August 27, 2012

Monkey in the Middle

The beginning of a story sets the tone. The reader is introduced to the main characters and the opening scene is set. Endings however, are the exact opposite. Endings are the culmination and result of all the situations and circumstances the main characters navigated throughout the story. The reader may have an idea of where the story is headed after reading the beginning, but very rarely is there enough information to determine how things ends up.

Beginnings, in general are lovely. We meet someone special, and suddenly we are filled with hope and dreams and all manner of “happy”. At that point it is darned near impossible to see the “bitter” end. But as we walk through the scenes of our lives, we find ourselves in situations for which we had not planned. When these unplanned situations arise, we have no choice but to deal with them in the best way we know how. The hope, of course, is that we get through it all as unscathed as possible.

Stepping up to the first tee is a lovely (and usually nerve wracking) beginning. The mood is jovial, the starter says something nice, we laugh at a joke heard but not really paid attention to. With a score card as pure as a newborn puppy, a beautiful clean slate, we take the shot with nothing but driving the green in our consciousness. And nothing but the sound of ball hitting tree can shake us from our reverie. And now… we must traverse the “middle”. This is where skill really comes into play. I don’t care how great your tee shot is, it’s a long way to the cup, and if you can’t iron, hybrid and approach wedge yourself down that fairway it’s going to be a mighty unpleasant ending.

I played a beautiful course this past weekend with a chum and the bro-in-law. Lake Chabot in the Oakland Hills has nothing if not breathtaking views. In fact, the 18th is a Par 6 and closely resembles a black diamond ski run. It is truly awesome to behold. My friend is a bit of a beginner but she has been bitten by the bug and is happily addicted to the craziness of golf. YAY! New golf buddy! Anyway, her drives have improved by leaps and bounds in the couple of months since we played our first round, and her putting is nothing to sneeze at… her frustration is that she hasn’t yet fallen in love with her irons and hybrids and complained that her “middle game” is frustrating her. Honestly that was the funniest thing but I loved it and the thing is she is right.

I think that the “middle game” is the “better or worse, sickness and health” part of the vows. There isn’t much opportunity for glory on the fairway; that is usually reserved for the tee box and the green, yet isn’t it the most important? If you smash a drive to the middle of the fairway but it takes you 12 to get to the green, even a one putt won’t save you. The middle really is the meat and potatoes.

There is no "Cliff's Notes" version of life. We cannot skim and get an “A”. It is all important, but pay special attention to the middle child.

Jan was underrated. “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”

July 05, 2012

Pump your brakes

I have that personality type where when I go in, I go ALL in. There is no halfway for me. When I started playing golf, my “lets hit the ground running” attitude was tempered by speed bumps (aka: my caddy). While this is exactly the kind of thing I find horribly annoying, I have been trying to be more patient with life in general. What this all translates to, is that I did not spend $1m on golf gear the day before I’d even hit the range. And this… has served me well.

This whole new “patience is a virtue” leaf I’ve been trying to turn over is not easy to flip. The truth is, I’ve always been one for instant gratification and a “but daddy, I want it NOW” mentality. I did learn early in my forays down the fairways that this whole golf thing was going to take some time. Even though I have accepted that, it hasn’t always been an easy ride.

Last weekend I played 9 holes with my sister, bro-in law and a friend of ours. We played at the nine hole near their house because it was Sunday and I didn’t want to play 18 (it’s quite exhausting and I had to work on Monday and was trying to be “smart”). Anyway, this course is a great 9 holer because it has 2 par 4s, so you can still hit your woods.

I haven’t really had much opportunity to hit the range lately, but I have been trying to schedule at least 9 holes once a week. So I can’t really say I am rusty, but the obsession I used to have had to change a bit since I am no longer flexible in terms of schedule. Plus I still have some emotional dangling participles from the whole “nomorecaddy” situation. What this all boils down to, is that I am being extra nice to myself and not sweating how I am performing or how many times I’ve made it to the range. I am basically allowing myself to fall back in love under slightly different circumstances.
So there I was, playing 9, and I realized that I no longer put one ounce of pressure on myself. Nope. None. It’s like, well… I will hit Gertie, she will land, I will go find her and smack her again. At some point we will all end up on the green and I may or may not hit her “in”. And I just don’t really care.

