Originally posted in 2006, reposted with some modifications. I ran the LifeBuilders Golf Tournament until we putted our last hole out in 2010. I still play golf as often as I can.
Some people think that everything good and beautiful in this life comes from a government programme. Others just get the job done, and in the process inspire others. This is a story of the latter.
One of the things that exasperates me about the society we’re in today is the underlying assumption that the only way to make progress is to have a government programme both fund the process and shove the results down everyone’s throat. This is especially true in the educational sector, one dominated by either government entities (public schools and universities) or NGO’s (private schools and universities.) “Waiting for the next grant” (and obtaining that grant) is “the game” with these people.
One of the mantras that people repeat over and over is that women’s athletics wouldn’t be what they are today if it were not for “Title IX” of the Civil Rights Act as amended in 1972. Today we see women happily competing in virtually every sport and getting recognition for it. We are told that our society is so hopelessly racist and sexist (and now we’re told it’s full of bigoted homophobes) that this would not have happened without the Federal government forcing schools to make this possible.
I cannot agree with this. It’s become too easy to lead by coercion and manipulation, but that doesn’t make it the right way to do it. What’s really needed is an example, or more than one. To consider one, in a supposedly “retro” place like Tennessee, Pat Summitt’s Lady Vols are so successful in basketball that the men’s team spends most of its time trying to live up to the women’s reputation! (And then we have the Aggies this year…) Growing up in South Florida, when my all-male prep school admitted women, the school was able to organise a creditable women’s tennis team alongside the men’s even with a very small pool of candidates. Tennis was “the thing” amongst men and women alike; just down the coast in Ft. Lauderdale, Chris Evert was beginning her spectacular career on the pro circuit.
Most men get their initial interest in athletics from their father. And this makes sense. It’s a good way (when done properly) of bonding a father and son together. In my case, my father was frankly indifferent to whether I achieved anything athletically or not. He did not make the automatic connection between success on the athletic field and success in business that most American men do. This had its downside but it did save me the agony of being cursed out in front of God and everybody in Little League and other team sports, a practice the Boomers disliked only to inflict it on their own children (and now it’s passing down to the next generation.)
One sport that did get support in our family was golf. All of us played it at one time or another. Although my father (and brother) were reasonable golfers, the one person for whom golf was a passion was my mother.
No, we did not three-putt: my brother and mother coming off of the green.
She took up the game after she moved from Arkansas to Chicago. She took to it with enthusiasm, although the time she could devote to it varied with her children’s age and health. After we moved to Palm Beach, she made it a serious proposition. For the next two decades she was not only an active player, she was active in her club’s ladies associations, first at the Breakers in Palm Beach and later at Delray Dunes. At the Breakers she helped to start the Tee Lambert tournament which benefited the Visiting Nurses’ Association; at Delray Dunes she assisted with the Delray Dunes Pro-Am for Bethesda Hospital in Delray Beach. She would have recourse to the visiting nurses when a congenital defect in her back gave out and she had fusion surgery; her golf was part of her therapy, and before she was back in the game the Palm Beach Country Club was gracious enough to allow her to walk the course. She won a tournament now and then and was (I think) the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club’s first “Lady Member.” (They survived. So can Augusta National!)
My mother was a stickler for the rules of golf, which is necessary when you run tournaments, as she frequently did. She was a USGA member until the time of her death. She drilled into her sons the importance of proper etiquette on the course in addition to playing well. She made sure we got proper lessons, even as a senior in college. Sometimes she overdid it on that score, which could drain the fun of the game.
To some extent, golf (and the country club experience that went with it) was a kind of religion with my mother. (It was handy to have course and church next to each other, as was the case in Palm Beach.) One reason why I quit playing for so long (in addition to being a poor golfer in a world of achievers) was because I only acknowledged one religion.
But then there came the time for synergy. Working for the Lay Ministries Department of the Church of God means working for a department with a golf tournament as a major fund raiser. Until her last year she wasn’t much on me being in a Pentecostal church, but when she found out I was working for a ministry with a golf tournament, she doubled her donation to the tournament from what I asked for! Golf is as big a thing amongst ministers in the Church of God; it’s not just a rich kid’s game, something that was hard to see in Palm Beach.
Having taken up the game again initially to play in this tournament, this year I am responsible for running it. Without my mother’s exhortation and occasional prodding, I would not be able to do it. Every time I tee off, I owe a little something to her inspiration to play (I actually used her old putter until last year).
I’m glad that she lived long enough to see the eternal and temporal come together on the tee. “Weigh well the example of him who had to endure such opposition from ‘men who were sinning against themselves,’ so that you should not grow weary or faint-hearted.” (Hebrews 12:3) As is the case with us and Our Lord Jesus Christ, women’s athletics didn’t and don’t need a government programme as much as they need examples, and there are plenty of them out there. Even for their sons.