As tournament approaches, a look at similarities between golf, life

Professional golf is the only sport where, if you win 20 percent of the time, you're the best.


-- Jack Nicklaus

I was chatting with an old friend from the great (chilly) Midwest and naturally the conversation got around to this week's local sporting event.

"So how's your golf game?" he asked a bit too eagerly. "You're probably in mid-summer form."

I deflected the question by repeating a respectable score number, although I did not reveal the limited number of holes it took to achieve it.

"What's your handicap?" he asked.

"Lack of talent," I answered quickly and we chuckled together.

But the exchange reminded me once again that this is what they think of us here in the home of the Masters Tournament.

We're all a bunch of golf fanatics who spend our free time practicing chip shots in the back yard.

I guess it's like asking people in Indianapolis about their race-car driving.

To draw the conversation to a close, I reached into my retort bag and took out a cliche wedge.

"Well, you know what they say," I said, "golf is like life."

He didn't respond because most people don't think of golf as anything at all like life.

That's because golf is unnatural.

Look at the grip.

Look at the swing.

And what's up with the white belts?

Golf is the only sport I can think of where the lower your score, the better you did. And if you don't think that is unnatural, try it with your checking account some time.

Speaking of banks, golf is practically the only sport that old, rich guys seem to enjoy. Probably because money is involved in almost every facet of the game. Consider that on most greens, players will use a coin of real money to mark a ball's location. No other sport so directly involves the handiwork of the U.S. Treasury Department.

Golf also has an odd vocabulary.

Why call it a birdie ?

(Although if you have a birdie, then an eagle makes sense.)

What's a niblick ?

A mashie ?

And why call it a putt ?

The closest I can get is the Latin putare , which means "to think" -- explaining the activity on most greens that fails so utterly.

Golf is not mentioned in the Bible or by Shakespeare, although both seem to mention most every other aspect of the human condition.

Not only has golf been shunned by the Olympics, it's one of the few major sports not played at night, under the lights, indoors or on artificial turf.

Its scores are relatively stable, although adjustments have been made to handle advances in the equipment.

Golf, it has also been noted, is the favorite sport of insurance salesmen and Methodist preachers.

I don't think anyone has ever figured out why.

Well let me hazard a guess.

I say it's because golf actually is like life in that it often doesn't make sense.

Its rewards are limited; its punishments severe. It will break your heart and your wallet.

But still, despite it all, most of us (around here) keep at it.

We know that like life, golf will whip you before you whip it.

That's probably why it's also F-L-O-G spelled backward.



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