Not Up to Par


I'm not athletic. At all. My daily regimen involves jogging my memory, stretching my dollars, and running my mouth. My lack of exercise is not for lack of time or money; at home, we have a 24-Hour Naked Workout Room filled with exercise equipment. The “naked” part makes it sound more interesting, but I don’t use it whether I’m fully clothed or al fresco.

"You're going to be 65 and stuck on that couch," Flash said recently. "I don't want to see that."

"And you'll be rolling around in a three-wheel power scooter from all the late-night trysts you have with mint chocolate chip ice cream and all manner of potato chips," I replied. He’s diet-challenged; I’m activity-challenged. If we could meld into one human, we’d be buff, and our arteries would be as clear as Houston freeways on an early Christmas morning.

I’ve tried to bond with Flash in his world – a world where physical activity is described as “fun.” But walking around on a hot day, throwing thick Frisbee-type discs into chain baskets, over and over, combined with a lot of walking and even more sweating, is not fun to me. He and Cowboy love to play disc golf, often including our friend Denver on their outings.

“How come you never ask me?” I whined the third time The Three Amigos planned an early Saturday morning trip.

“I didn’t think you’d want to go,” Flash said. “You can go. I’d love for you to go. You want to go?”

“Nah, it’s a guy thing.”

“It’s not a guy thing. Go with us.”

“Well, not if I have to tell you to ask me. It’s not the same. You didn’t think of it yourself.”

“But I would have, if I’d thought you wanted to go.”

“I’m thinking.”

He and Cowboy stood at the door with their official disc-golf bags filled to the brim. The pressure to say “yes” and be a cool wife and mother was overruled by the 150-degree weather. I love hot weather, but I require a nearby body of water to jump into or an air conditioned building in case of possible menopausal internal combustion.

“No, that’s okay. Y’all go ahead and go. I’ll stay here,” I answered in an Eeyore-like tone.

By the time we got to our third Saturday-morning-why-didn’t-you-ask-me-oh-nevermind-I’ll-stay-home conversation, Flash abbreviated the deliberations significantly. “Every time I ask you, you say no,” he explained.

“I know. I just want you to ask. It means you love me."

It means you're crazy, I heard him think. His to-the-point “Okay” ended things quickly, as he and Cowboy shot out the door before I could say anything else.

But on the eighth Saturday morning, when guilt kicked into overdrive from lack of family time, there was no conversation. I decided I’d go along, and surprised Flash when I came out of our bedroom ready to go.

“You’re going with us?” He sounded excited to have me join them, in spite of my lack of testosterone.

“Yeah, I’ll give it a try.”

Soon we arrived at the course. As we got out of the car, I glanced around. “Where are the carts, Flash?”

“Carts?” Flash asked.

“The golf carts.”

“There are no golf carts. This is disc golf. The course isn't that big.”

“If it’s outside golf that involves miles of walking in uninhabitable heat, there should be carts. What kind of barbaric sport is this?”

By the time we got to the first basket, I had to sit down for a break. Flash and Cowboy opened up their bags. They own 87 multicolored discs, combined. “Why do you have so many Frisbees? Don’t you need only one or two?”

“They’re not Frisbees. They’re discs. They're designed differently, and have various weights. This one’s a putter,” he explained, handing it to me. “And this one is a driver.”

They both looked the same to me.

“Seriously? As in real golf?”

“Yes.” What ensued was some kind of explanation about which one to use when. All I heard was “…long shots…shorter shots….” I assumed putting involved shorter distances, as in “putt-putt golf.”

Cowboy picked his favorite disc and took his turn first. He sailed it to the outer limits of the stratosphere. I felt a little intimidated. Okay, a lot intimidated. He’s had an unbelievable throwing arm since the age of four.

As Flash started advising me on which disc to use, I interrupted, “Just give me the bright orange one.”

“That’s a good one; it’s a driver.”

“Whatever. It’s a pretty color.”

I flung a fling that will live in infamy. I don’t know why I thought my throws would magically improve by calling those round flying saucers “discs” instead of “Frisbees.” Instead of hitting the chained basket dead ahead, it took a sharp right turn, barely missing two frolicking squirrels that were unaware of their near-death experience. There was no fanfare for my attempt. No “pretty good job” said. Just the sound of cicadas mocking me.

