RICK CLEVELAND: Golf is a game of give and take

By Rick Cleveland

JACKSON – Mark Twain, the great American humorist and writer, once called golf “a good walk spoiled.”
While I hesitate to quibble with Twain, a man of such remarkable intellect, I respectfully disagree. Then again, I don’t walk when I play golf. I ride.
No doubt, Twain had a point, to a point. A poor round of golf can spoil your day if you let it. This past weekend, I played in a 54-hole golf tournament. Yes, I rode. At this juncture in life, after having played golf for more than 50 years, I do not let golf, no matter how putridly I play, spoil my day.
After all, golf already has spoiled my lower back, which is why I rarely play. But when I do play, I play with good friends, and I enjoy the sunshine, the good ride and the mostly bad golf.
Sir Winston Churchill had the best description of golf when he said it is a game in which “the aim is to hit a very small ball into a slightly larger hole with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”
Churchill obviously had golfed.
So had the great American writer John Updike, who wrote, “Golf appeals to the idiot in us and the child. Just how childlike golfers become is proven by their frequent inability to count past five.”
I count past five all too often.
In fact, I would have to count high into the hundreds upon hundreds to reach the number of rounds of golf played in my lifetime. As kids, we played nearly ever summer day, sometimes 36 or 54 holes in a day. Back then, we walked.
During my career as a sports writer, which often meant working nights, I played lots and lots of golf. Too much golf, my wife would surely tell you.
I do not regret it, but sometimes contemplate what could have been achieved with all that time spent on the golf course.
I could have written books, a library full. I could have learned at least 20 different languages. Heck, I could have written all those books in different languages.
I could have done yard work as a second job, made tens of thousands of dollars, invested it in the stock market and become a multi-millionaire. I could have played tennis and gotten much more exercise. I could have just walked, without golf clubs, and have been so much leaner than the pudgy guy who looks back at me in the mirror.
I could have learned to re-grip and repair golf clubs, and made tons of money off of all those other fools.
It just goes on and on…so many hours of golf, so much money spent on golf, and so little to show for it, other than a creaky back that goes completely out on me once or twice a year.
And still I love it, even though I sometimes agree with the great golfer Ray Floyd, when he says golf got its name only because “all the other four-letter words were taken.”
I play less and less these days, but I seem to enjoy it more. My handicap, once down to three, has now soared into double figures.
I will play occasionally as my back allows, but I’ll do so in complete agreement with evangelists Billy Graham, who knows a thing or two about prayer, and has been an avid golfer. Said Graham: “The only place my prayers are never answered is on a golf course.”

Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@msfame.com), the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, blogs at msfame.com.