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

A Childhood Passion Strikes a Chord

I waited until my mother had driven away. Then, after opening the front door, peeking down the road and seeing her white Ford Falcon disappear, I lined up my 8-iron shot. Standing smack in the middle of the living room, with a plastic golf ball sitting on the carpet, I took dead aim through the small opening that skirted the chandelier and led through the back door to my target, a square of screen at the back of the porch.

At thirteen, I had been hitting balls inside for well over a year. Eight-iron shots were my favorite—even plastic practice balls zipped off the club face at an ideal trajectory. I loved the unique contour of that particular club, its braveness as it stood distinguished from the rest of the set. It had none of the angular assertiveness of the 7-iron (which reminded me of a proud slice of pie), or even the bulbous, bloated roundness of the wedges. No, the 8-iron, viewed at address, appeared to be exactly what it was: a jewel-like machine of measurement.

Over the past year, a small worn spot had begun to appear on the carpet, and while the blemish didn’t please my mom, perhaps some thought that one day I would make millions on tour and buy her a dream house had made her overlook it.

My next swing, however, would prove a swipe no one could ignore. The backswing seemed ordinary enough, a decent little turn. And the transition was good, too. Other kids had dogs; my swing was my faithful servant. The club dropped into the slot just as it was supposed to, and with a well-timed release, I squared the blade forged out of steel.

Next to my living-room practice tee sat the family piano. Now, a plastic practice golf ball yields a soft, light sensation when struck reminiscent of patting a balloon. On that fateful swing, I felt that little whiff, alright, which was followed by a most unexpected thud. I had caught the side of the piano solidly with my 8-iron, which had gone on to bury itself deep within the instrument’s chamber, leaving only the silver shaft exposed. With my grip horrifically frozen in place, the image must have resembled a tableau in a French farce.

I didn’t like to think of myself as a delinquent child. I was a good student, a good athlete. I ate my vegetables, didn’t smoke and felt compassion for kids less fortunate than myself. But knowing that I had done something wrong, the criminal instinct took over.

Off I went on my bicycle to the candy store, then the art supply shop across the street. I saw my mom’s car parked in the supermarket lot, and recalled her saying she was going to stop by her friend Phylis’s house after shopping. So I figured I had an hour and a half to carry out my plan.

Back home there wasn’t time to lose. I chewed a wad of gum and stuck it in the vertical “divot” slashed in the piano. Then, with the ecstatic freedom of Van Gogh, I painted the pink gum brown, hoping to match the hue of the instrument.

The end of this unfortunate escapade came swiftly. Mom walked in, groceries in hand, spotted the oozing gum dripping cheap watercolor paint on the side of the family treasure and threw a fit. My dad, who on the golf course crooned over every great golf shot I hit like a tenor warbling “Sonny Boy” with a pint of Guinness in his hand, suddenly rejected the idea that golf encompassed spiritual values. My backside made the abrasion on the piano seem like the surface of a mountain lake at dawn. The scar in the piano never healed, but mine did, and I grew up to be a golfer. I even played scratch for many years while teaching school in Memphis.

My passion for golf, though, goes beyond the mere enjoyment of the game. It penetrates to the root of the word passion itself, with its base in the idea of suffering. From the recognition of the pain of others, we develop compassion. Every time I play golf, I see my own frustration mirrored in the exasperation of my partners, and I remember what I learned when I was a kid swinging in the living room—that the world is not a stage but a golf course.

Andy Brumer

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