On an early morning at the fifth tee of a nine-hole golf course, I stood, ready to swing my 3-wood across a white golf ball. I took a deep breath, and then I took a practice swing. The morning was gray and the grass was wet from an overnight rain. Spring was underway and the school year was close to an end.
The Old Man stood behind me. “Remember to keep your head down this time.”
With my head slightly tilted and my legs spread at shoulder’s width, I extended my arms out with the club in hand, and focused on the bottom curve of the golf ball.
The course was quiet. It was early but the weather had not warmed enough to tease the usual golfing crowd. The Old Man, however, loved mornings like this. He liked the emptiness of a mostly vacant park, and I suppose he enjoyed the time with me.
But golf was not my sport. I never hit the ball well or straight. Often, I sliced the ball of into the rough, and to keep the game fair and moving, The Old Man would play my ball and I would play the one closest to the hole.
This game was called Long ball Short ball. It was good for beginners and kept the game moving without holding up the golfers behind.
I was no beginner—but I was no golfer by any means.
The Old Man would continue with his instructions, and I would continue to make poor shots. Sometimes it was hard for me and other times, I wished I had stayed home.
There is a basic formula to a successful golf swing. If each equation is met; the club moves into the backswing, followed by a shift or transfer of balance as the club swings around, following through, and hitting the ball down the fairway.
If each stage of movement is done properly, the ball goes where it’s supposed to. I, on the other hand, struggled to maintain a fluid-like swing. I often picked my head up, which pulled the ball off to the right or left.I would lose focus and hit the top of the ball, causing it to bounce, or roll along the fairway—but it never went far along the fairway.
The fifth hole was one of two dog-legs, which meant the fairway was shaped like a dog’s hind leg. This was also the longest hole on an otherwise short course.
I stood at the tee and took my first practice swing. “Nice and easy,” said The Old Man. “Keep your head down,” he told me.
“You can do it, son.”
There is something about those words. “You can do it, son.”
“I believe in you, son.”
“I’m proud of you.”
These words mean everything to a young boy.
“Keep your head down,” he told me. “Take your backswing nice and slow, and then follow through.”
I wanted nothing more than to please him. I wanted nothing more than to do as he asked. I wanted to follow his instructions. I wanted to hit the ball like I was supposed to.
But every time I tried, I topped the ball, or hooked it.
“Don’t rush it, kid. Take a practice swing, get comfortable, and then take your shot.”
When I pulled the 3-wood around my right shoulder, I then transferred my weight, allowing the club to swing around my body and smack the ball down the fairway.
The shot went high and far. It was picture perfect, in fact, and in the quiet moment at the fifth tee of a nine-hole golf course, The Old Man erupted.
“What a shot,” he cheered.
“Way to go, son.”
He was loud and proud….and me, I wore an irreplaceable smile and a tear formed in the corner of my right eye.
For the first and perhaps only time in the history of Long ball-Shirt ball, I was able to play my own ball because it was closest to the hole.
I think about that morning and how much it meant to both of us.
For that moment, everything was perfect—even if it was just a golf swing—everything was perfect.
I would have done anything to please The Old Man. But I couldn’t… I often fell short. I missed out on one or more of the basic formulas. Maybe I failed to transfer my weight properly; maybe I lost focus, or I forgot to keep my head down.
Apparently this lesson applied to more than just golf.
There is something about the words, “You can do it, son.”
“I believe in you.”
“Don’t give up, kid. I’m right behind you.”
It’s been decades since I’ve heard The Old Man’s voice. But in times like this, when life becomes turbulent, I need to remember the basic formula.
I need to keep focused, take my time, and keep my eye on the ball.
I need to move slow on my backswing, shift my weight, and follow through.
I can do this….I know I can.
I just think it would be a lot easier if The Old Man were here to say,
“You can do it, son…..I believe in you.”
These words mean everything to a grown man….