One of the great outlets in life when growing up in Northeast Ohio is the game of Golf. As a kid with nothing to do in the Summer, Golf filled that void for me all through my school years. My folks knew that they could drop me off at Countryside Golf Course near my home in Struthers and I'd be out of trouble for the entire day.
I bought my first set of golf clubs with the money I made caddying at Tippecanoe Country Club. I was twelve years old and purchased them at Strouss-Hirshberg Department Store in downtown Youngstown. An unlikely place to buy sporting equipment at an upscale store, but my sister worked there and I got them with her discount which made them affordable with my meager savings.
My early days of golfing was strictly trial and error. I learned basically by observation. I caddied for some really good golfers and some real duffers. I picked up all sorts of good and bad traits that others were all too happy to correct me about over the years, whether I wanted help or not.
Believe it or not, I refined my putting skills at none other than a regulation Putt-Putt course. I played there often and learned how to judge the speed and distance of putting a ball. My "Short Game", the part of the golf game from 100 yards to the hole, became my strong suite. There's an old adage in golf that says,"You drive for show and putt for dough.", meaning that a long hit off the tee might be impressive, but if you are accurate with your short game, you'll do much better.
I never was great at golf, but I could hold my own with the average weekend golfer. Because golf requires so much timing and repetitive skills, it's next to impossible to be a terrific player without playing several times a week. Those of us the had to hold down a job and had a family seldom had the time to devote to the game. Also, golf in northern Ohio in the Winter months is downright impossible, even if you do use orange balls. So taking a 3-4 month break from the game each year doesn't help hone your skills.
As a young adult, I played in a men's league at Tanglewood Golf Course, near the Pennsylvania border. A beautiful hilly course that was one of the longest in the area. Our League was divided into two groups based on Handicaps. Handicaps level the playing field, so to speak, and a certain number of strokes are deducted from your score based on your average. I think the best handicap I ever had was a six, meaning I scored an average of six shots over par for an eighteen hole round.
At the end of the golf season in our league, I was fortunate enough to play for the league championship against a much older guy that was close to retirement age. I began to lick my chops at the thoughts of beating the heck out of this guy on the course. After all, I drove the ball twice as far as he did. Our match commenced with "The Old Timer" hitting the ball 150 yards at a time, right down the middle of the fairway. I snickered at his feeble attempt and promptly put my first drive in a pond. This is how the rest of the day pretty much went. I "got my clock cleaned" by this old guy! I was beaten and humbled by a guy three times my age. I guess there is something to that saying, "You drive for show and putt for dough." I certainly learned my lesson.
Fast forward about 25 years. My oldest son, Matt and I are playing golf occasionally before he moves out of state. Matt was a gifted athlete and an excellent golfer, frequently shooting par and sub-par rounds. Talk about de javu all over again! I've seldom seen anyone hit a ball as far as Matt. He frequently hits it over 350 yards from the tee! When he cranks one out there that far his accuracy falls way off. Here comes dear old dad, 200 yards down the middle and my good short game. Amazingly, Matt has never beaten me in all these years. I guess I've learned my lesson. It's time to pass on my wisdom to my son.