Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Measure of the Man

They say you can tell a lot about a person by playing golf with them. Such is true. I've played hundreds of rounds (who's counting), quite often just showing up at the course as a single and teaming up with somebody in need of a playing partner. But whether stranger or friend, golf always has a way of bringing out folks' traits and tendencies.

Maybe it's because golf is the most frustrating and humbling endeavor mankind would ever willfully pay to play. Hit down to make it go up, swing easy to make it go far, if the grip feels comfortable it's wrong, etc. The inner demons will eventually come out, which tend to materialize in a variety of ill-mannered ways.

Swearing is the most obvious, but cheating is a wee bit more sinister and ranges from mild (improvement of a lie in winter) to extreme (not following any rules or using creative addition on the scorecard).

There are quitters and whiners but most folks just cuss more than normal (guilty). A more volcanic temperament might produce a club thrower. These are the poster children for lack of self-control and can either be entertaining or scary depending on their make-up. Regardless, club-tossing is the ultimate meltdown in golf.

These things are well understood by most regular golfers, that's why it was encouraging to read Dan Van Natta's Golf Digest column on Barack Obama's game (something that was kept almost completely hidden before the election for some reason). The following quote stands out:
"The great thing about him," Nicholson says, "if he duffs one dead into the woods, there's no cursing. The most excited we get on the golf course is a fist bump."
Such a demeanor might come in handy during a crisis. Here's another:
"When he'd shoot an 11 on a hole, I'd say, 'Boss, what did you shoot?' " says Marvin Nicholson, 37, the Obama campaign's national trip director and now a special assistant to the president-elect. "And he'd say, 'I had an 11.' And that's what he'd write on his scorecard. I always respected that."
For those who don't know, many people refuse to write double-digit scores on their scorecard, thinking that somehow it's not allowed except on the PGA Tour, where it hardly ever occurs. Anyway, all those are positive traits. It leaves the impression that Obama shows a tenacity to improve within the established rules and isn't a hotshot gunslinger. For a comparison to the real world, harken back to McCain's risky "suspend my campaign" strategy when the financial meltdown first hit--to use a golf analogy it was something of a "Tin Cup" moment:

Meanwhile Obama laid back-- or in golf terms he hit a 'lay up'. Of course there are times when a president might have to 'go for it in two' but hopefully not very often. All in all I think his golf course persona sounds very promising.

But there were a few shanks. The article also included this little morsel:
"I met him on the first hole,'' Steven S. Rogers, a former business owner who teaches at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, told The New York Times about a round in 2001. "By the sixth hole, he said, 'Steve, I want to run for the Senate.' And by the ninth hole, he said he needed help to clear up some debts." Rogers wrote Obama a check.
Hey--it's Chicago. Guess it would be impolite to ask what he expected in return.

There's one more slightly troubling aspect about Obama's temperament on the golf course. Every so often the guy who laughs and whistles while writing down the 11 will have one of those super cruel rounds where everything goes unbelievably wrong, as if the entire universe has lined up against him. This is usually after practicing a new swing move with much success on the driving range. If such a round is also coupled with an external negative, such as a recent fight with the wife or boss, it can lead to an out-of-character eruption whereupon a combination of all the bad golf traits might simultaneously occur.

Not saying Obama is such a person but obviously it's something that doesn't mix well with a nearby nuclear football. So we'll have to watch for that.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

I don't play golf, don't watch golf, so I can't speak to how people play or act on the golf course.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year's Eve, happy and healthy New Year for you and your family.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth