How do you know when you love someone or something?
There can be no limit to the possible answers to this question. But I’m going to proffer one admittedly cynical response. You know it’s love when that person, thing or activity is capable of making you lose all perspective, and yet, by choice as opposed to by necessity, you keep her, him or it in your life.
By that definition, I’ve had my share of misguided loves. But I haven’t had one that has lasted longer than my love for the brutally confounding game of golf. Fortunately, as I learned for the umpteenth time during a recent outing at the Riverdale Dunes course outside Denver, I’m far from alone in this dysfunctional psychosis.
Brandon, my golf partner that day, is a nurse in management at a dialysis center, married and a responsible father of a small boy. He also shows up to the golf course with an intensity that I’ve seen many friends lose as middle age and the burdens of responsibility edge out the fire of youth. Keeping that edge, in my view, is usually a good thing … Usually.
Playing the par five 11th hole on this sunny fall morning, Brandon demonstrated why it’s not always a good thing. And an impressive demonstration it was.
Brandon had pulled his layup on the 540-yard hole over a high sand dune and into the long native grass that is frequently the punishment for an especially errant shot at Riverdale Dunes. Sadly, I too was underneath that dune, and both of us were faced with a blind shot.
To assist, our third that day, Jon Groves, stood on top of the dune, between Brandon and the green, from where he had an excellent vantage point to see the shot.
As it turned out, Jon was also in Brandon’s way.
We learned this fact emphatically when, moments later, Brandon took a mighty swing with a short iron, producing a line-drive skull that was going so fast that the whirr of the ball’s rotation sounded like a revving engine as it passed me by.
But it didn’t pass Jon by. Instead, the ball headed directly at his torso, and only missed inflicting what would surely have been a significant wound when Jon instinctively turned his back at the last second. Most fortuitously, that move placed the golf bag Jon was carrying over his shoulder in the firing line.
Brandon’s shot careened off Jon’s bag with a thunderous thump and landed about 20 yards to Jon’s left, back in that thick native grass that Brandon had tried to escape. I’m guessing that at the moment of impact the ball was flying well in excess of 100 mph.
Now, given that he had just nearly sent his close friend to the hospital, one might have expected Brandon to react to this sequence of events with a bit of relief. Perhaps he might have apologized to Jon – even asked if he was ok.
That’s not what Brandon did.
“I told you not to stand there!” he yelled. “I can’t believe my ball’s still in this tall shit!”
As it happened, the ball had landed near me, and I tried to tell Brandon exactly where it was so he could play his next shot. But the effort was of no use. Brandon wasn’t listening.
For the next couple minutes, as Jon recoiled from how close he had come to perhaps suffering a deep welt, cracked ribs, a concussion or even something worse, Brandon railed about how good his shot would have been, (in fact, the shot sucked) and about how horribly unthinkable it was that instead, thanks to Jon, he was still in that high, thick grass.
Ten minutes later, when Brandon finished the hole with a bogey six, losing by two to Jon’s birdie, the tension between the two was still rife.
“Dude, it’s one shot in a game of golf. I could have been in the hospital,” Jon eventually yelled when they commenced to a screaming match on the next tee.
Hard to argue with that perspective, I found myself thinking. Then again, when has perspective ever had a place for a man who loves his golf – or, more generally, for a man in love?