Jay Milligan is one of my favorite folks in the world. He's a Covingtonian, by way of Social Circle and the U.S. Marine Corps and, like me, married up. Way up. He is also one of the funniest human beings on earth - but that's another story for another day.
Jay Milligan has tried to talk me into taking up golf for years. I guess he started playing a while back and decided that misery loves company. I insist, every time he brings it up, that golf and I were never intended to be paired together. I took a course on the game in college and was the 35th worst player out of 32 students in my class.
Milligan insists it doesn't matter. He says I can enjoy the game anyway. "Think about it," he has told me over and over. "If you just hit one good shot on every hole, that's 18 times you'll feel good that day. What else can you do at your age that will make you feel good 18 times in one day?"
He has a point, you know. But I always counter with, "It would take me about 140 strokes to get around the course, and that's on a good day."
Milligan's response, "Well there you go. You'll get to hit the ball 140 times. When Tiger Woods goes out to play, he only gets to hit it about 65 or 70 times. You'll have twice as much fun for your money than Tiger Woods, and he's about the best there is."
He has an answer for everything, but when it comes to golf I have always put more stock into Mark Twain's analysis of the game. He called it "a good walk spoiled."
Now walking is something I do know something about because I walk between 6 and 10 miles a day. That's me you see bouncing along on the side of the road in the middle of the day - the guy with the sweat, and the pounds, pouring off.
Don't get me wrong. I have tried my luck at the local driving range a few times and have been known to knock an old range ball around the cow pasture every once in a while - once in a very great while that is. And I'm a champion miniature golfer, having won the Jekyll Island Spring Break Championship three of the past five years. I have even ventured out to the local par 3 course once or twice. But real golf on a real golf course? I had never tried that until Thursday morning.
But my son Jackson is home for the summer and he got up enough nerve to go out on a real live 18 hole golf course a couple of weeks ago. Ever since he played he had tried to convince me to give it a try. He insisted that, during the week, this particular course was isolated enough for me to play - or attempt to play - without embarrassing myself or holding up any real golfers as I whacked my way around the course.
I promised to consider it, but that's as far as I got. Until Wednesday night.
Wednesday night Frank Chandley called and invited me to take part in a golf outing in August. It's one of those charity events where folks pay to play and help raise money for this or that worthy cause. I think Frank's cause is the Georgia Club Foundation. At any rate, Frank is one of those people that you don't say no to. I didn't even hesitate. I just told him that I would be there. I did warn him that I wasn't a very good golfer. I should have warned him, of course, that I wasn't a golfer at all.
But since August is only about six weeks away I decided that I had better start swinging a club. So Thursday morning Jackson and I loaded our clubs in the car and drove to our undisclosed location, determined to give it a go.
We were doing fine until we got in the golf cart. Then we had a little trouble finding the first tee. In fact, I think we started on 15, but after playing 15, 16 and 17 finally found our way back to the first hole and things eventually evened out.
And to tell you the truth, I wasn't nearly as bad as I thought I would be. Oh, I was plenty bad, understand - but I entered the contest with very, very low expectations.
I didn't triple Tiger's typical score. I only doubled it. I shot 122. But that's counting every shot - even the ones where I topped the ball and it only moved a couple of feet. And I almost made a par on one par three and I managed to play the last eight holes with the same ball - and that's saying something for me. I even made about a 13-foot putt, to save triple bogey on a par 5. But I hit the ball in the hole 18 times and Jay Milligan was absolutely right. I did feel good 18 times Thursday - and there's nothing else I can think of that will cause me to feel good 18 times in one day.
Especially at my age.
Frank Chandley had better watch out. If I keep practicing I might break 100 by Aug. 1.