Like the seventeenth and a Rubik’s cube, this was a hard puzzle to solve. It soon faded into the background after returning home and being immersed in busy, everyday life. As trip photographer, the middle brother spent any spare moment back at the ranch sifting through and enjoying pictures of the day. Like Ansel Adams in Yosemite, good subject material boosts any photo’s quality. He considered applying to the New York Times after seeing what he brought back from Cypress. He made two back-ups of every image.
There was also the unexpected ennui about golf. Postpartum depression had set in after the miraculous event, and it was hard to go out and play his local muni again. Was golf now ruined since nothing could compare to Cypress? Was this his Neil Armstrong moment? Neil had only one flag to remind him of the moment; he at least had several flags he could wear or carry around in his pocket. Tees, a ball marker, and divot tool were very transportable, but the shells, balls, and piece of Cypress wood from seventeen were not. They would not even be good mantle pieces until he figured out how to deodorize them.
This break from playing did let him think about how far he had come in his journey. It was just a few years ago he could barely play, and now he had played Cypress. Little leaguers do not get promoted so fast to the majors. What had made him finally try and pick up the game? He clearly remembers when he had made this decision – it was during a round with his uncle and two brothers. The real reason he remembers it is his dad had just suddenly died, so it was a time of mourning. Their uncle was kind enough to invite them to play golf to provide some relief before the funeral, and they played the home course of the first golfer. With thoughts of the afterlife on a beloved course, the conditions were pretty fertile for some heavenly direction. Did any come? Could spirits fill them with thoughts and resolve? Was the “ghost” living up to his nickname? Was his dad also on the course that day? Maybe not yet interred spirits have permission to make unseen visits?
This seemed to be the only credible explanation for a multi-year quest to play better golf, and to drag others along. He had stopped more goals than a Vezina trophy winner. But this was still pretty circumstantial evidence at best. A better question may be was this message really worthy enough to be carried by heavenly mailmen? Or maybe it was just delivered by the first golfer given his love for the game? Their father probably would not waste his Marley-type interlude on a golf message since he had said many times he would rather watch grass grow. Maybe the answers lay in what he had learned from golf, so he began cataloging these lessons to see if they provided a breadcrumb trail back to the truth.
Golf is a deliberate, time consuming game, and had provided many welcome breaks from middle age pressures, problems, and disappointments. He had almost always rushed to the links after a bad meeting, a bad quarter, harmful political machinations, or a lay-off. Or after learning of a sad child, a family break-up, or a bankrupt friend. It helped him regroup and find the strength to come back and keep trying. This seemed to be a tally in his dad’s favor, but the first golfer had faced many of the same despite economic success. Still, this felt one up to his dad.
This is a game played outside, where he could be reminded of the wonder of nature, and his small place in it. Such a setting was also best for reflection and communion, especially after he became good enough not to live in constant fear on the course. Modern life seemed to be merely moving from one enclosed box to another, staring and tapping at screens, with numerous devices clamoring for attention. Golf was a wonderful escape hatch from hamster habitats. His dad was a constant, avid reader, and would spend hours in a quiet setting filling himself with the written word, and the thoughts they produced. The first golfer was an energetic, active man who loved to be outside, and had a very prominent green thumb. This was a push. So two for dad, one for the first golfer.
He had become very interested in golf history by learning to play better. Unlike most other sports, there were many stories and people to cherish and admire. This added so much depth and richness to the game that he wondered how he played without it. Golf was now in high definition, and there were no tears in leaving the analog world behind. And this increased his desire to add texture from history to the rest of his life. His dad’s favorite book genre was history, though murder mysteries were a close second, and the first golfer pored over similar volumes in his large library all his life. Another push. Three for dad, two for the first golfer.