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With Age Comes Wisdom

I turned 60 earlier this month and am bamboozled by the fact that I’m now the same age as “old” people. In defiance I spent my birthday hiking the expert trail at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, appreciating the irony. Standing on a rocky crag near the top, I unceremoniously gave Father Time the middle-finger salute while contemplating how in God’s name I was going to make it back down to the parking lot.

It wasn’t until a week or so later that I started noticing the warning signs. It began with me abandoning my cowboy boots for a pair of slip-on Skechers. A few days later I was purchasing a pickle ball racket. And hadn’t I nodded off at 8:30pm in my recliner just the other night while watching a World War II documentary on the History Channel?

It was the next afternoon that I came face-to-face with my approaching mortality. “Honey, we need to leave NOW if we want to beat the dinner crowd to Cracker Barrel,” I scolded by wife. “Damn, you are getting old,” she retorted. “And those streaks of gray in your hair, nice touch,” I snapped back. It was a very quiet dinner.

“This round wouldn’t be about which one of us carded the most birdies or pars… it would be about distance and prowess off the tee.”   -Bud Key

I needed a swift kick in the pants… something to remind me age is just a number. What I got instead was a text message from my daughter’s boyfriend suggesting we get together for a round of golf that weekend.

I do love the “boy.” He’s polite and well-mannered, friendly and outgoing, well-educated and smart… and chiseled. He’s also a captain in the U.S. Army well-trained and capable of rendering me unconscious in a variety of unpleasant ways. But he is dating my baby girl (never mind she’s 25 and also an army officer in the heavy artillery division). This was no time for weakness on my part.

So I mentally assessed our “friendly” match, or situation, as it was quickly escalating into. I was confident my putting, short game and scrambling ability would keep the score close. But those attributes would only help me win the battle, not the war. This round wouldn’t be about which one of us carded the most birdies or pars… it would be about distance and prowess off the tee. In short, who had the biggest stick.

My golf game has “matured” over the past few decades. On most occasions I can shoot a respectable score by simply playing it safe, relying on my trusty 3-wood to keep me in the short grass. But gone are the booming drives, sometimes landing two fairways over, that characterized my youth. I miss those days. It would take that reckless, balls-to-the-wall, grip-it-and-rip-it approach from “back in the day” if I hoped to keep up with my daughter’s boyfriend’s effortless 280-yard-plus drives off the tee. The odds, and nearly a 35-year age difference, were solidly not in my favor.

I watched him confidently tee it up from the blue tees and smash his first tee shot of the day over the trees protecting the inside corner of the dogleg left. “Caught it a little thin,” he said while bending over to pick up his tee, biceps bulging through his tight pullover. Showoff. And then it was my turn. I picked a similar line just inside the bend, took a few waggles, casually mentioned I was a little stiff from the two-hour drive, and then swung as hard as my brittle bones would allow. I outdrove him by five yards.

It was a consistent theme for the remainder of the round, our tee shots always landing within spitting distance of each other. In fact, on one particular long par 3, his 5-iron just barely cleared the bunker protecting the front edge of the green. Feeling particularly virile by that point, I grabbed a 7-iron and proceeded to land my ball 20 feet past the flag. “Caught it a little off center,” I mused.

So the million dollar question must be asked. Had I stumbled upon the fountain of youth in the clubhouse bathroom? Made a deal with LIV Golf (um, devil)? Purchased an illegal driver on the dark web? Or found out that those little blue pills work as well on the golf course as they do in the bedroom? Not exactly. But I had figured out how to let my age work to my advantage… now that I was officially old enough to move up to the senior tees.

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