Father and Son
Writing, painting or music can often capture the splendor of the best of life, but occasionally life mirrors art. An experience occurred recently that brought this home to me: Our student son Mark and I enjoyed a round of seaside golf near the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland-one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
I write not as a good golfer in the technical sense, but hopefully as a "good" player who enjoys a round in the company of family or friends, who tries hard to win but who doesn't mind losing to the better golfer. Sadly, "good golfers" in that sense are becoming harder to find in a competitive world.
Mark and I were intent on enjoying a day out together, one of those rare occasions where a father and son can share each other's company totally without interruption. Mark had just returned from a vacation job in Germany, where he had been shoveling curry powder in a spice factory. He was about to return to the University of Manchester in England, and I was due to go back to my busy desk at Queen's University in Belfast the next morning. So we settled for a sharing of seaside golf.
Those people who do not understand golf should still read on. I'm not sure that I understand golf myself, or why grown men and women spend so much time, money and energy-and suffer so much anguish-in trying to knock a small white ball into a tiny hole in the ground using a long awkward-looking stick, and trying to do so in as few strokes as possible. It is more than a game: It is a lesson in life. I have seen mature men pale at the prospect of knocking in a final three-foot putt to win a match. Even worse, I know men who have found it hard to lose gracefully to their close friends, or to their own sons. Sometimes such winners are really the losers.
Despite all such angst, there is a totally irrational surge of satisfaction-sometimes peaking into joy-when the golf swing works well and that little white ball zooms down the fairway as if Jack Nicklaus himself had hit it. It was one of those GREat days of unexpected golfing successes when Mark and I strode along the fairways, bounded on one side by the picturesque River Bush. I had played this course for more than twenty years, but on this particular morning I realized that Mark was coming of age and was beating his father for the first time, fair and square.
As we walked and talked, my mind lingered on the theme of life imitating art, and particularly the art of that GREat and much-loved English poet Sir John Betjeman, who captured the magic of "Seaside Golf":How straight it flew, how long it flew,
It cleared the rutty track,
And soaring, disappeared from view
Beyond the bunker's back -
A glorious, sailing, bounding drive
That made me glad I was alive.