Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Play Group

Play group lives!

On Friday I played my first round of golf in 13 years. It’s crazy writing that. My Dad gifted the game of golf to my brother and me when we were 7 and 8, respectively. Over the years I’m sure that I’ve played thousands of rounds of golf. I was a pretty good golfer. Not great. Certainly not go out and compete great. Let’s call it “country club good”. Still, it was rare for me to be totally outmatched in any foursome, and I was generally a decent partner for that “good walk, spoiled”. When I hurt my shoulder in the gym so many years ago I became a very mediocre golfer, literally overnight. More than that, every swing hurt.

For the privilege of playing what, for me, was not great golf I got to be in pain, a pretty lousy trade.

So I gave up golf. Didn’t play a single round, or really even set foot on a golf course, for these last 13 years. Quite honestly I really didn’t miss the game itself. Golf had been good to me in so many ways, and I walked away without any real goals left unachieved. What I did miss, though, was golfers. The men with whom I played golf. I missed the grab-assing on the first tee, arguing over who got how many strokes from whom and what the game would be. I missed rehashing the round with my playing mates on the “19th hole”, lying about how well we played. What I missed about golf was the camaraderie of being in the company of golfers.

Which is why my round on Friday was so special. We even had a story heading up to the first round. You see, it was actually supposed to happen a week ago, but I got called to an emergency surgery. My first in at least 10 years. How weird, eh? So this Friday came after another week of anticipation and the fear that I wouldn’t just be 13 years rusty, but truly and completely awful. My visits to the driving range put the chances of that happening at a pretty robust 50%.

You know what? It didn’t matter. Oh, I was terrible all right. Simply horrible at the start. I lost 3 balls on the first hole (kinda scary; I only brought 9 balls!). Couldn’t even get a ball airborne with my driver. But it really didn’t matter at all because I wasn’t there on the first tee with just any group of golfers. I was there with 6 men who I have known and with whom I’ve been friends for some 25 years.

We met through our wives, all stay-at-home Moms who’d found each other through Pre-School PTA and formed classic play groups when our kids were tiny. These are most of the guys I’ve traveled with to some of the most gawd-awful courses in South Carolina, and then come back with some of my very best golf memories. They were collectively holding their breath not just to see if I could still play, but more importantly to see how I reacted if I couldn’t.

Did I really mean it when I told them that I was back for them, to be a part of our Play Group, and not for the golf?

This is not a group noted for its collective ability to let an opportunity to tease a member pass, but there they were. Silent. Worried about their friend. Kinda bummed for me, actually. Until I stepped up to my putrid 40 yard best drive and promptly plunked another ball in the drink. We probably got close to getting the boot the howls of laughter were so loud. My buddies peppered me with golf balls to make sure I wouldn’t run out, and made unprintable jokes about how I might have more effectively used my “Orange Whip” swing trainer as we rolled on toward what turned out to be a very nice walk, indeed.

How did I end up playing? Meh, overall pretty pitiful to be honest. There were a few rather nice iron shots in between 45 putts (some things never change!), and I was O-fer on those holes where I played around with hitting driver off the tee. Oh, and I ended up net positive on the golf ball ledger; I found a total of 6 balls to balance the 4 I lost in all. We were all even par in the pub afterwards, of course! There was no mercy extended in the commentary on my maiden round, although one buddy did have a tip that might just do the trick on that driving problem.

What my day turned out to be was exactly what I’d hoped for, a chance to be in the company of men who were my friends. 6 guys with whom I’ve not spent enough time over the years as I sidelined myself from one of our gathering places. No matter how old you are you always need a crew, a tribe of compatible humans who genuinely want you to be there, no matter where “there” happens to be. Friends in my case who may or may not have tucked a couple of extra balls in their bag just in case you kept losing yours at a 3 per hole rate.

It wasn’t about the golf. Really, even when I was decent, it really wasn’t about the golf even if maybe I did care a bit about the golf then. Nope, it’s about Play Group, and the friends who make up Play Group. So a tip of my cap to Pete, Rob, Steve, Bob, Dwight and Tom (we missed you, Ted and Ken). Thanks for saving my spot. And a shout-out to my brother Randy for the long-distance coaching and encouragement. A hearty: “Yes! When?” to Rob, Bob, T, and all of my long-lost golf buddies when you ask me to play, as you’ve continued to do for 13 years.

No matter what your handicaps may be each of you has proven to be a “scratch” when it comes to the game of friendship.

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