OK, well I do care… but not in the way that I would be upset with myself for hitting a bad shot. Honestly I don’t have the emotional fortitude right now (when it comes to golf) and I just want to love it again.

And umm… I do. And I shot a 41(par 29, which leaves me a hair over bogie golf). And I am perfectly happy with that. But even if I’d shot a 61, I would have spent the day, in the sunshine, with my chums, having a lovely day. Since I don’t actually do it for a living, and am not going to get fired, it’s really ok for me to shoot whatever the heck I shoot that day. The number doesn’t matter. What’s important is that I am doing something I enjoy, with people I enjoy, and I am kind to myself. Why would I ruin a perfectly good Sunday being mean to myself?

…”slow and low, that is the tem-po” .

June 25, 2012

What you see is what you get?

Perception is reality… or is it? It is clichĂ©, but “don’t judge a book by its cover” is one adage we should all remember and practice. For example, this morning I walked into my office wearing what could be considered a suit jacket. While I normally dress professionally, once you bring a jacket into the mix there is a certain level of formality that raises eyebrows and a few friends whisper: “do you have an interview?” No, actually, I just really despise the blast of A/C that hits my desk about 11:30am.

This past weekend my twinster and I had the very rare opportunity to spend the day together. We relished the chance and headed to a course neither of us had ever played called “Deep Cliff”, in Cupertino, CA. This is an executive 18-hole, par 60, course and was just our size. We were pretty excited about this round and held our breath hoping to be able to play as a pair and not a foursome and it was our lucky day as the starter sent us off alone. He did pull us aside before sending us off asking that we be extra careful about pace of play and I had the feeling that he felt like he was talking to his daughters (which is sweet on the one hand, but annoying on the other). Why would he assume that we would slow play? I mean seriously, why?

I teed off first and hooked my shot right into the trees. I hadn’t hit a bucket, was totally tight and not even a little bit upset. I figured I would just carry on. However the starter decided to give me a swing correction right there on the first tee in front of God and the foursomes behind us. OMG are you kidding me? To make matters worse, when my sis stepped up and addressed her ball, this same man interrupted what was the beginning of her back swing to tell her that her line was off. Of course she then proceeded to hit her ball directly into the trees near mine. Ugh.

We practically ran down the fairway because, these few well intended comments made us feel like we were unworthy to be there, totally suck at golf and were about to ruin the entire round for anyone teeing off after us from that moment forward. The most annoying thing was that he never even gave us a chance, instead judging us by some unknown criteria. The last time I checked, we were dressed appropriately, had all the right gear, paid our greens fees and stood quietly at the tee box. That, right there, is all he needed to know about our golf games.

Deb and I got to the second tee box (where we were stuck waiting for the group ahead of us) and had a chance to re-group. We decided that we weren’t going to keep score and we also discussed that it was completely uncool of that starter to offer corrections and to assume that we would somehow play slowly. We agreed that we were just here to enjoy the day together and play a little golf. No pressure. From there we felt better and moved on.

Deb and I were having a great time on the front nine. We both played “well enough” and were lighthearted to the point that we didn’t even mind that we had to wait at every tee box. That’s right: every single tee box, we sat, we waited, we stretched, we prayed the beverage cart would come (but didn't until much later), but most of all, we just waited. Where was the starter and his warnings for this foursome? They really should have let us play through, it was totally the right thing to do, but since we’d decided to just enjoy the day we relaxed… and then we made the turn.

