Confidently Humble, or the Time I Started Beating on the Ground with a Stick

Adam Vilmin

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Photo by Sarah Powers | The Prospectus

Staff Writer

This summer I decided after 20 years of playing, this was going to be the year I beat my grandpa in golf. I quit my old job, got a gig at the golf course, and cleared my school schedule. I started beating buckets of balls at the range before lunch shifts, running out to play nine holes before it got dark after dinner, and spending my days off looking for the drive I just hit into three foot prairie grass. I subscribed to the appropriate Reddit. I was staring back into the golf abyss, and I was going to make it blink.

Growing up, golf was always a source of conflict. It was always the thing that connected us. It’s where I learned how to indulge a primal masculine side of sport, no matter how costumed in gentlemanly mannerisms. I learned how to swear and properly gamble. A foreign world of adults, and I was part of an elaborate initiation.

Once I got older though, my demands on my golf increased. I unfortunately lacked the tight, unbroken focus that 18 holes on the course demands. The lack of progress distracted me, angrily. Once I found out playing punk shows was more suited to my sloppy enthusiasm, I stopped playing entirely.

I was working as a sauté cook a few years later where I was finding that absolving yourself in work can be a decadent experience. I began clearing my mind from distraction and trusting experience and preparation. It was then my chef reintroduced me to the savagery and found that I had become more effective after I had developed more control of my body and thoughts. Golf was a much more natural endeavor.

After interviewing the Parkland golfers this spring and intoxicating myself on the heady feeling around a course, I became convinced that I could take on grandpa with a little polish. I quickly found out I had a while to go. My drive was prone to either going 100 yards and settling behind the ladies tee box, or it headed straight into whatever hazard was located on the hole next to the one I was playing. Shanked irons, skulled chips flying 30 feet past the hole, and putts that rolled right off the green into the sand traps betrayed the fact that this was going to be a project.

I didn’t blink. I set out every round demanding to beat my score from the day before. I studied YouTube and bought Ben Hogan’s classic golf tome The Five Fundamentals of the Modern Golf Swing. I went in early to work and hit 100 balls with my seven iron and then 100 more to the pin 75 yards out. I finished work and walked out on the course and finished nine, quick holes before my homework. I obsessed with improvement.

I was absolving my entire dedication into the pursuit. It was exactly what I had never given golf, but now the frustration was exhilarating. I attempted to control my weakness and saw some turned into strengths on the practice tee. I got back into the conversations with the old guys in the morning parking lot. Fighting off the sunset with the guy from work after we got out early to get in the $10 twilight rate. Going up double or nothing on the back nine with a visiting friend. Conversing through sport.

I’m not even close to taking on Grandpa. I call him after each round and get to hear about his score 10 strokes better and how it sounds like, “you still just wont get your hips through the ball.” I try to look forward to posting a score tomorrow. Humility is the best asset in the game and ironically it will give you confidence. I won’t beat Grandpa soon, but I’ll be up early trying.