“First golfer on the moon is he. Yet mad enough to pop. Because of the lack of gravity. The poor lad’s putt won't drop.” I wonder if Richard Armour thought of Apollo 14 in his 1962 book “Golf is a Four-Letter Word: The Intimate Confessions of a Hooked Slicer.”
We all have personal bookmarks, events that we never forget, marking moments in our lives. Four things happened this past week that reminded me of my own bookmarks, my age, mortality and the reason to enjoy the pleasures of golf.
Last week, two things happened that seem to coincide. The world was engrossed in the joy and excitement of the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. We also mourned the loss of Walter Cronkite. I will not repeat the accolades for either here. It seems that every news service ran specials on the space mission and “Uncle Walter.” CBS’s “Sunday Morning” and Sunday evening’s tribute to Cronkite alone said enough, and my 700 words will add little. Cronkite introduced me to science, the news, history and the world.
Cronkite’s belief in the U.S. space program was unequaled by any news professional of the time or since. The film of Cronkite reporting that the Eagle had landed brought back memories of my father and me sitting in front of the television to watch man walk on the moon. That moment brought me wonder, and Cronkite’s voice brought me reality, etching a permanent bookmark into my being. I am who I am because of him. He, like our astronauts, was a pioneer in his own right.
I talk about bookmarks with my adult communication students. This year I noted a turn of events I privately hoped would not happen. On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger blew up on liftoff, another personal bookmark. I was driving on U.S. Highway 6 in Denver when I heard the news on the radio and stopped at a hotel to watch the shuttle blow up repeatedly on the big-screen television. I remember crying, and I remember those around me doing the same.
In my evening classes, working students watch and analyze Ronald Reagan’s eulogy to the Challenger astronauts. Unfortunately, this year not one of my students was old enough to remember the Challenger disaster. I felt, well, old.
Last week was also the British Open. Putting up a wonderful fight, exchanging leads with golfers 30 years his junior, was Tom Watson. Three years my senior, enjoyment and the energy of a 20-year-old was seen in this almost sexagenarian. The world was rooting for Watson on Sunday. In a four-hole playoff, Stewart Cink, age 34, beat him. Watson brought me back to reality, reminding me you are only as old as you feel. Me, I’m 57 going on 14, and I can still whoop Kathy’s 28- and 25 year-old boys.
So what ties all of these events together? Golf. Watching the Apollo 11 remembrances, I cannot forget watching Apollo 14’s Alan Shepard hitting a six-iron not once but four times on the moon. One-handed, no less. I have enough trouble with two. Shepard claimed the ball flew “miles and miles.” Another golfer’s lie, but who cares? I don’t think Cronkite played golf, but I know he knew Alan Shepard, and that’s good enough for me.
How to buy golf clubs, or at least how to swing one, is a regular information/training speech in my public speaking class. As a former volunteer Captain of Marshals for the PGA, I love this speech. It gets me mentally out of the classroom, wishing for the next round and breaking 70…80… OK, 90.
Kathy and I played golf on Monday. The air was cool, the golf was good and life’s energy was slowly returning to both of us. Samuel Clemens was wrong. Chasing the little white ball may be frustrating, but the fresh air, the sun, the exercise and watching the people and wildlife revitalize spirit and life.
The next time I look to the sky to watch yet another “perfect” shot, I hope to see the shuttle fly by and Walter and Bobby Jones hitting perfect six-irons with Alan Shepard on the moon.
David Rosman is a award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.