The Norman Transcript

July 9, 2013

Inside the mind of an aging golfer

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — I don’t feel like a fraud. This time around, only a failure after following a Friday 72 and a Saturday 75 with a Sunday 83 at the Westwood Invitational.

As I told fellow First Flight competitor and Westwood hand Tyler Baumann as I walked through the clubhouse late Sunday afternoon, it took me three days to get over the embarrassment of finishing dead last a year ago, but only about half an hour to get over my latest Day 3 dive — not that I was any fun to be around for those 30 minutes — at the state’s largest stroke play golf tournament.

Still, it leaves me wondering what’s next.

I’ve got some vacation coming up, maybe I’ll spend 12 hours a day on the golf course for two or three weeks and see what happens.

Maybe I’ll go much further than that, committing to changing my sleeping habits drastically, waking up at dawn each day and giving my morning to the game, even come the fall, even on Monday’s, when I walk into Bob Stoops weekly media session a few minutes before noon.

As you might have figured, sports writing is a night-owl’s game and always has been. So there’s nothing to keep me from working on my putting stroke year round but my own willingness to turn my life upside down in the pursuit.

Really, smarter and more accomplished people than I have wasted all of their non-working hours on a hopeless pursuit of the little white ball.

Why not me?

Then there’s this crazy idea.

Pursue more tournaments. Be willing to embarrass myself far more than I have already. Who cares if I can’t keep my putting stroke together for even nine holes in a competitive format?

Instead of retreating in my shame (and believe me, that’s what it feels like: shame), seek out even more venues to embarrass myself.

There’s nobility in a hopeless march, right?

Unless it’s not hopeless, which is yet another thought that kicks around in my aging golfer’s skull. Maybe I can get back my game.

Why it is so important to me is for the therapist I’ll seek out when I finally pursue that avenue in the name of shaving a stroke or two.

It’ll probably happen between now and my turning 50 — 5 years and change — when I become eligible for senior events.

Who says aging isn’t something to look forward to? I hear the AARP benefits are fantastic.

These thoughts spring forward, almost every year upon completion of the Westwood Invitational. Had I won my flight, rather than go down in flames, they would have flooded forward, too, only from a more hopeful place.

Another thought sticks with me, too. Great golf is not about great golf so much as survival.

There must be the willingness to fight the good fight, which is its own small victory, for three or four consecutive days, when the game you love becomes a game of monotony, one that demands more from you when you’re bad than when you’re good. After that must come the fortitude not only to be willing, but to flourish through the willingness.

We cover the Westwood Invitational the way we cover it for so many reasons. It is a terrific community event, with a ton of tradition and a great golf tournament to boot.

There are fantastic stories to be had and we enjoy finding them and telling them. But what sticks with me now is the grind.

Three days.

Fifty-four holes.

Three days and 54 holes of trying to be something you’re not, just to see how you stand up. Inevitably, the scores on Day 3 are higher than the scores on Days 1 and 2. 

It’s hard.

Failure reigns.

Still, about 130 golfers gave it their best shot (and their worst shots, their mediocre shots; anyway, they gave a lot of shots) and they will again next year.

By then, maybe the sports editor of this newspaper will really be ready.

One can dream.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning