Golf – The Game for a Lifetime

It’s been said that golf is the game for a lifetime.  Renowned teacher Harvey Penick wrote a book with the same title.  I agree.

A few years ago, my lifelong golf partner, Claude and I were playing a round in South Carolina.  Upon pairing with another twosome the early-round conversation was typical.  Where we lived, what we did for a living and how many kids we had were all out of the way before we reached the first fairway.  Obvious that Claude and I knew each other quite well (since elementary school), one of them asked how we knew each other despite living in different locales, Claude in Vermont and me in Philadelphia.  I’ll never forget Claude looking at me and back to the other guy saying “Larr and I have been playing golf together for 50 years”!

My first thought was how old I was getting (58 at the time) but then it occurred to me that we might never have become friends without golf. In 1965, even in an upper-middle class, relatively diverse school district the interracial social interaction wasn’t what it is today.  Claude, two years ahead of me was in my older sister’s class.  She came home from school one day and said “you need to meet Claude, he plays golf.”  Since none of my other friends played, I was eager to meet him.  My sister never mentioned that he was African-American.  In those days, not many Jewish kids hung out with kids of color.  Fortunately, I wasn’t raised to care about that, despite some relatives not being particularly enamored.  Not only was I thrilled to find another kid in school who played golf, but we carpooled to junior tournaments (our Moms loved that) and we even convinced our golfing fathers to play annual father-son matches.  Believe or not, I don’t recall who won those matches because our dads took so much delight in getting in our heads, ensuring (as long as they could) that the youngsters wouldn’t show them up.

We played on the high school team together and spent many a summer evening at the local driving range honing our (limited) skills.  As we got older and could drive, we traveled to various best-ball tournaments (with limited success). During our college years, Claude didn’t play much golf and pursued cycling for awhile until (partially motivated by injuries) the golf bug bit again and we started traveling to play.  In the interim, we stayed in touch, doing all the things young, single guys do.

I recall (with a big smile) when he called me and started asking me about which clubs to buy, since his old favorites (Kenneth Smith) were no longer in business and he’d been away from the game for awhile.  We soon started taking golf trips together and later (after a 10 year courtship and some help from the pro) I got him to join the club in South Carolina that I belong to.  Again, after some coaxing, I dragged him to Scotland this past summer for a wonderful golf adventure.  Again, it’s been golf that brought together a group of my old college friends who welcomed Claude into a group he hadn’t previously known.

As I write this, Claude, my son Jack and I are preparing for another long weekend at our happy place and it’s golf that brings us together again.  For 4 days we’ll do little but eat, sleep and play golf.  We’ll talk about golf (and politics, family, work, sports and current events), work on our games and relive our youth by playing as much golf as our aging bodies will allow.

Golf is truly the game for a lifetime, as proven by this and many stories like it.  As an industry, we need to stress these and other relationships golf has helped to cultivate over the years.  Like much in life, golf is a “long term” pursuit in a world becoming increasingly “short term” in nature.  There’s rarely instant gratification in golf and unfortunately, that’s contributing to the games decline in popularity on the participation side.  As I continue to play golf with my longtime friend, and like this week am often joined by one or both of my golfing sons, an activity that always reminds me to look up and make a nod to my father for introducing me to the game at a young age.