I am not, and have never claimed to be an athlete. Couch potato is more my style, though with a book, not watching television.
So it might surprise you to discover that in my teenage years I gave serious consideration to a career as a professional athlete. Mind you, it wasn’t one of those physically grueling sports like football or hockey. I was going to play miniature golf.
You may laugh at that, but on television every weekend I could watch the pros at work. Top prize money was $5,000, which was a lot in 1972. I could have made more in a weekend playing mini-putt than I could in a year in my office job.
I was pretty good too, especially given that I didn’t practice. If I had spent time honing my skills I might have been able to make a good living at it. Alas, we’ll never know. For some reason, and I don’t remember what it was, I never pursued it. Maybe I was risk averse, which would be unusual in one so young, but not impossible.
Priorities change, and while I still enjoy miniature golf I haven’t played much in recent years. When my children were younger I did play fairly often, but now that they are in their twenties they would prefer not to play against the old guy. I’m out of practice, but I can still beat them.
This all came to mind last month when I got an email from a friend suggesting we go and play a round. He and I used to play regularly, but it had been probably 40 years since the last time. It was a pleasant sunny afternoon and I was reminded just how much I enjoy the game.
The disadvantage of playing against an old friend is that I couldn’t psych him out. I have an old putter I use that used to be my grandfather’s. It is about a century old, with a wooden shaft, and looks very different from a modern putter. People see me with it and think I must be good, like a billiard player with his own cue; it intimidates them.
I know how that feels: the first time I played in Germany I was intimidated by a player who carried his own set of balls and used a different ball on each hole. Europeans take the sport very seriously.
I wasn’t happy with my performance at all last month. I did finish my 36 holes under par, but my score wasn’t as low as I would have expected. Too many of my putts showed just how out-of-practice I am.
Earlier this month while on holiday in Maine I hit the “links” again. Once again I was not happy with my performance, but it was an improvement and I did shoot under par again. Given that I didn’t have my own club with me I was satisfied. (My daughter wasn’t happy either, she can’t beat me.)
But it got me to thinking. Maybe it isn’t too late for that professional career I once dreamed about.