When I was about 14, some 10 years before he passed (respect), my left-handed maternal grandfather announced that he and I would hit the local goat track. Stanley (my middle namesake) had been a steel man with an engineering mind at Pratt & Letchworth for years, until a line accident had nearly ended his life. He survived so that he might endure that day in 1980, when his uppity grandson might learn a bit about the game’s proper disposition.
Stanley had a sack filled with wood-shafted clubs. For the first 18 holes of our round, he spent his swings flailing away at the ball, barely lifting it for any recordable time off the soil. I walked along, launching shot after shot into the blue skies, as any redoubtable teenager might, oblivious to the lessons that orbited our group. Equal parts curious onlooker and embarrassed playing partner, it was inconceivable that a motion and a notion that came so easily to me, might feature such a juxtaposition with my elder.
To discover that the older generations might not necessarily do things better than the younger ones was the first alert of many that day. Recognizing that one’s ability and execution on the course might be proportionally inverse to his enjoyment of the game, of the time spent with his grandson, was inescapable and invaluable.
The sound of those dried-out shafts and three-decades ancient steel heads clack against the ball was buried in me until recent events rounded out a day. As technology has woven its fabric around the game, noises like the click-click-click-clack of metal spikes against concrete (and the subsequent and painful wipe-outs that followed) have written themselves out of time and into memory and history. Not that thwack, that crack of ball against time-worn equipment. It lives in the hickory clubs that a niche among niches of golfers play with enthusiasm in our present day…To be continued in Part Two.