Golf: the grief that keeps on giving

August 9, 2021

mini golf course
Gladiators

   Carol’s 13-year-old grandson happened upon a week this summer, where he had no scheduled activities, camps or play dates. I seized the impending idleness, and challenged him to a miniature golf tournament. I figured since he had absolutely nothing better to do, he’d accept. And he did.

   Over the three years we’d gotten to know each other, we’ve developed a gentle, good-natured needling aspect to our relationship. He and I had hooked up for a few rounds of regular golf, but that good-natured lightheartedness was nowhere to be found on those regular courses. Golf has always been a mano y mano, life or death struggle for me, and where I am both manos. “You don’t talk when you play golf,” he’d admonished me once after a round.

In golf, you try to put positive thoughts into your head before making a shot. I pulled my putter back and thought, I wonder how many people jump off the real one in Paris every year?

mini golf shot
Found myself between a rock and a hard place most of the day

   I vowed this mini-golf tournament would be different. After all, it was mini-golf. You’re playing on indoor/outdoor carpet, replete with an Eiffel Tower, an “active” volcano, windmills, clown noses and God knows what else. There was nothing there to take seriously, yet I showed up with my personal putter and a Titleist Pro-V1 to play with. Parker wore long pants, a monogrammed golf shirt and a one club stand bag for his putter. There’d be no friendly banter during this tournament, no matter how big that clown’s red nose was.

mini golf volcano
Carol said the volcano and waterfall reminded her of Iceland

   The accomplished junior golfer crushed me, of course, but that didn’t bother me. In golf I compete strictly with the demons in my head; each hole a new Hamilton-Burr duel, where I am both Hamilton and Burr, and we both get it between the eyes. It’s the wrong way to approach golf, and it’s certainly a criminal way to approach mini-golf. Nevertheless, there I was, standing before a fake, miniature Eiffel Tower, but seeing it as imposingly as the real one, and calculating a line of putt as if my life depended on it. In golf, you try to put positive thoughts into your head before making a shot. I pulled my putter back and thought, I wonder how many people jump off the real one in Paris every year?

mini golf Eiffel tower
Making sure he read every break along the way

   I once wrote about the stages of golf grief that ran opposite the stages of real grief. In golf grief, you begin with acceptance and end in denial. (That’s how the game brings you back.) You may also experience the additional stages of anger, depression and negotiation on each hole, sometimes, in the case of a four-putt, on the same green.

   I guess my Death in the Afternoon approach to golf did not bother Carol’s grandson. He said he had a great time, and was looking forward to a rematch. I suppose that had something to do with him being in my pocket for three big ones ($1 each for most aces, fewest three-putts and total score) more than made up for the lack of camaraderie on my part. So I will accept his challenge to a rematch. Maybe put a little more effort into mental preparation next time.

   I looked it up. There have been 349 suicides off the Eiffel Tower since it opened in 1898.

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