Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Move Over Lou Gehrig: Reflections on Golf at Bandon Dunes

As I exited my flight from Eugene Oregon to SFO, I thought of what a friend told me about her life in retirement. She said "I am the luckiest person on the face of the earth....besides Lou Gehrig." Considering that I spent Memorial Day weekend in Bandon Dunes, Oregon: four rounds of golf in four days with 20 dynamic woman who also happen to be outstanding golfers, I realized Lou Gehrig might not have anything on me. Here are but a few reasons that I am giving the late and great Pride of the Yankees, a run for the money.
1. The shoulders upon which I stand.
I don't know a Notre Dame without women. The only St. Ignatius College Prep I have worked at is co-ed (thank God, I love having both!!) and the Olympic Club I joined in 2013 has women and girls as members. However, I am also aware that a much different reality existed for many years prior to my experiences at said institutions. I have never taken for granted the opportunities I have and the community I am a part of because so many women (and men) worked tirelessly for the right to gain membership. Because of their efforts I am able to participate, survive and thrive at places that truly enrich my life.

The group with whom I traveled to Bandon Dunes—the Women's Golf Network— has been a significant force for inclusion and development of women's golf at the Olympic Club, an athletic club that began accepting women has members in 1993. Many of these women had to be outspoken, diligent, and resilient. It was never a given that we would get tee times or board support, opportunities and much more. The program that exists today is the sweet fruit of their labor.

The WGN seeks excellence far beyond golf. I am impressed by the WGN's efforts to continually recruit and retain more members. We have tournaments, casual play, on-going instruction and education. We travel, compete and most importantly we have fun. One of the group pioneers raised a glass to toast the leadership team who gives so much of their time and talent to make our group go. I had to raise another in gratitude for those who did so over 20 years ago.
2. The golf
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, situated along the southern Oregon coast is considered by many to be the Cathedral of golf. Golfers travel from far and wide, near and far to hit these links—a word that is used too often in association with the game. Not all courses are links style, but in Bandon, they are. Whether or not a golfer prefers this style of golf course, the links in Bandon give the game of soccer, known as "the beautiful game" its own run for the money.

As my golfing buddies know, my heart (metaphorically) and back (literally) prefer warm weather golf. I came to Bandon having heard that you must be ready for all types of weather—the least common of which is sunny and warm. I packed accordingly and left my expectations behind. We were treated to the full palette of Bandon Dunes golf and weather. I froze my tail off, I felt my face and lips chapped by the wind, I was very comfortable in a skirt and polo shirt on Day 3 and exercised my rain gear on the final round.

The elements, the Pacific Ocean, the vistas, mammoth greens and range of elevation made for challenging golf but great golf. I had to dig deep many times...and I had to smile when I heard that the caddies refer to their job site as "BanDiego" on the sunny day we received. #Grateful.
3. The Index...of Improvement
I loved coaching girls' cross country for many reasons, but chief among them was the index of improvement. I knew, professed and believed that any girl who committed to training with our program would see results. The head coach worked tirelessly to plan workouts that were the perfect mix of speed and strength training; we kept our runners healthy and hopefully happy. Their times dropped and PRs—personal records—were achieved. 

In both track and cross country less is more; the same is true to golf. Golf is a sport where a negative is a positive (birdie is -1 on the score card, the eagle is -2).  And spending time on this trip, I have seen among the women I started with in the WGN, improvement in their game and on the scorecard. 
I love discussing with the other members what it takes to improve. I ask about their "training regimen." I look to the examples of some truly great golfers, hungry to discover what they do that has helped them they are scoring new PRs.

Cross country is much more of a team sport than anyone outside of it could ever possibly imagine. Thanks to the WGN and the women I know who truly love the game, I've come to understand that golf isn't that different.

4. The trash talk.
There's a good reason that dreams of my WNBA career came to a halt in in 7th grade (the year I stopped playing on a basketball team), I am a complete trash talker. Contact sports, like hoops, invite competitive jabber more than others. Let's be honest, it's just not easy to talk trash from the backcourt while playing tennis or yelling across a river or lake while rowing (Crew). Trash talking is not consistent with my belief in good sportsmanship, so it is probably best that I remained a competitive athlete in sports that inherently limit the temptation. Too's just so much fun.

At Bandon however, I was paired for two days with a caddie who brought out the best I've got. For example, I may have dropped an f-bomb on him for clubbing me up (translation: he doubted my power/ability to hit the ball far). Later in the round as he was telling another caddie about an NCAA golfer who blew a three shot lead on the 18th hold, out of nowhere, I said to him with a straight face and absolutely no affect "I wonder if her caddie clubbed her up too." It was the perfect riff. 

Usually trash talk is exchanged between opponents, but so long as it's playful I don't see why it can't be among teammates. It's purpose is to fire up and motivate an athlete. I got three skins out of this....musta worked!

5. The 19th Hole
I always notice the music that plays in the background at a restaurant, bar or in this case lodge. On Saturday night, my ears were treated to the Allman Brothers, a band I have loved since I saw them perform FIVE times! at the Concord Pavilion (where I worked in high school). I felt supremely relaxed as I was able to enjoy the long holiday weekend, the Oregon coast, and early summer skies with some classic Rock 'n' Roll. Later that evening, my sister told me that Gregg Allman, the lead singer and songwriter of the band died. She and I both love tributes and I will remain ever thankful that his music...his writing:  Midnight Rider, Sunny Day, Melissa, Ramblin' Man now frame my memories of Bandon Dunes as will the conversations I had later that night.

We are told to never talk politics or religion at dinner. And yet we are starving for conversation and true dialogue about issues that matter. I dare say this group is willing to go there, and I think it has something to do with the fact that we play together. When you recreate with folks, it's just that much easier to enter into a different kind of dialogue (or not!). Because I teach Religious Studies, I am an easy target for some big questions, friendly debate, challenging ideas and personal sharing. And, I am grateful to say that exchange was a perfect way to conclude our final evening. 
We discussed the sex abuse crisis, why people have left the Catholic Church, what they have as images of God and their admiration for Pope Francis. Honestly, these conversations are never easy for me. When people are hurt or angry at the Church, I listen. I must. I seek to understand. I know many of these stories all too well, and yet I also know each one is unique. True dialogue expects nothing less than for us to listen without judgement, to be honest in response and open to what is revealed. I also believe the most important dialogue I participate in is captured by St. Francis who said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words."  I try.

In Conclusion....
The late A. Bartlett Giamatti, philosopher and commissioner of Major League baseball wrote in "Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games," 
Sport is an instrument for vision, and it ever seeks to make the common—what we all see, if we look—uncommon. Not forever, not impossibly perfect, but uncommon enough to remain a bright spot in the memory, thus creating a reservoir of transformation to which we can return when we are free to do so.
Four rounds of golf in four days, 20 talented golfers and one outstanding game... I maybe transformation isn't that far away.

Photo Credits
Thanks to the Babes of Bandon photo sharing!

1 comment:

  1. What a great post! You have a way of thinking through experiences and then elevating them to a more universal or deeper level. Very enjoyable - especially for those of us who were there with you.