“Hips Don’t Lie.”-Shakira
Neither do ankles, calves, feet, thumbs, shoulders, or Achilles’ tendons.
One of the great internal dilemmas that I face every day of my life is that I have a disease called ankylosing spondylitis that directly works against the one thing I love to do more than anything in the world: play sports at a high level. It was a leading cause of me giving up baseball in my teens, and it was why I finally had to quit playing soccer a few years ago, to name a couple.
For almost 25 years now, to do what I truly love to do, I have had to find workarounds and alternatives, some much less than traditional. It’s why I have a hard time tolerating complaining, why I hate wasting energy, and why I love problem solving. From my experience, there’s always a way. There’s always a solution.
For years on the soccer field, you might’ve thought I was asleep for 90% of the match when I was just conserving energy for when it was really needed. I didn’t and don’t always have a full tank physically. Similarly with the two marathons. Against all physical odds, how on earth could I make this happen? And now, after almost one year of golf where flexibility is an absolute must…and I may be the least flexible person in the world.
“Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.”-Miles Davis
Next week is the one year anniversary of the golf journey that started 4/17/19. I’ll give a full recap of progress, what I’ve learned, next steps, and so on next Sunday, but this week I simply want to talk about how I feel.
For starters, I’m sore. I’m really freaking sore. But I’m also quite proud. I’m starting to understand what I can and cannot do on the course physically, and I’m tailoring solutions built specifically for who I am.
Off the course, I could use a massage (closed). I could use some physical therapy (closed). I could use a king size bed (nope) in a house (nope) with carpet (nope) so I can stretch my 6’4” frame out. Until today, it’s been perfect weather for the better part of a month, so I haven’t “been forced” to take a mandatory weather day off (my fault). I, sometimes to my own detriment, love the opportunity each day provides a little too much.
On the course, I need an hour plus before I am even remotely loose. Forget playing before noon. Some days, my spine won’t let me move the ball right to left, so I must adjust. Some days, I can’t get a full stretch on my backswing, so I adjust. Some days my feet hurt and I don’t get enough “bounce” in my legs. Some days my right kneecap stings, and I can’t make a certain move. It’s no biggie. 25 years now. I know the drill.
Golf, AS, and the combination of the two have provided me with a ton of perspective this year. I’ve spent 258 days outside on the course so far, and I’ve been reminded that nature, no matter how hard we try to combat it, makes its own rules. I’ve hit beautiful shots that get terrible bounces, and I’ve hit terrible shots that get lucky as hell. Sometimes we can only react, but oftentimes we can also adjust.
A few months ago, I was playing the 9th hole with my teacher. It’s a quirky Par 4 that demands a tee shot of at least 200+ yards but not more than 235. Roll comes into play. Downhill comes into play. Wind comes into play. On this day, I pulled a 3 iron and smoked it, very well pleased with myself. However, when we drove down to set up for the next shot, the ball was nowhere to be found. After a quick search, it was located 10 yards into the swamp past that 235 mark. Annoyed, I turned to my teacher and said, “Can you believe that?” Without missing a beat, he turned sternly to me and said, “In these conditions, you had no business hitting that club. It’s fast, firm, and windy today, and you have to adjust.” His eyes told me, You, of all people, should know better. He was right.
Next week, in bright lights, we will certainly celebrate this wild and wonderful past year of golf. But this week? A silent nod to 25 years (which honestly deserves way more celebration than one goofy year of golf).
Have a great week, and stay safe.-Benj
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