Yes, I'm Still Running

Yes, I’m Still Running

Examining the existential crisis of every golfer with a family

“What the hell are you searching for out there?” 

It was a perfectly reasonable question, one I’m still struggling to adequately answer. My wife had every reason to ask; I hadn’t played much golf in the first six years of our relationship. The secondhand clubs I had purchased in 2005 had followed me through all of my stops, but graduate school and the pursuit of academic science meant they rarely saw the tee. They were a source of frustration for her: A bag with a broken kickstand took up valuable real estate in the trunk of our small sedan and our 651-square-foot apartment.

But I kept them because in my mind the next round was on the horizon, even though for years I found excuses to stay home: not good enough. Nobody to play with. Too shy to meet strangers on the tee. Embarrassed to hack it around in front of them anyway. I fought it for a long time, knowing I would get to it when I was ready. Even though my definition of “ready” was fuzzy, I knew I was looking for more than just playing golf.

Finally, that time has arrived. Life circumstances have changed and the game now fills my headspace as much as my calendar and credit-card statement. I suggest vacations close to courses I want to play. (My wife’s OK with it as long as there is a beach nearby.) With so much golf in our lives now, her question deserves a good answer. 

I need to answer it for myself, too. What am I trying to get out of this? It’s the last thought before I step onto the first tee. After the birdies, and most certainly after the double bogeys. During my long solo drives to distant courses, and after the FaceTime call from the hotel room. There are moments I have the start of an answer, too: I’m closer than ever to my brother (my primary playing partner); I’ve made new and genuine friends; I’ve found a challenge that motivates me; my competitive drive is renewed in a healthy manner. I learn something new every time I play; golf has a funny way of teaching you life lessons in plain sight. I often find myself reflecting on my grandfather and those times growing up when he took me out on his little blue-collar nine-holer, and I’ve truly come to appreciate being outdoors and away from binge TV. Sometimes I even think it’s made me a better husband and father. 

Good as those reasons are, they don’t seem quite enough, or possibly they’re too generic and self-serving.

A world on fire from a pandemic and the stress of trying to start a family has led me to believe that even low-stakes questions deserve our best considerations. My wife has a right to an explanation for all the time and energy I dedicate to something that appears on the surface to be self-indulgent. I believe I will eventually come up with it. I’ll get there. Those reasons make me feel like I am getting close. And like that one perfect shot in a round of too many, they’re enough to get me excited for the next opportunity to figure it out.