We ordered lunch from the call box at the 8th green and since we were walking knew we couldn’t take turns driving/eating, and instead came up with a little plan that made sense. So we finished up at 9 and ran into the cafĂ© to grab our lunch and get to #10. Our food was ready and we ordered beverages. I was literally standing at the counter eating as fast as I could while my sis paid. I walked to the condiment station and finished cramming my food in my mouth while Deb ran to the ladies room. It was at this moment that some guy from the course walked (hurriedly) up to me and asked if we planned to continue the round. I said well yes we just grabbed our food, my sis is in the ladies and we are going. He said we had to get to #10 right away or else lose our turn. Deb came back from the ladies and as we took off running for the tee box she crammed her food in her mouth. And then… we waited. A group was at the tee… and there was no one behind us... and we waited. Can you say acid indigestion? We were miffed to say the very least but kept saying that we were determined not to let it get us down.

I will never understand why we received such treatment, it really was appalling. I imagine if we’d walked in and been aloof and barely cracked a smile we may have been taken more seriously, but the blonde bubbly thing (x2) is apparently not something these people were used to and therefore perceived as not being serious. The most ironic thing is that when it comes to golf, both Deb and I are as serious as a heart attack whereas from what we saw both ahead of and behind us that day, the sentiment isn’t shared.

The reality is: things are not usually as they appear. Sometimes we see our ball land perfectly on the green and from where we stand it looks like it is 6 inches from the hole and we beam. Once we walk up and realize it’s more like 6 feet, we aren’t as happy, but for the few minutes that we thought we almost aced it, we experience happiness. That happiness is real, even if it is only based upon your perception of the situation at that exact moment.

Don’t judge a book by its cover and for pity’s sake: NEVER let the blonde hair fool ya.

June 12, 2012


I frequently travel on business and the more I travel, the smaller the world becomes. Shanghai was a distant dream, but after ordering a latte at the Starbucks there, I felt right at home (until I drank it, the milk was yicky, I recommend sticking with the Americano). It is common to long for home whilst sleeping in a foreign hotel room and familiar places can be soothing to the soul. I often find this sort of comfort when I visit a church in some faraway land. As a Catholic I find the ritual of Mass to be something which transports me home no matter where I am. The prayers are the same, the priests’ vestments are the same and they always seem to smell the same (in a good way).

We often associate sights, smells, sounds, and tastes with certain emotions. I know that one whiff of pipe tobacco will elicit an uncontrolled sob, making me desperately miss my Grandfather, yet the sound of a baby laughing will make me smile thinking of when my son was little. Emotional associations, impact the experience we have in any given situation, and what was one once pleasing may now be heartbreaking. And so it has been for me and the golf course.

I love golf. I love everything about it, or so I thought I did. Before my caddie moved away, we played golf pretty much every weekend. If we weren’t playing we were likely watching and I was leading the pack in our fantasy golf league. Suddenly, he was gone and simply driving by a golf course made my insides hurt. But what’s a girl to do? I mean I am not just giving up, I truly love it. But how? How can I get through the ache that sits with me every time I hit balls at my home course, every time I see my clubs lying innocently in my trunk? How the hell am I going to do this?

I can count the rounds of golf I’ve played in the past year on one hand. That is certainly not helping matters because now, in addition to the emotional stuff, I am totally rusty. I had a conversation about this subject with a co-worker and she agreed to play a round with me and grabbed another chum to join us. We decided to meet at a local course (I’ve only played there once or twice though so no weird baggage) for a mid-morning tee time on Saturday. I did have an opportunity to hit a bucket about 2 weeks before this (and swung HORRIBLY), but could not get there to hit any the night before or the morning of the round. Gulp.

I showed up at the course, met up with the girls, popped open a little can of Sophia Coppola sparkling wine (special love for the pink expandable straw), grabbed Gertie and went for it. As I took that very first swing, I realized I didn’t give a fig about the shot, I had no expectations and felt no pressure and I was exhilarated… that moment, was the very instant I reclaimed golf as my own. Yeaaaahhhh Boyyyyyy!

