I play golf because I love the sport. I love golf because my parents, Lee and Ginger Hirshland, loved golf. They introduced my brothers and me to the game when we were kids, young enough to be interested, challenged and excited by it yet old enough to see and appreciate the passion they had for it. That passion and love they had never wavered, good rounds or bad, birdies or bogeys, pure shots or shanks. And they played the game together, always enjoying each other’s company regardless of the number written in the tiny box. I always knew they loved golf and I could always see they loved each other.
I had my brothers and my friends and eventually my teammates as playing companions and fellow competitors growing up but I always looked forward to playing golf with my mom and dad and enjoyed it every single time we teed it up together. They were always a part of my favorite foursome until the day they passed on to find a pick up game in whatever life awaits after this one. Now I have a new favorite playing partner and I know my mom and dad would be happy to hear that it’s my wife, Sarah.
I have played this game for almost six decades. I played for fun, I played competitively and I played because in some, six degrees of separation, world it was part of my job. I produced golf broadcasts on TV since 1990, traveling around the country and the world, and for many of those years the clubs would travel with me. Loaded inside the bay’s of the mobile production units they would meet me at each new venue waiting to be grabbed, thrown in the trunk of a rental car, carried to the first tee and put to use without warmup, or more than a practice swing or two, after a TV show. I met some great people, got to play some wonderful golf courses and found my love of the game turn to like, then dislike, then hate. It just wasn’t fun anymore so I stopped playing. Then I met the woman who would be my wife.
She had been playing for a few years but wasn’t, admittedly, any good. I had weeks at a time off so when she would get finished with work on certain evenings she’d want to go play 9 holes. I’d grab a wedge and a putter and go with her. I would marvel at her passion and her persistence and with no one watching, under a North Carolina setting sun, I remembered what I loved about the great game in the first place and realized a whole new appreciation for the sport. Golf has been a big part of our relationship since and she is, without question, the person with whom I most prefer to play and I have at least ten reasons why that is the case.
10 – She encourages me to tee it forward- As Toby Keith once said, “I’m not as good as I once was” and she knows my enjoyment for the round will be exponentially better if I play the golf course at a manageable distance.
9- She is equally optimistic and realistic on the golf course. When she knows she has the 160 yard carry over the creek she’ll happily, confidently give it a go. When it’s just not working for her the next time we play she knows there is no shame in laying up and trying to make par or bogey the hard way.
8- She’s competitive. We almost always add to the fun by figuring out a game or two before we tee it up (points for fairways/greens hit, sandies, one putts, points deducted for three putts). She can’t beat me yet when it comes to pure score but she almost always takes my lunch money on the side bets.
7- She always wants to get better. She makes an occasional birdie, several pars and a bunch of bogies but she also makes her share of 7’s and 8’s. She wants to stop doing that.
6- She takes great pleasure in every good shot (her’s and mine). The end result might be a double bogey but she is quick to point out the great wedge I hit before we get to the next tee.
5- She likes to walk. There is no better or faster way to play this game than on two feet from tee to fairway to green to tee. It’s always our first choice.
4- She plays fast ( but slows me down) – I like to play quickly, hate to wait, but she has taught and is teaching me to be better with that. “Hang out here in the cart with me for a minute” or “What’s the rush to get to the tee box, let’s enjoy the shade for a sec” is what she’ll say and that time spent is ALWAYS better than staring at all the trouble in the fairway or waiting for the green to clear before I hit my second shot to a par five. But when it IS the right time to hit she’s ready and she hits it.
3- She respects the game and it’s rules. She knows the sport revolves around ethics and integrity and she not only appreciates that she admires it.
2- She’s my best friend. We enjoy each other’s company and can walk down a fairway talking about anything or go from green to tee and say absolutely nothing.
1- She rekindled my love for the game. Enough said.
This game is challenging, frustrating, exhilarating, wonderful, incredibly hard at times and surprisingly easy at others. It’s all that and more but it’s always better when you share it with a great companion.