This I believe: that the lessons we end up paying for rarely hold a candle to the ones we get for free.
I know this, in part, from learning to play golf with the Green Mountain Boys. No cleats, not tees, no collars required. My first golfing set was replete with chintzy bag, oversized clubs, and a few cold ones zippered away from sight. A few recycled golf balls, retrieved from the local country club’s water hazard, nestled inside my parka awaiting abuse. I was good to go. My first April morning date with a cheap par three in Stamford, Vermont began an obsessive course of duffing, slicing, and hooking. And I was hooked- to the swearing, the laughter, and the personal chess game that was forever laid before me with the landscape, the dimpled gleaming ball, and the elusive cup.
The Green Mountain Boys were benevolent: They instructed me the best they could, through thrown clubs, slang, pride, and through their won lack of professional guidance. The GMB’s consisted of a group of young men who had, for the most part, grown up in Bennington, Vermont. My younger brother included. I’d known half of these guys through puberty, graduation, keg parties, marriage, and divorce.
On that first day out it began downpouring shortly after lunch. Note: rain is not a deterrent to playing golf with the GMB’s, unless the club owner or manager comes out of the clubhouse yelling to get off the greens. One of the GMB’s was wearing shorts; the warm, large droplets of rain were pelting his cargo’s with a madness that caused them to bubble a sudsy ooze that slipped down his bare calves. He looked at the embarrassment slithering down past his socks and swore, “I knew it was too much detergent.”
This was followed by a general knee slapping and guffawing by all. He walked over to a small stream, slipped off the offending clothing, and made like a woman from long ago, stooping over his laundry: rinsing, rinsing, wringing, wringing. He silently pulled his trousers back on and approached his ball as if all of this routine were a normal part of the game.
Earlier in the day, when the bunkers were drier, I had pulled a nine ron shot into a bunker. My brother decided to be my mentor for the shot to follow. It was my first lie in the sand and I wasn’t sure how to even swing at the ball. My brother told me to go ahead and get right under it and to pull a wad of sand right out from under that ball and remember to follow all the way through. I wasn’t sure if he was leading me astray as he was known to do quite often in our childhood. I “outed” the ball and it plunked down perfectly on the green. My brother smiled and tipped his hat at me as if he were on the PGA tour.
I’ve been golfing for over a decade now and have taken some professional lessons, but it was never as fun or as enlightening as my novice days with the GMB’s. I miss those days, but mostly, I miss them: their slaps on my back as if I were a Green Mountain Boy too, even though I was a “Girl”.
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