One isn’t such a bad number after all. You just haveta own it.

…”giddyup a boom boppa boom boppa mow mow”

August 23, 2011

How's your view?

I was speaking with my Mom on the phone recently and she mentioned that she had just gotten her flu shot. I can understand why that makes sense, and as we’ve all been told: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. OK so, in a perfect world we would never catch a cold or pink eye and we’d never hit a slice. Well, until the Truman Show starts filming in my town, that perfect world doesn’t exist. You can bet that a good recovery strategy can save you from turning something bad, into something much, much worse.

I have been told (ad nauseum) that golf is a game of misses (hey! I am really good at that part!). The point is that although we all wish we did, we do not drive every green, avoid every bunker, and always stay out of the rough. So… what do we do when (not if) that happens? We strategize.

Just like in anything else, we can focus on a problem, speculate as to why it happened, beat ourselves up for whatever we did (or didn’t do), or get over it and think about the best solution. This is a HUGE issue for most golfers. What happens the minute a club head connects with a ball with the face wiiiiide open? Well you hear a booming “f” bomb of course, as that person watches his/her ball take a hard right into the rough/trees/water/other fairway/bunker/over a fence/onto the freeway. Sigh. Disheartening, indeed. However, all is not lost. It’s one shot... just one. So, depending upon how things turned out, there may be a penalty involved or there may be a hike into the wilderness involved but THIS is the moment that really matters. Phil Mickelson and (I mention this very begrudgingly) Tiger Woods are masters of getting out of precarious situations. Phil is in a position that any of us would look at and say… “ummm, I don’t have a shot.” Good old Phil flips his club over and hits righty... backwards! I do love that guy! Anyway, the point is, look at things with the mindset that a solution does exist, rather than being defeated after the T shot.

I’ve hit a few slices in my life which made me feel that a situation was hopeless. However when I looked at it with a different perspective and with the attitude that a solution did exist, I found one. The good news is that once we get through a trying situation, one in which we find ourselves having to break boundaries and move outside of our comfort zone you know what? We grow… as human beings and as golfers. Imagine that every time you landed in a bunker you immediately used the “hand wedge” and never even tried to hit the ball out. Where is the fun in that? Because once you grab your “S” guy and march yourself into that bunker with confidence and perhaps a sense of humor, you may just surprise yourself and make a “nice out”.

The game of golf would be no fun if every single shot we took was perfect. If we made every par, every birdie, every putt and holed out every chip, we would be bored. At that point we would decide that there is no point to the game, and move on to some other challenge. Let’s remember that we like the challenge and it feels fantastic to hit a great shot (or to get the job, make the sale, buy the house, or get the part) because of how big the challenge was in the first place.

Just because you think you have no shot, doesn’t mean you don’t. Smile… try something crazy... and watch as you make the craziest save of your life.

“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots - but you have to play the ball where it lies. “

- Bobby Jones

Play it where it lies… and laugh your ass off!

July 11, 2011

Sometimes you have to play solo

As a Catholic, I have spent a decent amount of time kneeling and saying The Rosary. We most often say The Rosary during times of mourning and hold a ceremony prior to the Funeral Mass actually called a Rosary. One day my uncle and I were talking about this whole thing and I sort of wondered aloud why we say The Rosary at someone’s funeral, although I assumed it was to bless their soul. On the contrary, however… my uncle explained that the recitation is for those in mourning, because there is great comfort to be found in the repetition of something familiar, and that totally made sense to me.
A couple of months ago, my sweetie, my caddy, found himself in a set of circumstances which eventually lead to him moving a few states away from me… yes, really. As the situation unfolded it was like the plot of a movie that you totally loved until the writers decided the movie needed some conflict. Well maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty happy without conflict. So, after many sleepless nights and water hazards full of tears, my caddy was on his long drive, and this was one hell of a par 5.

