Golf's lifetime lesson: Patience pays off in multiple ways
Golfers appreciate that they’re playing a sport often described as “a game for a lifetime.” But when you’re at that age when the lifetime part is starting to be realized, the phrase truly takes on a fuller meaning. By that I mean golf isn’t just a sport to play in middle and old age, but the experience of playing golf is to be valued all the more the older you get.
Additionally, you can appreciate that the friendships you developed at a young age with golf buddies last a lifetime as well. I have had a special year in 2017 not only enjoying playing golf 45 years after I started, but the friendships I started in my teens through golf were vibrantly alive and flourishing this year. I could sense how golf rewards you, in a variety of ways, when you are patient with it and remain faithful to what it can do for you.
I want to describe this special year in two parts. In this Part I, the lesson is how patience does pay off, and in a later Part II, I’ll write about how golf as the foundation for a reunion with old friends has few equals. In both parts, it’s the strength of golf as a common bond among friends as juniors and young men that allows great moments to occur years and years later.
Golf brought Kevin Edwards and me together while attending Illinois State University. I was sports editor at The Vidette student newspaper, and my recollection is we ran a student golf event that Kevin played in on the university course, since rechristened Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State University. Friendship grew from there and in the ensuing years we roomed together and became best man at each other’s wedding. Fact: I delivered an all-time great toast that has been lost in the mist of time; a toast that was a toast, not what happens today with half-hour long monologues. Up for debate: I supposedly predicted at some point that the marriage wasn’t going to last forever. If so, I likely delivered it in my dry-wit style and didn’t mean it. I’m not that great of an off-the-cuff speaker. Kevin and Debi are at 35 years strong, successes in their business lives, too, and I choose to feel the power of my toast had the greater effect. Man I wish I knew what I’d said!
Anyway, along with Bloomington High School and ISU friends Rick Gilbert and Pete Wofford (more on them in Part II), along with Pantagraph sports writer Jim Benson, Kevin and Co. make up the core of my best golfing buddies from the “way back when" days. Even though Kevin and I live 1,000 miles apart, we stay in touch about life in general and golf-game status.
Now, Kevin, Rick and Pete were miles ahead of me as golfers, both in talent and driving distance. That’s why I chose to write about golf as a career. However—comma—on my good day and their bad, I could hang and challenge with them, perhaps even score lower. I seemed to do that fairly often with Kevin, probably because my mediocre game didn’t inspire his best. I don’t know how much it frustrated or irritated him when I shot lower, but I didn’t take it as me being better. And as time went on, Kevin was competing in events at a higher level. He had the consistency I lacked and therefore he had the ability to be a competitor in tournaments and club events.
Because you can play golf well into your dotage—given good health—the game rewards you for being patient, ranging from occasional good shots to, given the correct circumstances of good play in the right setting, winning moments that satisfy your desires. That’s what happened to Kevin. When he sent a recap of his golf this fall, he was runner-up in the regular championship—the Don Barlow Match Play Tournament—at Waterloo (Ill.) Country Club (WCC), but won the senior club championship, winning 1 up over multi-regular club champion Chuck Keller.
Kevin’s WCC summary now is six senior club titles and three regular club championships, with a runner-up finish in each, and, get this, all of this came after the age of 50. Waterloo was founded in 1925 and is a par-34, nine-hole layout just under 2,500 yards. It’s not scary by any means but the short length equalizes a match between bad and good players and when two top golfers go at it there is no room for error.
Kevin has a 9-2 record in club championship matches. As he notes, “not bad.” The regular final was Kevin, the 58-year-old defending champion, versus Drew Weisenborn, 25, who perhaps will turn pro in the near future. Right there the inter-generational beauty of golf was evident but for Kevin it was also a harsh reality of the competitive imbalance that exists between golfers 30-plus years apart. Normally the longer driver of the ball in his matches, Kevin was against a longer opponent. “Drew hits his 2-iron as long or longer than my driver,” Kevin noted. “My guess is he is three clubs longer than me so he hits wedge when I hit 7-iron.”
So when young Drew found himself 2 down after nine holes of a 36-hole match, it wasn’t panic time. Kevin had birdied four holes with a bogey on the first nine, then shot six over the next nine and was 3 down. His deficit was 5 down after 27 holes when he played the third nine one over par. When Kevin made bogey on No. 1 the fourth time around, the gig was up and the final was lost, 7 & 6. “If I would have won the hole to get it to 4 down, who knows, maybe I get a lift and he gets rattled, but probably not,” Kevin said. “Drew is a great guy and deserving champion. Although I had one bad nine, I did not really beat myself, he was the better golfer.
“Looking at the scorecard I figured out where the match got away from me. I won the 22nd hole to go 3 down. The next four holes I went par, par, par, bogey. Drew went birdie, birdie, par, eagle; 6 down with 10 to play is not a good place to be.”
No, it’s not, an inevitable loss was looming. That’s golf, it giveth and it taketh away. It had given Kevin so much in recent years, but it doesn’t give you everything. But after a few decades of thinking he could be a club champion, and then being one nine times over, he has the perspective of not needing everything. He already had something several times over, the result of patience and good fortune and the right competitive moment for golf to make true the phrase "all things come to those who wait."