Sweaty Palms at the Driving Range

Today I’m going to go play golf with my husband, my dad, and my two daughters. And I’m not nervous. That might sound silly to some of you, the “other half.” But not to my kind of people. There are two kinds of people: the bold, outgoing, fearless type like my Grandma Turner, my mom, my sister, and my youngest daughter, Ellie. And there are the timid, shy, introverted people like me, my dad, my husband, and my oldest daughter, Sammy.

The other day my friend Marcia said she couldn’t believe I was the timid type. I can see her point because I did start to come out of my shell around seventh grade. But as a kid I was the one who clung to my mom’s leg at adult functions and cried for the entire three hours of mothers’ morning out till my mom came to pick me up. And I cried on stage while singing with the children’s church choir. Amongst all of the kids I had seen twice a week since I was in diapers. So even though I like to chat up strangers when I’m visiting a new city, or get engrossed in personal conversations with the servers at restaurants, deep down I’m still the timid type.

For those of you extroverts, you may not be able to comprehend, but going to new places can be scary. To give an example, joining a new damn gym is scary. I was pretty sure I wanted to join the YMCA years ago, but when I asked for a tour they said, “feel free to look around.” That was no help! The whole point was for them to lead me around so I don’t look like an idiot trying to figure out where the treadmills are and where the aerobics classes were held. God forbid I do something stupid like break some kind of unknown gym etiquette by stumbling around the place by myself. And, furthermore, what the hell is the “women’s gym??!” Is that small private-ish room the only room for women? Or for “Women” like the big section at the department stores? For me, this kind of query makes me sweat while I try to figure it out. (It took about three months until I worked up the nerve to indulge in watching the extra large televisions while treadmilling in the “women’s gym.”)

You can imagine, then, my internal battle as I headed one day to the driving range all by myself for the first time. Golf is nothing new, really. I grew up with a dad who played golf regularly with my Grandpa. I know who Tiger Woods is. I know that the Masters is held in Augusta and that the winner earns the green jacket. But it was about this time last year when I decided that I wanted to try my hand at golf.

Some folks might think, “big deal. Go for it.” But as I’ve mentioned before I am timid.  And I’m a giant scaredy cat. When I was about nineteen years old I went to the driving range with my college boyfriend. I was so awful that I laughed and laughed; then squealed with the delight if I made contact with the ball. My boyfriend, through gritted teeth, tried to impart the wisdom of golf etiquette on me, but I was too baffled by the whole experience to grasp the courtesy at the time.

How could a golf swing feel so foreign? I mean, I’ve seen it done a million times on TV or watching the neighborhood boys playing from yard to yard when we were young. In my twelve years of public school we played kickball, soccer, wiffleball, basketball, volleyball, and crab soccer. We even learned to juggle. But I never swung a golf club.

I suppose I got the itch to brave the driving range by myself since we now live five minutes away from the range and my daughter had begun playing golf as well. Of course the day I chose to head to the driving range, it was full of kids having practice. Immediately I wanted to turn the car around because “maybe it was closed due to lessons.” But I pulled in to the gravel lot anyways, determined to finally check this To Do off my list.

After clumsily filling my bucket of balls I headed to a spot where, in awe, I observed eight year  old kids easily chipping and driving, and yes, making contact with the ball. It took a dozen swings or so to finally make the ball soar past the chipping target. Then I wiffed at least another half dozen times. All around me the kids’ balls were leaping into the air. It was a humbling experience. I tried to “clear the mechanism.” I know, wrong Kevin Costner film. But still. My main achievement that day was that despite sweaty palms and my internal anxiety of this new experience, and plain looking like a big ol’ dang beginner idiot, that I showed up! Which made showing up the next time that much easier.

Eventually I took a set of lessons, and don’t get me started on how it feels to be watched while I do something new. It feels like the teacher standing next to your desk while you are trying to take a test! I may know the material, but put the teacher, even my favorite teacher, next to my desk and I’m paralyzed! All the math and all the German may as well have fallen out of my brain while my test stares at me waiting to be bubbled in! But the best thing about my golf coach is that he wants you to have fun first. For you golfers out there, I have to admit, I was so new to golf that I had to be coached that it was ok to make divots in the grass! I also had to be explicitly told that you want your Tees to break. I was living in the land of “don’t mess up the grass” and “don’t break the tees!”

So I’m looking forward to hopefully showing off to my dad how far I’ve come in a year of hanging out at the driving range. Don’t’ get me wrong. I don’t feel proficient yet. And I swear every time I get my golf bag out of the car I sweat bullets that I’m going to pull a scene from The Three Stooges by knocking someone over (or have all my clubs fall out!) But today is our father-daughter showdown. I’m pretty sure my husband and Sammy will beat me and my dad. I’m sure Ellie will be perplexed about who to cheer for. But I’m thankful that I got my palms sweaty last year and went out to be timid at the driving range. It has earned me a new fun family pastime!

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