your beers.  Yes friends, that sound is a tsunami.

I have had my moments; confident over the ball, swing grooved in, a sense that every putt had a chance.  I have had that great but all together too rare feeling that a good round is possible because my bad shots are still good misses – they are in the rough, not the trees.

Despite the inevitable boogies, I am managing the course smartly, taking the percentage shots, laying up, aiming for the middle of the green, taking the risky shot only after a precise risk/reward calculation.

Even on the last hole with south of 80 in striking distance, I keep my mind focused on the shot in front of me, not the last one, not the next one.  I have my mantra, “what’s my target, what’s my target.”  I keep it loose, swing without fear, and crush a high soaring driving that carves the sky like a broad sword as it sails sharply right and out of bounds.  And of course, with 79 gone, I tee up, swing with resigned abandon and split the fairway.  A mid-iron, a chip close and a tap-in leaves me with an 81.  Curses, foiled again.  Still a great round for me.  Just not great enough.

If I start the round with a couple of pars, I can see 79.  I have played enough to maintain focus on the shot that is before me.  I have read enough books to know that it is me and only me that controls things.  Not my partner, not my competitor, not my equipment, not the rub of the green.  Just me and my swing.

If I start with a couple of bogies, especially if they result from duffs, not near misses, I know this is not the round to score, but a round good for other things.  Like experimenting a bit with one of the hints from last week’s golf rag; working on tempo, keeping my head still.  Nothing drastic, mind you, just swing tweaks or mental imagery since this is not starting off as a career round.

But mostly after a start like this, I remind myself, usually unsuccessfully, that golf is not a game of perfect.  It is a game of recovery.  The real skill, I know, is overcoming adversity by making smart decisions and staying in the moment.

The golf swing is complex; there is no doubt about it.  It is a difficult game.  But this is not my problem.  I can point to two and only two things when my shots go awry.  One is I swing too hard.  I am impatient to get to the ball and swing furiously, ferociously.  The other is a lack of mental focus.  The club head is not two inches into the backswing before I begin thinking about work, my spouse, how this ball is going to land on the green like a butterfly with sore feet.  I know I am doing a thousand other things wrong, but they all bud from these two thorns.

But then of course, 79 has become such a bugaboo, I can’t get out of my own way.  I can only hope for years to pass and patience to grow.  Yet hope springs eternal and there is not a day I tee it up that I don’t think this will be the day.

 - Larry Palm