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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jun. 24, 2020 3 months ago

COLUMN: A layman learns golf | Part One — Intro

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Welcome to my new, ongoing column where this oft-described “redneck” learns to play the gentleman’s game.
by: Troy Herring Sports Editor

Ah, golf — the ultimate gentleman’s game.

Since its modern development in 15th-century Scotland, people around the world have taken up the sport as a means of fun and leisure. And for those who happen to be good at it, there’s a nice chunk of change to be made.

It’s most notably known as a game played by royalty and the upper-crust of society, which is why it’s a shame that I’m about to come in like a redneck Happy Gilmore — without the long-ball ability — and set golf back 500 years.

That’s right, I’m going to do something I never in a million years thought I would do — I’m going to learn how to play golf.

Since this wildly infuriating pandemic first began canceling sports back in March, I have written about whatever popped into my mind. For some reason, unknown to even myself, I pondered, “Wouldn’t it be funny to write an ongoing column where I explore a game that I have made fun of for most of my life?” 

When I say “explore,” I mean throw myself deep into the game — colorful John Daly plaid pants and all — and document my experiences. Before I do that, however, let me tell you a little about my background in this sport and what I’ve been doing this last week.
 

MY BACKGROUND IN GOLF …

… is nonexistent.

Actually, it’s more like a series of jabs at the sport. You see, growing up in the most middle of middle-class families back in small-town North Carolina, golf to us was a sport played by rich white guys with an excessive amount of time on their hands — therefore it was treated with a bit of good ol’ fashioned mockery.

My first experience with golf was probably when I was a kid flipping past it on TV on Sunday afternoons trying to find something else to watch at my mema’s house. But my most vivid early memories were when we rode by the local course back home. Every time, without hesitation, my dad would blare the horn as some poor schmuck went into his back swing, and it made me laugh every single time. 

Was it rude? Eh, depends on whom you ask. Was it funny? Absolutely.

So, as you can see, my early experiences with the sport aren’t exactly gentlemanly, but things changed when I moved to Winter Garden.

I had photographed golf back home, but Florida is a different place for golf — everyone here plays this dang game. Combine that with being able to cover the Arnold Palmer Invitational and meeting some cool people, and all of a sudden, I found myself watching it on TV and following golf news on the Twitter. Y’all finally had me hooked with your effective brainwashing.
 

TEARING UP MY BACKYARD

With my curiosity piqued, and my sanity being completely snuffed out due to being stuck at home, I decided it was finally time to buy a set of clubs.

I looked online at some shops, but ultimately ended up finding a set for $80 back in May.

Since then, I’ve taken to my backyard to work on things that I’m definitely going to need to improve on before I go out to an actual course — like chipping out of tall grass and trying to find where my ball landed. So far, I’ve already lost a few balls, and I’ve hacked at balls so bad that my yard looks like a battlefield scene from Saving Private Ryan. To my landlord, the latter half is only slightly a joke. Please don’t raise my rent.

This is all to say that this is going to be much harder than I could have ever anticipated. Concentration and hand-eye coordination aren’t things I’m necessarily good at, but hey, this is a learning process.

And this process will continue as I take in some lessons with a friend. Hopefully, we will work on driving, because nothing would make me happier than blowing up a golf ball — which hopefully can be done without me accidentally murdering someone.

So, if you’re out there on the course and hear me shout, “Fore,” I am truly sorry for the possible concussion.

Troy Herring is the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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