It wasn’t quite in the same golfer category as playing with longtime PGA tour player Charles Howell III. Or maybe it was. Maybe that experience with Charles Howell III caught me off guard because it was a complete surprise when I walked to the first tee.
It wasn’t quite in the same celebrity category as playing with basketball Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning. Or maybe it was. Maybe that experience with Alonzo Mourning was amplified because I played with him the exact day Lebron James announced he was leaving South Beach to head back to Cleveland, and I watched Zo anxiously negotiate on his bat phone all day while we played. (Alonzo Mourning was (and is) the Vice President of Player Programs and Development for the Miami Heat.)
It wasn’t quite in the same course category as Pinehurst # 2, East Lake, Torrey Pines, Hazeltine, Quail Hollow, Sand Hollow, and so on, all of which I have had the privilege of playing. Or maybe it was.
So what was it? Why was the prospect of playing the local municipal, $28 greens fees Golf Club at Audubon Park in New Orleans with golf traveller and bestselling author Tom Coyne quietly on par with all of these?
I should not have even reached out to him. It was risky. Irresponsible. Idiotic. But I did. Because that is what I now do.
For those of you not familiar with Tom Coyne, he has written four books and is currently working on his fifth, A Course Called America. He has been traveling the United States for the past however many months playing golf in almost all 50 states as “research” for this book. Private. Public. With friends. With strangers. Famous. Infamous. Not even on the map.
This past Wednesday brought him to New Orleans, and he dropped a note on his Instagram a few days prior. Tee time alert. 3 spots open. Without thinking, I messaged him. I live close by and would love to join.
24 hours went by with me checking my phone like a middle school girl. Come on Tom. I know you have a lot of followers, but there can’t be that many that live in the area and are available at 9am on a Wednesday. Simple math.
I woke up Monday morning with a simple response from Tom. Join me. Boom! How exciting!
When I received Tom’s message to join him just two days before the actual day of play, I was literally wearing this boot. Surprise, surprise, I had been nursing plantar fasciitis in my right foot for about ten days. It’s apparently what happens when you mix arthritis, 160 days of golf, and running marathons blindly. Risky? Irresponsible? Idiotic?
This shouldn’t be a problem, should it? Nah. Wait, Tom DOES like to walk when he plays. Dammit. This is going to hurt. Oh well. Once in a lifetime.
As the answer to this painful dilemma, I pulled out my Air Jordan 11 golf shoes. They are super comfortable, quite supportive, and if nothing else, a conversation starter.
I love a good conversation, but I don’t like idle chit chat. My dad and I might not speak at all during a round once the golf actually begins. Gentleman’s agreement. I love it.
Also, after a decade plus of building relationships with a certain type of person for work, I know that a certain type of person might grow weary of the same ole idle chit chat. I know I would.
So I made the decision during the round to just enjoy myself, get to leisurely know the fivesome, and tend to the business of golf. When I did get the opportunity five or six times to pick Tom’s brain, I wanted it to be interesting. We discussed my current journey, which I think got his attention. We talked about my parents being college professors since that is his day job at Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia. I asked him when he started writing. I asked him about the validity of swing coaches. He unequivocally told me to play Sweetens Cove on my trip to Chattanooga this weekend. (Done. Twice. Tittilating.).
And last but certainly not least, and he never actually said it, but I could see it in his eyes. Why the f**k can’t this guy make a putt? Actually, he did say something after my six footer on 18 narrowly grazed the cup, similar to the result of the previous 17 holes. No reason to start now. He smirked. I smirked. Gentleman’s agreement. I’ll never forget that.
(As a Panthers fan in Saints territory, I think the locals put a voodoo curse on my putter Wednesday.)
The best piece of advice I have received over the past two and a half years, two and a half years filled with dramatic change, growth, and evolution in my life, is this. Find your true community. Go build relationships with people who are in the world in which you want to live. Don’t make it transactional. Actually try.
I’m not going to be a PGA Tour player. I’m not going to be an NBA Hall of Famer. I’m not going to be a Top 100 course. But I do want to get really good at golf (in progress, 5.7 handicap), travel the US and world (in progress, 43 states/7 countries), and write about it all (in progress, 130 articles). Tom has done it, is doing it, and is damn good at it. In the grand scheme of things, I’m just getting started.
So that’s why I messaged him. That’s why, in spite of a very tender right foot and ankle, I messaged him. Very simply, he lives in a world in which someday, with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, maybe I can reside. And the prospect of that makes me very excited.
Have a great week.-Benj
Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.
If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .