I suspect that ardent golfers who watched Tom Watson’s performance at the 2009 Open were of two minds when it ended. They were sad for “Old Tom,” but happy to be associated with such a great Game. For most of us, that happiness is not so much based on our whether we can hit long drives or make short putts, but rather on the many pleasures we associate with participating in the sport. And who knows, with practice or devine intervention, our abilities sometimes improve, even if only for a brief time. Sir Walter Simpson, an early golf historian whom I have previously quoted, wrote in his book The Art of Golf (1892),
Golf is not one of those occupations in which you soon learn your level. There is no shape nor size of body, no awkwardness nor ungainliness, which puts good golf beyond one’s reach. There are good golfers with spectacles, with one eye, with one leg, even with one arm. … It is not the youthful tyro alone who has cause to hope. Beginners in middle age have become great, and, more wonderful still, after years of patient duffering, there may be a rift in the clouds. … In golf, whilst there is life there is hope.
That final thought provides lasting inspiration to us all.
In the May 1915 issue of The American Golfer, the correspondent who wrote “New England Notes” included a poem that reflected both the frustrations and pleasures of “patient duffering,”
My drive is erratic, my brassie’s the same,
My irons atrocious, and awful my aim,
My mashie is fearful, my putting worse still,
My scores have the look of a dressmaker’s bill;
My legs are a-weary, my wrists are quite lame,
But I am most happy, — I’m playing the game.