I’d like to brag and say I get a lot of questions about my life. You know, like I’m George Clooney or Tiger Woods. The fact is, 99.9% of folks really don’t care and who can blame them: we all have enough on our own plates!
However, I do get one question on a repeated basis from anyone who has even a nodding reference to my background. And I’ve gotten this question from everyone from (name drop alert), Bret Baier to Brit Hume. From family members to mild acquaintances.
And the question is: “Why did you quit golf?” Well, that’s the question, but the underlying premise is “Why did you quit golf…when you were so good?”
Yes, that baffles people. I mean at the height of my powers I was anywhere from a “scratch” to 3 handicap. Now, don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t a national caliber amateur by any stretch. On the other hand, you could team me up with a Tour pro, Walker Cupper, or local hotshot and not tell much of a difference. In short, the kind of golfer who was good enough to think he could play in the U.S. Mid-Amateur, but ends up missing the qualifying score by 2 shots. (which, in fact, happened.)
But, in the eyes of most people, I was pretty darn good. And then I quit. Cold turkey, in fact, and it seems to both intrigue people and…kind of bug them.
I had my reasons, though, and they made perfect sense to me.
1. When I “retired” I had played non-stop for over 40 years. That’s a lot of time to do anything.
2. I was far from mastering the game, of course, but without doubling my practice time, I wasn’t getting any better.
Now, those sound good, but here’s the real reason in a nutshell: It’s a grind to be a good golfer. (Yes, I am fully aware that sounds like the whine of the rich guy saying (“it’s a grind to be a millionaire!” But, bear with me.)
Now, maybe only golfers can relate, but whenever a low handicapper steps onto the first tee, he is expected to knock it 300 yard straight down the first fairway! He also can’t slice one out of bounds, can’t chunk an iron 40 yards, and certainly can’t make double bogey. No, his handicap is a badge that says: I am VERY good, so bow down to my brilliance.
Truly, it’s unlike any other sport. I suppose you can know a fellow tennis player’s ranking, but it’s not like the local hot shot will suddenly start hitting shots 30 feet over the baseline. The top skier won’t start tumbling down the hill. The best cyclist won’t all of a sudden have trouble going up a short hill.
But, in golf, yeah, I could have an awful round. Be a true hack. Or — egads! — not break 80. And I’d feel sick about it. Like I was some sort of poseur who professed to regularly shooting 70, but couldn’t break 90!
Sure, it was self-imposed pressure, but it was pressure nevertheless, and I felt it almost non-stop for the past 30 years.
So, when I came to my last tournament, and the last shot of the last tournament — an extremely tricky downhill pitch to an uphill green off a super tight lie (for those keeping score) — I vowed if I could pull it off, I’d have proven to myself that I could “go out on top” and could therefore quit if I wanted.
I did pull it off, and haven’t picked up a club in the past 4 years. That’s a long time off from something you did daily since you were 10.
Still, I don’t miss it.