Sunday, November 25, 2012

Playing Golf with My Deceased Uncle

My Uncle Jerry passed away in February 2009 and I miss him every day. However, I seem to miss his presence more over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend which comes to a close today. Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday and we always spent it together. I recently wrote this tribute about him and how he influenced me to start playing golf. While we never played golf together, I feel like his spirit is with me each time I step onto a golf course in the same way that we believe the presence of the prophet Elijah is with us at each bris in the Jewish tradition. Here's my tribute to my beloved uncle:

My Uncle Jerry began playing golf in his 40s. He really fell in love with the sport and encouraged me to take it up too. He regretted that he had waited so long to embrace golf and cautioned me to not wait until I was too old that I'd also regret not having started sooner. Unfortunately, he died of pancreatic cancer at the young age of 54 before we ever had the chance to play a round of golf together.

While I would have loved to have played 18 holes with him, he is very much a part of my own golf game today. I took up golf three years ago while I was still mourning my uncle's death. I played my first few rounds wearing his FootJoy golf shoes and using his clubs. I could hear his voice before each shot I took. I heard his advice, his sarcasm, his laughter, and his disappointment when I didn't follow his recommendation.

Golf Swing

Even though we never walked (or drove) a golf course together, my uncle dispensed influential words of wisdom to me about the game. On a few occasions when he visited me at my home we would go outside and he would take his driver out of the trunk. I'd take some swings and he would grab my waist or shoulders and correct my stance and swing. But more than offering a couple tips on the fundamentals of golf, my uncle taught me why he loves the game so much. Today, I remember his lessons as the Four C's:

Calm - My uncle was a very competitive guy who could become very frustrated with his athletic performance if things weren't working out for him, but the trick to golf he would say was a calming demeanor when the club is in your hands. I have found that to be sound advice since I certainly hit the ball much better when my body is calm.

Clarity - If calm is the physical trick to golf, then clarity is the key mental component of the game. My uncle was a family man and a business owner with a lot on his mind, but when he laced up his golf shoes he knew that he had to clear his thoughts and focus on the game at hand. Mental clarity is essential to a successful golf game I have learned.

Coordination - My uncle was always interested in the way the body worked. In order for a solid swing to occur, the different parts of your body have to be coordinated. It is imperative that a golfer understands how the muscles and joints are operating to ensure a coordinated strike of the ball.

Care - In addition to developing a successful golf game, my uncle appreciated the rules and traditions of the game. While he might have been lax in following some other rules in life, he took golf etiquette very seriously. He often explained how important it was to care for the golf course (replace divots, rake sand bunkers, and repair ball marks) so other players wouldn't be negatively effected by your disregard. He also liked the centuries-old traditions of the game which include respect for other players, an integrity for score keeping, and adherence to the standards and values of the game.

It often pains me that I never had the opportunity and privilege to play a round of golf with my uncle, but his spirit has become a part of my golf game. In discovering my own love of the game, I feel that I am honoring him and our relationship. I'm grateful for the close friendship I had with my uncle and thankful that the sport of golf has kept us together in the years since he left us.

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