Maybe it was the time I shot 67 at Uplands in Toronto, where I played as a teenager and into my twenties, that started my obsession with golf. How did I do that? Or equally, maybe it was when I shot 71—70—77 to lead the Uplands club championship after fifty-four holes, but then shot 78 in the last round. How did that happen? Or maybe watching Moe Norman drill golf balls one after the other without taking any time in between, his feet spread-eagled, his body stiff as a pole stuck in the ground, and hitting them dead straight, showed me that it’s possible to play the game in other than conventional ways. Moe played fast, spoke quickly, and broke course records and won tournaments with a swing so far from the norm as to make me want to question the norms; there was room for individuality and creativity in the game. Perhaps it was watching Jack Nicklaus hit a fat pitch shot from close to the seventeenth green at the Mississauga Golf and Country Club near Toronto, when he was contending in the last round for the 1965 Canadian Open, that helped me realize golf is one confounding game. Nicklaus? Come on. That didn’t happen, did it? Gene Littler won the tournament, and Nicklaus never did win the Canadian Open, although he finished second seven times.
Then again, maybe golf grabbed me because I enjoyed the hours my dad and I shared in our dawn games at the Don Valley Golf Course around the corner from my home. I still live nearby and I still feel the pull of that course and play there from time to time. What was it about golf and courses and the people who play the game that captured me and wouldn’t let go? I started to write about golf professionally in the mid-1970s, and I still ask those questions and try to come up with responses in print. The song “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” wasn’t about golf, but in my case, it might as well have been. Golf has had a hold on me and hasn’t released its grip. Hmmm. Speaking of the grip, which works better, interlocking or overlapping?
There’s so much to write about, because there’s always something happening in the game. This means that certain subjects and events demand consideration. This was the case when Mike Weir defeated Tiger Woods in their singles match at the 2007 Presidents Cup, and when Woods’s father, Earl, died. Then there’s the endless quest for improvement, a staple of golf magazines, golf books, and my own writing. I admit to a sometimes unhealthy fascination with the swing and the mental side of the game — unhealthy because I’ve probably thought so much about related subjects that my game has suffered. But so what? It’s what I do. It’s who I am. Golf also happens to be a worldwide sport. It’s a culture, and so the game provides opportunities for us to think about other matters. The game is played on a huge landscape, and sometimes it seems almost too manicured; is that a good thing, or does rough, rugged golf engage us more? An eighteen-hole round takes about four hours, when things are moving along reasonably well, and so we have time to slow down. That’s useful in a fast-paced Blackberry world, isn’t it? I walk a course and I consider whether I’m running myself ragged in other parts of my life. Friends and I discuss politics, film, music — whatever comes up. Sure, we could do this over dinner, but it’s somehow more satisfying to talk things over and think things through in the fresh air on the course as we follow our shots around the landscape.