disasters in golf and parenting

July 6, 2012 — The great thing about writing this blog right now is that it gives me an excuse and motivation to watch sports on TV that I might not normally have the motivation to watch and appreciate. Case in this point is the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament.

Wait.

Let me back up a second and admit that I have watched plenty of U.S. Open women’s golf, but 90 percent of it has been either the last nine holes on Sunday or an eighteen-hole playoff on Monday. In 2003, my friend Angela Stanford played against eventual-champion Hilary Lunke and Kelly Robbins in an eighteen-hole playoff. I was visiting Disney World at the time, so I played golf in the morning and watched the playoff in the afternoon. Five years before that, I watched Se Ri Pak defeat Duke amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn in a playoff that took twenty holes to decide. Chuasiriporn’s might be the most dramatic example of a one-hit wonder in sports that I’ve ever personally witnessed in real time. The fact that I remember watching her play in that playoff fourteen years ago is significant even if I had to look up how to spell her name. Honestly, I didn’t even remember who beat her. I just remember watching her and sort of falling in love. According to an article published on the Golf Channel’s website this week, Chuasiriporn is now a nurse in Virginia and hasn’t played a round of golf in five years. That’s kind of sad, but maybe not. Maybe it’s more metaphorically significant than I’m willing to consider at the moment.

At the moment, I want to focus on having watched U.S. Women’s Open golf on a Friday afternoon. In doing so, I observed that this made for brutal sports television. Outside of the Little League World Series, you probably won’t find a better example of sports that probably shouldn’t be televised. It’s torture, really, to take people who struggle so mightily to make apparently routine shots and put them in the bright lights of television.

Collectively, they made women’s professional golf resemble girls’ high school golf. College golf at best.

But taking a step back, I realized this isn’t unique to women’s golf. Watching the final round of the men’s U.S. Open is like watching professional athletes go to the dentist.

This made me wonder how this applies to life. Where in life do you see people who are actually great at something made to look, by the conditions and the stress, as if they’re terrible at it.

I came up with parenting.

I’m not a parent. But I have parents and I have many friends who are parents. From what I’ve observed through my thirty-five years, I respect my parents. I feel that is a credit to both them and me. But my point is perhaps more directed at my friends who have children. Friends I know to be outstanding people with integrity and who show love beyond what is expected or required from human beings. People who pretty much everyone would have to agree qualify as well-adjusted, intelligent, capable people.

Having written that, I promise you that my friends’ children make them seem like blithering idiots. I love them. I really do. But I’m getting to the point where I hesitate to socialize with them in public places. Don’t misunderstand me. I love my nephew and my friends’ two- and three-year-olds as much as anything in life. But going to restaurants with these little people isn’t fun. I do it anyway, for now.

I don’t know what’s worse, the toddlers wandering around the restaurant, climbing on top of or hiding beneath the table, making unreasonable demands and then crying loudly when those demands go unmet; or if it’s my friends’ ability to always be frustrated and exasperated by the fact that their children can’t sit quietly and appreciate their inclusion in an adult conversation.

And I’m not saying that’s what the children should do. But it seems to be what my friends expect. It’s unreasonable. And that’s why my friends end up looking like completely unqualified parents. They have the choice of yelling and screaming and probably carrying the child outside as it kicks and creams, or sitting there calmly and appearing as if they’re doing nothing to alter the child’s bad behavior.

The kids behavior is the tall grass in the rough and the unbearably slick greens of U.S. Open golf. Meanwhile, the judging eyes of fellow restaurant patrons are the television cameras. Keeping the ball in the fairway and making pars amounts to keeping the kids happy and quiet and in either case, you know failure is inevitable. The best you can hope for is an audience that is sympathetic and supportive in those ugly moments.

I bet at those moments, my friends wish they could be holding a sand wedge looking at a downhill lie in a bunker with the hole cut on the near side of the green and a putting surface sloping away.

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