Initially I couldn’t even look at my clubs without bawling my mascara off, nor could I drive past a golf course without feeling acid reflux. What is a girl to do without someone to double check her read before she putts? Sigh… you just have to replace the flag, grab your clubs and walk to the next tee box.

It took some time, but finally I just had to get back up on that tee. I went to the range, and as I walked that familiar walk, without my hand warmly enveloped by his, my heart ached and I felt like my bag had bricks in the bottom of it. I went upstairs so I could be as alone as possible, got my bucket and got ready to swing. The lump in my throat was the size of Gertie and with every swing I could hear my caddy’s voice in my head “you pulled it inside”, “better”, “swing easy”. Yep, it was KILLING me, and even recounting it now is bringing tightness to my chest. But I persevered: cleared my mind, and not worrying about where I hit, I just started swinging. Nice, easy strokes with a nice easy tempo… and in that space of repetition, fluidity of motion, without thinking about what I was doing or anything else… I found comfort (if only for that moment).

Amidst this discourse, I also began a new professional journey which I’m loving. This new situation has given me something to focus upon and a definite distraction from the feeling that I am a yin, sans yang. I couldn’t help but notice (ok and yes, feel that it is more than a tad unfair) that when one area of my life is going really well, another seems to tank. It’s like, why is it that when your drives are long and straight and your chips hit the middle of the green; you can’t sink a 6” putt? A winning streak doesn't last forever... but then neither does a losing.

Playing golf is much better with a caddy… it’s nice to have someone to have your back, to help make sure you don’t choose the wrong club or putt the wrong line, someone to carry your bag. Although it is reassuring to know that someone is watching where your ball landed, it isn’t impossible to do it alone. I am however, reassured by the fact that this situation will not last forever... does anything? So for now, I’m taking some lessons, learning some lessons and setting up my swing one shot at a time.

Golfer: "This golf is a funny game."
Caddy: "It's not supposed to be."

February 08, 2011

The finish line

I sometimes wonder if I suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. When I begin something, I usually do so with a bit of zeal, gusto if you will, whether it's reading a new book, switching up my exercise routine, or sending out an RFP. Generally if I'm about to start something, I'm excited about whatever it is, have probably done some research and preparation and can't wait to get cracking. Vim and vigor is great and everything, but it doesn't always last. This is perhaps my biggest issue with my golf swing...

A couple of weeks ago my sweetie and I were at my little home 9 holer (yes, it really is fab to live somewhere where golf is a year round sport). As I'm sure I've stated I'm not a huge fan of the first tee because everyone within a square mile can see you tee off. Adding insult to injury, that day was the first time we had played in quite awhile so I was feeling more insecure than usual. Due to marker and pin placement, I pulled Mr. Hybrid out of the bag (yay, Callaway!). I did my thing and hit a good shot (ironically too far left since I was trying to over compensate for my slice tendency), Sweetie smashed his and off we went.

We were waiting on the second tee when two guys appeared and asked if they could join us. Ok, I love it when we get to play without another pair so I was a little annoyed, but primarily just ticked that these guys walked off the eighth green because they wanted to play another round but didn't start at one so they wouldn't have to pay. Bitter, party of 2 (Gertie was po'd as well). We were waiting for the group ahead to finish on the green and one of the guys says "you have a beautiful swing, where did you learn to play golf?" I looked proudly at my sweetie waiting for him to respond when... Omg... He was talking to me?!?! Yeah, me. Ok well chances are he knew I was less than pleased about the intrusion and was trying to butter me up (totally worked), but still. As the flush retreated from my face I set about the task of trying to play a decent round. I did all right, not my best, but not my worst… but the one thing I came away with that day was this: stop freaking out every time you start your backswing: it's fine! Instead work on finishing your damned swing!

I guess I'm half way there... I just have to see it through. It’s like not finishing a round so you can cheat your way into playing again… the hole you missed may have been your ace.

Sometimes we just have to lay up.