Monday, July 16, 2012

The Best Spiritual Advice

The best piece of spiritual advice—and the best golf advice—comes from the world of gambling. There is a sign in every casino that says:  “You Must Be Present to Win.”

With God, in marriage, in the workplace, with friends and even with ourselves—we must be present. And it’s true on the golf course. I have to be physically present of course—and present more often I am reminding myself. But also mentally present and emotionally present. I borrow this slogan from 12 step programs: “Be where your feet are.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Book Learning

I am a reader. That’s probably my primary identity. I love books and magazines and newspapers. (I adore newspapers). I grew up in a household that read four (4) newspapers a day—and I’m sure that’s why I write for one now. Some writers think that the biggest deal is to have their words between two hard covers, but not me. I just love the idea that I am at someone’s breakfast table with them, and I am most complimented when someone tells me they have one of my columns stuck on their refrigerator. The fridge is the ultimate honor.

So given my love of words it makes sense—to me—that I am learning to play golf by reading books. Yes, laugh if you want, but I’m a true believer. Yes I do go to the driving range and I take lessons and I thrill at making par on a par three, but I come back to books.

Right now I’m reading the new book, “On Par”, by Bill Pennington who writes the New York Times column also called “On Par”—the book is a collection of columns, some longer essays and a bit of a memoir. The book is about golf rules, equipment, players, instruction and language. And I carry away ideas from eye to body as I read him.

I have to say that even I questioned my “book-to-green” approach and then I remembered something from my early life.

When I was 13 years old my older, married sister bought a motorboat and she and her husband learned to water ski. I wanted so badly to go on that boat and be towed behind it. I wanted to feel that walking on water sensation. But I’d heard my brother-in-law laughing about friends who tried and belly flopped or were dragged in the water behind the boat. I was 13; I wanted to waterski but I did not want to be laughed at.

I got a book called “How to Water Ski” from the public library and I read it. Then for several nights I sat on the floor in the sister's den with the towrope from the boat between my legs and holding the ski bar in my hands. As I read the instructions over and over I practiced how to shift my weight and I physically (kinesthetically?) imagined what the pull would be like, how my body would rise and what the pressure in my legs and arms would feel like—how to “get up” on water skis.

And it worked. I was able to go from book to body by practicing on the carpet, and when the sunny Saturday finally came and I jumped into the cold Connellsville Lake I knew what to expect. When the boat roared and that first tug came, I shifted my weight, as I had practiced, and I water skied my first time out.

So I’m a believer that books can teach all kinds of things, and there is a place for reading in a new golfer’s life.