Today was special. I was going to hit balls on the range at Sawgrass. It was chilly but if you are a range rat like me you will go to the rock pile rain or shine. Before braving the elements I had to pay my ritual tribute to staff at the pro shop. Just Ted the Great spreading the wealth. If I don’t shake up at least 10-15 people a day I am not doing my job. Last stop as I exit has to be my screwy friend and Director of Golf, Greg Lecker.
Now Leck has been through the best and worst of life so we are somewhat simpatico. Of course on a quiet Monday afternoon he says,”Do you want to go see Gary Player?” Having been witness to a lot of our stunts and knowing that the Black Knight lives in South Africa I had to measure my response carefully. Why not and I jump in the cart. Seems he is playing on the course with journeyman Leonard Thompson and some people from the Golf Hall of Fame.
High on the hill the fourth tee overlooks the ocean but the view is the man. He may be 10 plus years older than any one else in the group and smaller in stature but you know it is him. Attired in black as he has for all these years there is not a hair or pleat out of place. His swing is effortless and the ball flies off that club as it has thousands of times. He broke into the PGA world in 1957 and proceeded to forge a career of 165 tournament wins including nine majors on the regular tour and an equal number on the senior tour. TTG is in the company of royalty.
Usually as one who enters the court we often are required to doff our chapeau, kneel or at least genuflect but that just won’t cut it here. His smile and manner make any man or woman feel at home. He has no idea who this goof ball in the “NAVY GOLF ” hat is but to him I am just another fellow traveler on this incredible journey called life and more specifically golf. I tended the pins and raked traps the rest of the way with a smile in my heart.
I marveled in so many ways. This guy is in phenomenal shape. He doesn’t overindulge in any sense of the word. His eyes sparkle. He has a jaunt in his step and his heart as he pushes 80. He is taking in the surrounding area and shape of the golf hole. He is seeing who is within earshot to tell them how lucky they are. He bemoans the shape of America not as a carping hag but as one who looks upon his brood and wonders how they have become so out of shape. He is not cruel or judgmental but rather a man who has been honest and straightforward all his life.
Kathy and I were in Hawaii a couple of years ago. There was a senior tournament not far from where we were staying on the Big Island. When I go to these affairs I hang out by the practice range. Hey, I come to watch golf swings and what better place to do it. There could not have been more than a handful of fellow spectators. Fred Couples, Jay Haas, Fuzzy Zoeller, and Ben Crenshaw were there. The latter walked no more than a few feet away from me. There was not a hint of recognition on any of their part. Look straight ahead,. The world does not exist or at least I don’t need it. I understand if there was a crush of people and this was the US Open but this is a laid back affair in Hawaii and we were a chip shot away. . Nada. Zilch towards any of us. I wonder how my new found buddy, Mr. Player would have handled this?
I also fast forwarded to the members of today’s crop of prima donnas. They helicopter in from home and fly by private jet between cities. Just a third of the way into the season the top money winner, Jimmy Walker is just shy of $4 million in earnings for the year. #50, Mark Leishman has pocketed $750,000. Mark who? Most of them are well endowed in the ego department. Not so in tact and approachability. I am standing next to a guy who has travelled over 25 million miles in pursuit of his craft but more importantly his love of a marvelous game. There are no airs here except pure class.
Whether you are a golfer or a corporate honcho there’s a lesson to be learned. No matter your office is a corner suite or a tee box you are a lucky dude or dudette.
Whether you make a little or a lot of money you are far better than some poor bastard in China or Sri Lanki that makes $1.50 per day for a lot harder work.
Whether you are a happy camper or someone with a bitch in your heart you at least have he ability to express yourself as I do without fear of retribution.
Whether you live in a mansion or a one bedroom apartment you have a roof over your head that is not corrugated or leaking. You have running water and indoor plumbing.
Whether you are healthy or desperately ill at least you have access to the latest medical technology has to offer. How horrible you had to wait a couple of hours.
Most and best of all, we are on the right side of the sod. Think of friends and children that have passed far too soon. On the wrong end of an insidious disease or an angry gun barrel. Just thank your lucky stars for where you are and don’t ever forget where you came from.
Ted The Great.
Sawgrass Country Club’s 27 holes are littered with agua. There are 300,000,000 golf balls lost in America every year. A lot of them right here. A golf ball takes 500-1000 years to degrade. There have been over 5,000 patents issued for golf ball design.
Golf 4 Disabled helps those with spinal cord injuries, amputations, stroke residuals, visual impairments, head traumas, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis enjoy the game of golf.
Tiger Woods has earned over $1.25 billion in his golf career. His daily workout is around 10 hours. He does 2-3 hours of conditioning and 7-8 hours of hitting balls, playing, chipping and putting. See Kath I am not that bad after all.
Golf as we know it probably started in Scotland in the 1450’s. The oldest 18 hole course in the US is the Chicago Golf Club founded in 1892 by Charles McDonald. Today there are approximately 17,500 courses in the US.