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Opinion column: Celebrating a new golf season

Posted: Wednesday, Apr 23rd, 2014

Doom and gloom seems to dominate the news lately, even local news. The county has a cash flow problem. The EPA wants to redefine Wyoming and turn every irrigation ditch and mud puddle into wetlands. Educational curriculum battles and the decision to make the capitol building pretty at the cost of finding a solution to rising health care costs and encouraging the chocolate chip cookie industry, just to name a few.

Thankfully, good news is just around the corner. Golf season has begun.

Of course, there are many in Torrington for whom golf season never ends. As long as the course is snow free, there is a diehard group that bundle up to play in wind, cold and even the occasional snowflake.

Fortunately, for most of us, being able to feel our extremities is a personal condition for playing a round of golf. So we impatiently wait for spring to tempt us before we venture to the local course, with the belief that we will be a better golfer this year than we were last.

It’s a belief that has some merit, however, since many of us golfed so poorly last season that improvement is really the only direction we can go.

Hah! I have come to realize that the only consistent in golf is that things can always get worse.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure to play the Cog Hill Golf Course outside of Chicago, which had just hosted the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship. Needless to say, I did not have any expectations of “conquering” the course. I just wanted to play a course where the big boys had played.

Actually, I was pretty pleased with how my round started out. As I tee’d off on the seventh tee, I was only five over on a difficult course that was still manicured the way the pros had played it.

As I followed my tee shot into the rough, I heard sirens coming from the direction of the clubhouse. The weather was clear, so I ruled out tornado warnings and put the sirens out of my mind to concentrate on my next shot out of six inches of thick, club-sucking rough.

Four shots later, I was finally lining up my first putt attempt when a fellow golfer came walking towards me at a quick and determined pace.

He stopped when he saw me, and the expression on his face looked as though he had seen the ghost of Ben Hogan.

He just stared at me, clearly distressed. I asked him if he was alright and if he needed any help.

“No,” he said. “I just need to get out of here. I jumped in with a three-some, and we were just getting ready to putt on 12 when one of the guys collapsed. I mean face first. Right on the green.”

Evidently, that was what the sirens were all about. The unfortunate golfer had a heart attack, and though one of his partners applied CPR, he passed away on the 12th green.

As the shaken golfer started walking toward the clubhouse, I’ll never forget the final words he threw over his shoulders as he walked away, “and I was shooting the best round I ever had on this course!”

Like I said, in golf, things can always get worse.

I finished my round, not really caring too much about my score, instead contemplating the fragile nature of life and the often cruel nature of golf.

When I got to the 12th green, I said a little prayer for the fallen golfer (and myself) and realized that there are many, many worse ways to pass out of this life other than on a golf course.

So, I keep golfing, always hoping to improve my game, but intent on keeping life’s priorities in proper order.

The experience also taught me that though we learn more from our failures, there is no sweeter taste than success, and those should not be taken for granted but celebrated as though they may never happen again.

See you on the course.

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