Flash took his turn, his disc coming within inches of the basket. Show-off.

I tried a couple of more times, with the same results. Flash came over and showed me how to throw a disc, assuming that with one quick lesson I’d improve. I didn’t.

“How many more baskets are there?”

“We can do 9 holes or 18 holes.”

“Holes?” I asked. “What holes? Those are baskets.”

“They call them holes.”

“Holes might be easier,” I said. But I knew better.

I remembered the first time I played golf, the kind with holes, not baskets. It was challenging, but I knew if I could hit the ball through the windmill into the final hole, I'd get a free game of putt-putt golf. It was a difficult feat that I’ve seldom accomplished since then.

When Flash and I were still newlyweds, I decided to join him in playing real golf. But first, I wanted to practice at a driving range. By the time my stance was correct and my hands were in the right positions on the club, I couldn't move. I resembled a lousy contortionist. I knew it would mess up my stance if I moved, so I just stood there for a minute, basking in the fact that I looked like a golfer. I’m sure the more accomplished golfers witnessing my debut were not, however, impressed. After Flash and I each hit a bucket full, we were done. My humility in realizing I had a long way to go was overshadowed only by my humiliation. We’d paid money for me to look ridiculous, and that windmill was looking better every second.

Feeling I was ready for the green, our next sport-themed date was to a golf course – a beautiful piece of land where people pay a lot of money to hit little dimpled balls over hills and over water to try to make the balls roll into tin cups in the ground. Who thought of this? I wondered. Were there gopher holes on the lush emerald hills surrounding Lake Tahoe many moons ago when only Native Americans lived there? And one day, one of them dropped a boiled egg on the ground and it rolled down the hill and into a gopher hole? And then, all the chiefs thought it was so cool that they started stealing the boiled eggs before breakfast and using long branches to knock the eggs into the holes? And, from then on, the chiefs had strong urges to wear polyester knit shirts and plaid pants while playing "hit the egg," instead of tending to bison hunting?

As I pondered the origin of the Most Boring Sport to Watch on Television, the sun started to go down. I tried to get my stance right, then I swung. But I couldn't see where the hole was. Because it was dusk. Which, of course, is the worst time to learn to golf, unless you have glow-in-the-dark golf balls. I swung as hard as I could, trying to impress Flash. He’ll walk into work tomorrow bragging on my raw natural talent, I lied to myself.

Oddly, that’s not what happened.

Balls and tees flew into oblivion, never to be seen again. And there was the added joy of a pond, placed there on purpose to add to the challenge of it all. I was struggling enough on dry land, without giving a thought to the perils of water on a golf course.

Flash was a good sport about it, telling me, “It’s too dark out here to learn. We’ll come earlier next time.” He was kind, primarily because I didn't morph into the Competitive Freak I often become when I’m determined to improve a skill in a matter of hours. Like the time we bowled 10 games in a row so I could break 100 on my score. After that exercise in futility, we couldn’t lift our arms for the next two days; we had to drink pureed food from straws because a fork was too heavy. It was a painful lesson in my knowing when to quit.

As I get older, learning curves feel more like hairpin turns. In golf, I knew it could take years off my life, and my marriage, to try to improve my game. Our retirement fund would’ve been depleted to get me up to “pathetic” level. My choice was clear:  Enjoy our golden years in the future or learn to golf in the present. I opted for On Golden Pond rather than sinking balls into a pond.

On my second attempt at disc golf, the Sports Gods rejected my sweltering offering; it started raining five minutes after we got there. Flash, Cowboy, and I ran to the car as the angry heavens opened up.

The third time I joined the guys, I took the dogs with me to give the appearance of doing something useful on the course. Again, torrential rains came within minutes, and we dashed to the car again. The message was clear: I was to never set foot on any kind of golf course again.

But, being a born rebel, I broke the commandment. I returned to my golf roots, finally putting both Flash and Cowboy to shame. Ahead of them by three and two strokes, respectively, I stepped up to the ball on the final hole. The crowd was hushed. I swung, and landed a hole in one. The sweet smell of victory wafted over my head as the windmill continued to turn, and I made my way to the checkout counter to pick up my free-for-one-game coupon.