Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Lesson in Respect?

About ten years ago, I played a lot of golf with my boys.  We were members at Indian Hills Country Club, and would go out after dinner in the summertime and play as many holes as we could get in before dark.  Around that time, I met Joseph, who had come to the U.S. from West Africa.  His son, Max, was about six years old, and was in a karate class with my son Tyler. I was talking with Joseph one day and he invited me to play golf with him and Max.  They had a membership at Canterbury Golf Club in Marietta, which has since been replaced by a real estate development.

When I arrived at the practice range, I wasn’t expecting much.  I don’t think Joseph had been playing very long and wondered what it would be like to play with him and his six-year old son.  I heard people calling out to Max as they walked by or drove past on their golf carts.  Then I saw Max hit the ball.  He had a smooth, beautiful swing, and was just pounding the balls straight down the driving range, one after another.

When we got onto the golf course, I realized I was playing with a kid who had a special talent.  He played from the red tees and his shots were consistently in the fairway and onto the greens.  He had great concentration, and it didn’t matter if it took an extra shot for him to get to the green.  He made most of his putts anyway.

I noticed that Joseph talked to him a lot, teaching him the etiquette of golf.  He was only six years old, so it was a challenge for him to remember not to walk across someone’s lie on the green, or to be still and quiet while someone else was putting.  But I learned that there was one rule of etiquette that must have had made an impression on him.  Respect the golf course.

It was a hot summer day, and we were well into our round of golf.  As I was walking down the fairway, I absent mindedly rinsed my mouth with water and spit it out on the grass.  Max came jogging over with a sense of urgency and asked me why I did that.  I laughed and told him, “I don’t know, I guess I just needed to,” to which he replied, “I never spit on the golf course.  Sometimes I need to pee behind a tree, but I never spit on the golf course!”

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