Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Golfing with Bob

Bob is 93 years old. He can't hear, can't see very well anymore, and can't walk very fast. He has his own golf cart, and when we drive up to the first tee, the starter knows him by name.

I am 39 years old. I can hear and see just fine, and I can run when I need to. I don't own my own golf cart, and the starter doesn't know me from Adam.

We step up onto the first tee box at Morro Bay on a beautiful summer morning with the slight ocean breeze making a gorgeous day just that much better. Bob has lived in this idyllic beach paradise for 60 years. I just visit occasionally.

I swing my club back and forth in large exaggerated arcs, trying to stretch the muscles in my back. Bob laughs at me and says that I'm wasting a lot of precious energy. He does not warm up.

It is the 4th of July weekend, and my family and I are in town to celebrate our nation’s independence with my wife’s family. Bob knows a thing or two about liberty, and what it takes to keep it. He was the pilot of a Navy bomber at an early age during WWII. He fought for the freedom of the civilized world, and returned home in one piece to tell about it.

His commitment to liberty has remained strong his entire life. He has been retired for many, many years now, never having had a boss. He worked for himself his whole life, free to schedule in as much golf as he could get away with. He scheduled in a lot of golf! I only manage to find time for golf when I’m on vacation. I don’t play much.

It’s time for us to tee off on the 480-yard par-five. I'm up first. I square up with my driver and let it rip. My backswing comes way over my head with the club shaft coming parallel with the ground, and my follow through comes all the way around so the club's shaft is vertical behind my back. It's a picture-perfect amateur’s swing. My ball takes flight and rockets out away from the tee box. As I admire its trajectory, it defies my wishes, slicing to the right, leaving the airspace over my own fairway and ending up coming to rest 270 yards away under a small tree on the other side of the cart path. Bob laughs at me and says, "Boy, if I could hit the ball as far as you do, I'd be unstoppable." He takes his driver out of the bag and shuffles up to the box. His backswing barely gets more than 10 degrees behind his legs, and his follow through is non-existent. He hits it 100 yards. It goes straight up the middle of the fairway.

We hop in Bob's cart and drive to his ball. He gets the 3-wood out of his bag and hits it again, 100 yards, straight up the middle of the fairway. He keeps the 3-wood handy as he gets back in the cart, knowing he'll need it again. We drive straight up the middle of the fairway to his ball, which he hits again, 100 yards, again, right up the middle of the fairway.

We then take a sharp right turn off the fairway to find my ball. My ball is under a tree and the tree is between my ball and the green. The smart move is to hit a short sideways shot back onto the safety of my own fairway. Not always one for the smart move, I opt to try and knock down a 3-iron, under the tree, at a slight angle to the green, making up some ground and possibly getting to the edge of the green for a chance at birdie. I let it rip. I am an idiot. My ball skips off the side of the tree I was under, and hits the neighboring tree square in the trunk, sending my ball ricocheting backward at a 45- degree angle onto my own fairway. I have lost 50 yards with my second shot. Bob chuckles and tells me that I’m going the wrong way. I thank him.

We drive the cart away from the green toward my ball. I really get ahold of my 3-wood on my third shot and hit the ball almost 250 yards again, slicing to the right again, landing almost pin-high, but to the extreme right of the green, almost on the tee box of Hole 2.

Bob hits his fourth shot 100 yards, straight up the middle of the fairway.

Bob hits his fifth shot 70 yards, onto the green, 5 feet from the pin.

I chip my fourth shot all the way over the green, landing near, but luckily not in, the sand trap on the left side of the green.

I re-chip for my fifth shot, onto the green, 17 feet from the pin.

I putt my sixth shot to within 6 feet of the hole.

Bob easily makes his 5- foot putt for a bogie six.

I miraculously toilet-bowl my 6-foot putt into the hole for a double-bogie seven.

Bob has beaten me by a stroke on the first hole. This continued all morning.

He never hit the ball more than 100 yards at a time the entire round. I got ahold of one drive on Hole 13 that I swear went 320 yards. Big deal. He beat me by 11 strokes.

Bob shot his age. At 93 years old, he shot a 93. I don't want to talk about my score.

Bob has shot his age every year of his life since he was in his 60's. If you aren't a golfer, suffice it to say, that is something that all golfers – including the pros - wish they could do.

I have had the pleasure of getting beat by the old man for quite some time now. Bob is my wife’s grandpa, and a fantastic Great Grandpa to my boys. When I started playing golf with him, he was in his early 80’s and he beat me by 20 strokes or more every game. I’m not getting any better.

He teaches my boys to putt whenever they slow down long enough for him to hand them one of his ancient wood-shafted putters and show them how to line up to play the break of the game room carpet. Maybe they’ll be good.

On this Independence Day weekend, when I reflect on my many blessings as an American, getting to spend time with Bob is on my top-ten list. He is one of the people in my life that I hold in the highest regard.

He has taught me a lot about the importance of controlling the golf ball over the years, and one day I might just start listening.

He has taught me much more about the importance of liberty over the years, and I have hung on every word.

He has never needed to lecture me greatly about either subject. His actions, his happiness, his success, and the story of his life do the majority of the talking for him.

Thanks, Bob. Happy 4th of July!

See you soon,

Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. Wonderful and true! He is loved and respected by so many!

    Gail :)

  2. AMEN. My life has been blessed by growing up in his steady presence.

  3. I loved this heartfelt account of your day with Bob. We need more "Bobs" in America. I fear he is a dwindling breed.