April, time for “a tradition unlike any other”

Ahhh, it’s April. A USA Today poll shows Americans say April is their third favorite month. For me, it would be higher, and no, not because I have a birthday in April. In fact, at my age birthday months would actually make the ranking go down! But, I would have so say April is no doubt one of my favorites.

Spending most of my life in either Nebraska or Michigan, we know the winters can be long, the sunshine rare, and freezing temperatures in abundance. For skiers and snowmobilers, they are in luck. For golfers and boaters, of which I am both, waiting out winter is now over!

I am eager to get the boat in the water. Last year my 12-year-old grandson, after landing a lunker of a walleye, a monster pike, some good-sized smallmouth bass, and countless perch, can now be diagnosed as having the addiction. We got some new gear over the winter and are ready to go.

But, it’s golf that gets me energized. The golf bug bit me at age 13 after my best friend told me he was going out for the golf team. I thought, what am I going to do now? So I grabbed an old leather bag full of old golf clubs that had been in my grandfather’s garage my whole life. They smelled like moldy shoes and had worn out leather grips. I didn’t care. It took only about a week for me to fall in love with the game. Now, 60 years later, and my love affair is stronger than ever.

Golf is a difficult game. It shouldn’t be. I mean the ball is just sitting there on the ground, not coming at you like a baseball. You don’t have to jump up to catch it, nor do you have to throw it. It’s just sitting there waiting for you to hit it with a stick (club). Sounds easy. Well, its not. Golf addicts like me spend lifetimes trying to get better, and although one can make progress, it’s an unwinnable war, filled with frustration and four-letter words.

But golf is also a sport that one can play at all ages and still be competitive. I like that, but as I reflect on the decades of golf that are now behind me, I realize just how much this silly little game has given to me. My best friends to this day all came to me through the game of golf. Some I have playing with for 60 years, others only for the last few years. It’s more of a fraternity than a game.

The game builds character. In golf you keep your own score. You call penalties on yourself. There are no referees or umpires. It’s just you and your buddies either out just enjoying the day or trying your hardest to beat them so they buy the beer at the clubhouse. The respect for your opponents walks hand in hand with the trash talking, right through to the last hole, when caps are removed and handshakes are made.

Oh, the places golf can take you are as breathtaking as any in the world. I have been fortunate to play golf all over the United States from the Florida Keys to the Rocky Mountains and deserts of the Southwest. But it’s not the places that mean the most; it’s who you were with at those places that have the lasting memories.

I think about Adam, who tried to cut the corner over a horse corral in Ireland, only to come up short and hit the horse in the rear end. I think of Dave who sprayed one high right onto the top of a sand dune and had to climb to the top. I think of Charley, deep in a Scottish bunker, whacking away at that little ball just sitting there. And I lose sleep over Doug sinking a 40-footer on the 18th hole in November, winning the last hole we would play until the next spring! I think of Nanner, Rock and Joe and me playing endless tournaments and enjoying winter golf in St. George, Utah.

Golfers probably have more on their bucket lists than most folks as they yearn to play the course of their dreams. I had two; one was St. Andrews, in Scotland. It’s the home of golf, sacred ground to all golfers, and only they can understand what the having the jitters on the first tee of St. Andrews feels like. I had them, while standing over the ball in a light mist, looking down the fairway as all the greats in the game had done before me. I could hardly pull the club back, but I did, and we were off! What a glorious day that was.

And now, it’s April. That means only one thing in my book. The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. My dear wife Josie, now in heaven, and now my daughter always asks me what I want for my birthday. I answer then and now, “The TV remote, and four days of peace and quiet, The Masters is on!”

What’s April mean to you? Share it with me at gregawtry@awtry.com .

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