2006.07.12 The Golf War

Written by David Green.


Someone once said, “Man is the only creature that drinks when it is not thirsty.”

That quote should be extended to, “Man is the only creature that bulldozes and landscapes massive stretches of untouched nature, spends great sums on metal shafts and tiny balls, and wakes up at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday so that it can drink when it is not thirsty.”

For those who don’t share my wry and unfunny sense of humor, I’m referring to the often simultaneous acts of playing golf and drinking beer, which comprise the unofficial pastime of American businessmen who should be at work but hate their jobs.

I suppose the pleasing combination of alcohol and whacking the buh-jesus out of something offers some consolation for these miserable men, but it never has for me. On the contrary, playing golf makes me hate my life even more.

Here’s why: my mom always tells me I shouldn’t sweat the stuff I can’t control, so I don’t. I don’t sweat things like my poor diet, dire physical shape, outrageous spending habits, dirty dishes, tattered wardrobe, or childish lack of self-control.

However, I do sweat things I should be able to control, like the trajectory of a tiny ball sitting on a tee. My friend Will describes a miracle as a momentary breakdown of the laws of physics. If this is the case, golf is one big old miracle, because there’s not a physicist on the planet who can explain to me how, by swinging a club forward, I can send a ball careening 150 yards to my right.

And there’s not a physicist on the planet who can explain to me how my brother John’s seemingly identical swing sends the ball 350 yards down the fairway.

John and I teamed up against six other family members last week for the annual Fourth of July golf outing, and from the woods, sand traps, water hazards, weeds and, occasionally, rough, I had the pleasure of watching my brother play one of the best games of his life. With a five over par 41, he carded the top score of all the participants, but, sadly, my 18 over par round put us out of the running for the team title.

However, I’m not ashamed to say that’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to beating John.

My brother has always been better at sports than me because he has something that I lack: not being a head case. For John, when it comes to hitting a ball straight, that’s as easy as it is; he puts his mind to it, and his body cooperates. My mind and my body hate each other, as, I believe, my athletic record—and appearance—demonstrates.

But that’s why I enjoy watching John when he’s in form; it’s almost sublime to see someone similarly burdened with these toxic Pickell genes competing so gracefully and graciously. It’s reassuring to know that, perhaps, with a little genetic engineering, I, too, might one day run a mile without feeling like my lungs are trying to kick their way out of my chest.

I’m not going to turn this into a “let’s fawn all over John,” column, though. His athletic dominance of our family is far-reaching, but not absolute. For instance, I’m far superior to him at the noble aquatic game of Marco Polo. I’m unmatched at trampoline dodge ball. On our bicycles, I can peddle hands-free farther than him.

Also, I can juggle three tennis balls to his two, and make my ears twitch while doing it.

I should say too, though, that there’s an advantage to being as bad as I am at golf; I get more opportunities to hit great shots than John does.

For example, John rarely gets the chance to pop a ball 120 yards onto the green from  atop a stump in the middle of a forest, as I did last Tuesday. And I’m pretty sure that John has never used his driver to send a ball 200 yards down the fairway after a 12-yard tee-off that landed in a sand trap.

These dazzling displays often make John’s “straight” shots that land where he intends seem paltry in comparison.

There are also health benefits to my style of play. Since 80 percent of my balls land places a cart can’t navigate, I spend a lot of time walking. I also burn a lot of calories scratching the poison ivy and poison sumac rashes I get from an average day on the golf course.

So, next time you see calamine-soaked “Pink Legs” Pickell walking around the neighborhood, know that he’s probably spent a day reaffirming his fallibility on the golf course.

  – July 12, 2006
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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