Monday, October 20, 2014

A Hole-in-One: Astonishing...and Worth Telling About

Forgive me, but Mary Oliver's poem "Instructions on How to Live a Life" bear repeating once again. She writes
1. Pay attention.

2. Be astonished.
3. Tell about it.
All too often, the battle that I face is paying attention. But fortunately on Sunday October 19, I caught sight of something I'm not sure I will ever see again. My friend hit a hole-in-one!
Presidio, 15th hole, 132 yards, with my seven iron, three great golf buds and a lot of screaming.
Nothing about this life accomplishment should be taken for granted—the least of which being that three of the four members of our group saw it. On any given hole, not all parties watch the ball or are as interested in where it goes as the golfer in the tee box. Other times, the sphere that is 1.8" in diameter can be tough to spot off a driver, into the open fairway (or not). And recently, I have broken the pact that I made with myself: that exercise is a cell free zone. On several of the 18 holes, I glanced at my phone while my friends were preparing to hit. Indeed, paying attention in this instance was more than good fortune! It was truly remarkable.

Our friend used her seven iron off the tee. She hit the ball well, as she so often does, and it landed just to the left of the (right) bunker, adjacent to the green and began to roll. It rolled at a near 45 degree angle, slowly but surely toward the pin. We watched, waited (not long) and "sounded a barbaric yawp over the rooftops," or in this case, the fairways of the world (thank you Walt Whitman). Needless to say, being astonished was a given.

But what astonished me most was our friend's gracious response. She was shaking from excitement and adrenaline. We were hugging and screaming. She did nothing to draw any attention to herself or be self-congratulatory. The first thing she said was "I feel so badly for my dad. He hasn't had one..." We made sure she enjoyed the feat; we had to celebrate as well!

Great moments reveal more than we will ever know about who we are and what we value. To think of the man who introduced her to the sport of golf, who has taught her about golf and life with every round, shouldn't be astonishing, but it too is not a given. Our friend called her parents right away to share the news. To me, I saw how much the game of golf has brought this family together; they enjoy traveling and playing golf with one another. A win for one is a win for the others. Casey Martin once said "(professional) golf is the most selfish endeavor in the world; the team is you." Sorry Coach Martin, the team is never just you.

And a wonderful truth about this is that you can't help but tell everyone around you about it. I'm sure it's how some people feel when they get engaged—pure joy, true elation.But, a hole-in-one is more often than not, quite unexpected. It is never a given. It is rare. So rare, that our friend was asked to turn in her scorecard; it gets printed in the paper! I teased her that the President will be sending an official note of congratulations soon. 

I wanted to tell every golfer we saw on the course about what she did. Perhaps this is why I will never have one. I'm pretty sure if I hit one, I would find a way to tell people standing in line in a grocery store (for weeks on end) about hitting one. My friend however was humble and gracious. 
Furthermore, the customs that accompany the feat are fun. We made sure our friend kept her ball; I told her to have it saved into acrylic (in the same way that Bo Jackson did, after hitting a home run in his first at-bat after his hip replacement surgery). She gets a commemorative flag. Her name will appear in the monthly magazine of our athletic club. At a private club, the golf who hits a hole-in-one is tasked with purchasing all drinks for the rest of the day! Some folks actually take out insurance for this purpose. I am trying to think of any other instance where one takes out insurance for something good to happen.

My friend told me she woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it. I'm sure she woke up with smile on her face. But what she doesn't know is that the three of us who were with her woke up today with the delight of what had happened. When something exciting and fun like this occurs, it leverages everyone. 

I told my runners today, they will see their teammates accomplish great things at our final league meet. The best part about that is that the feat of one is never limited to just that person. It is for all of us to enjoy. So pay is unfolding this very moment. And what we can see, learn, taste, touch and experience is astonishing. And I hope her Dad has the next hole-in-one that's hit!

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