Why I Play Golf

I asked readers of this blog Monday to write out Why I Play Golf, and I gave pretty specific instructions on how to do this. As I was thinking last night about what I’d write this morning, it occurred to me that I should do it myself. I have done it a few times, but not for a couple of years.

Around 6:30 this morning, I sat down and blasted this out below in one go. I didn’t backspace, stop or pause except for a few sips of coffee. 

When I finished, I noticed I went past 850 words—the equivalent about three 8 ½ by 11 handwritten pages—but those are just minimums. If you want to keep going, keep going!

After writing this, I went through it once to clean up typos and fix punctuation to help you read it, but I have not edited it. 

Here’s what I wrote this morning. I would love to hear your key takeaways from your experience in writing out why you play golf. Let me know in an email to tim@oconnorgolf.ca

***

Why I play golf

I play golf because I’ve played it since I was a kid. My father Dennis introduced me to the game, and we developed a relationship with the game that started with me caddying at Sunningdale Golf & Country Club in London when I was about 10 or 11. I enjoyed caddying, especially for better golfers. It was fun to talk with many of the golfers, who enjoyed the fact that I was an outgoing kid. I turned out to be a far better caddy than golfer, although I was passionate and practised diligently as modeled by my father, who was a four handicap at his best. The better players at Sunningdale asked me to caddy for them in the club championship and the Sunningdale Invitational. It was an honour to caddy for these players such as Robbie Havers and Larry Chircoski who could, to me, manoeuvre the ball at will and bashed it for miles with consistency. I loved the way that they carried themselves with confidence, and painted the sky with their shots. They competed hard, but played with a sense of playfulness and ease as well. They loved the game. Golf really got its hooks into me as a kid.

In my teenage years, my attention focused on music, and I became a bass player. I wanted to be part of the music, rather than just a listener. I loved the galloping rhythms of bands such as Deep Purple and Steppenwolf, and I dove right in. I took lessons, and worked hard on being a great bass player. That’s me. Whatever I get truly invested in, I get neck deep. I played in a number of basement rock bands, but graduated to a band with its own PA system and rental space in the summer after Grade 13. After three drummers, that band died. After second-year university, I took a break from school. I was frustrated and disappointed, and just didn’t think this university thing was for me. I got into a ‘power trio,’ and we practiced diligently but that band went kablooey after about six months when our drummer disappeared and was wanted on three counts of breaking and entering.

Hmm, I’ve veered off the golf main road here. Well, must be a reason for that. Anyway, I reconnected with golf once I was working as a journalist with Canadian Press, living in Toronto and finally had my own car. I didn’t just get re-acquainted with golf, I fell madly in love with it again. I read every book, watched videos, took lessons, and practiced at a decrepit driving range on the edge of Scarborough, and played about once a week with the guys from CP. I got pretty good pretty quickly, but not to the level that I wanted.

I felt frustrated with the game, but I think what kept me coming back was the connection it provided with my Dad. Every time I’d visit him and mom, we’d get up to date on work, kids, what’s going on and then finally get into the important stuff—what was going on our golf games. I had started writing about golf as a freelancer at CP, and jumped into writing about the game full time in the early 90s. My dad relished that there was always tonnes to talk about in the world of golf, and what I recall with glee is watching him model some kind of move in his swing in their kitchen, or the conviction in his voice as he told me his dedication to some kind of new action, such as pausing at the top, or driving his right knee to the target. He was constantly tinkering with his game, and the focus of his mechanical attention changed with every conversation we had.

And I was exactly the same way. I’d get really worked about our games at Sunningdale, which were such a treat. I loved coming back to the great old club every 4-5 weeks where I had so many incredible memories. Those included playing with my mother Margaret who took up the game later in her life, but she became a pretty good player in short order, I believe, because she had always been a good athlete.

Golf gave me incredible connection with my parents. I recall one day during a game with my father, and I just watched him standing beside a green leaning on his putter, and I thought about how much I loved him. Of course, I didn’t tell him. I hadn’t developed those muscles yet as a young man, but golf keeps that connection alive with my dad who has been gone for three years now. During a game of golf, I’m forever quoting many of his lines, such as asking someone how much they think a flagstick weighs if they haven’t picked up a flagstick in a while. Actually, I’ve never done that, but Dad would say that to someone if he didn’t think they had picked up their fair share.

Why do I play golf? To stand on a first tee, and look at the fairway, and observe the mist coming off the grass as the sun slants in, feel the cool breeze on my face, and ready myself for another great adventure. I love the kibitzing on the range when the guys are warming up. Someone will make a joke or needle another guy, and 12 guys will erupt laughing. I love sitting around with a beer sharing war stories from the day and connecting. I’ll often detach myself from the group, and sit back and just watch the guys eagerly engage and laugh with each other. This is an important community for them, and for me, and I love being a part of it.

I love the feeling of effortless power when I nail a drive, or the feeling of club meeting ball and driving through the turf when I hit a solid iron shot. I love giving up any sense of control on a green, and just letting the ball go. It’s like my body knows what to do, and does it well, and I just have to stay out of the way.

Most of all, I love the feeling of freedom that I can experience on the course, when I can let go of my bullshit stories that I’m not good enough, or I’m not a good athlete, or somehow I’m just not smart enough—or damaged in some way—that I cannot figure out this game to become the scratch player that I’ve always wanted to be. Like the great players that I caddied for at Sunningdale.

Why do I play golf? To be as free as possible, to have fun and enjoy my companions, and say thank you to God for giving me the ability, the good grace to play the game, the opportunity, and for blessing me with a great wife who is OK with my obsession, and often very amused by it, and for the blessings of my boys who enjoy golf and know that their father is obsessed with it, and for the blessings of my mother and father who instilled my love for the game. And for whom I’m so grateful for their love.

That’s why I play golf.

I’m providing free coaching sessions during the lockdown. If you would like to connect for a complimentary 30-minute session, send me an email to tim@oconnorgolf.ca

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf and mental performance coach, an award-winning writer, and Head Coach of the University of Guelph golf team. He is the recipient of the 2020 Lorne Rubenstein Media Award, given by Golf Ontario. He is author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story, and co-host of the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman. And he plays bass in CID—a punk band!

Speak Your Mind

*