From Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul The Second Round

Drive and Determination

The more I practice, the luckier I get.

Gary Player

I have to admit that I have never played golf. In fact, the only golf course that I have ever been on ended with me trying to hit the ball into a clown’s mouth. That’s why it is so strange that the game of golf had such an impact on my life.

I was nineteen years old and had just started dating a young man that I had met at work. We seemed to have a chemistry together and both shared a love of competition. A lot of our time with each other was spent bowling or playing arcade games like pinball or Pac Man. Being a ’70s kind of girl, I was determined to prove my capabilities and be an equal and worthy opponent. As it turned out, our skills were fairly evenly matched. We were both thoroughly enjoying our playful competitions.

One day, he came to my house dressed casually as always. Searching for something different to do he asked, “Have you ever been to a driving range?” I thought, My God! A driving range? What does he want to do now, race cars? He explained that he was talking about driving golf balls, not cars. Well, I had never tried it before, but surely it must be simple. After all, if I can hurl a fourteen-pound ball fifty feet down a lane and knock down ten sticklike pins at the far end, how difficult could it be to swing a club and hit a tiny ball perched right at my feet? I was confident that this little activity would not damage my athletic image, so off we went to the driving range.

We arrived at Bill’s Golfland & Family Fun Park—a virtual megaplex of batting cages, arcades, go carts, mini-golf and, of course, our chosen destination, the driving range. After selecting our clubs, buying our balls and several embarrassing moments of scrambling to gather the bouncing balls that I spilled out of the top of the bucket, we were ready to start.

After brief instructions from my date, I then set out to prove my abilities. The first five or ten swings I took were either total misses or full-force collisions between my club and the rubber mat on the tee. I received more instruction from my teacher.

“Keep your eye on the ball.”

“Bring the club back slowly.”

Okay, there were a few more useless attempts and then . . . CONTACT! The ball took air and landed just shy of the fifty-yard marker, but it was a start! Over the next hour or so, it didn’t get much better than that. Balls trickled off of their mount and rolled into the grass in front of my station. Several fell off of their tee, in a delayed reaction, caused by the wind from my swing passing its target. I admit it was pathetic, definitely not the piece of cake that I had imagined.

Each time that I turned to pick up a new ball from my bucket, I would catch the sight of onlookers (a crowd was beginning to gather) wearing Titleist caps and Spalding sun visors. There were heads shaking and eyes rolling. Occasionally, I would hear a comment like, “Your feet are too far apart, ” or, “Bend your knees.” I felt the pressure mounting. An audience formed behind me. To each side of me, a row of fellow golfers quested after swing perfection. In front of me, golf balls were flying through the air and landing at the 200-, 250- and even the 300-yard markers. At my feet the tiny white ball, which I thought would pose no challenge whatsoever, had grown fangs and horns. The sphere was sneering up at me, as if to say, “I showed you.”

Snap out of it! I thought. You have a brain; IT does not. After all, the ball is just a lifeless piece of rubber that I command where to go. I felt a rush of determination come over me. I took a deep breath and repeated all of the directions to myself.

“Feet shoulder-width apart.”

“Knees slightly bent.”

“Bring the club back slowly.”

“Keep your eye on the ball.”

“Smooth and steady swing.”

“Finish with your hands towards the target.”

With an air of confidence, I approached the ball. I carefully acted out each mental step-by-step instruction. Before I knew it, I found myself following through with my swing with absolute perfection. My concentration was broken by the sound of whack. I raised my head to see the ball soaring through the air. I actually lost it in the sun’s glare for a while, before it fell to earth somewhere around the 300-yard marker!

“Yes!” It was perfect! I jumped. I screamed. I rejoiced at my success.

I arrogantly turned to my date, “Did you see that? I knew I could do it!”

The laughter of my companion quickly dampened my celebration. He pointed to my tee, where my ball was still perched, tauntingly sticking its tongue out at me. The incredible 300-yard drive that I was claiming credit for actually belonged to the golfer on my left (who, by the way, was also laughing). The audience that had gathered began to chuckle, as did the range attendant. After taking several bows and curtsies, I quietly and humbly returned to my futile attempts at hitting a golf ball.

Needless to say, I never made it to the LPGA. The man who was my date that day became my husband and the father of my children. My determination, his patience and an ability to laugh at life, the very characteristics that we showed each other that day during the driving range episode, are qualities that have been the basis for a long, happy, strong and successful marriage. We occasionally return to the driving range with our two teenage sons. But now, when we go, it’s not to prove anything or to compete with each other. It’s strictly for the fun of it.

Darlene Daniels Eisenhuth

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