The game of golf and I have what is best described as a passing acquaintance.  Very occasionally, when I’m at my country house, friends will ask me to join them for a nine-hole adventure at one of the local clubs. (How anyone can play eighteen holes is a mystery to me.) This I do once or twice a year just so I can maintain the ever-diminishing relationships that I enjoy. It’s my way of staying in touch without actually having to talk to anyone. As for the golf,  I kind of enjoy arriving at the course and taking in the views.  And I definitely like the beers we have when we finish up.  It’s just the stuff in between that I’m not so fond of.

A few weeks back I found myself on the first hole with my friend boB. And so we began our several hour journey.  Fortunately, I have pretty good hand-eye coordination so I never miss the ball when I swing. Each time I play I’m amazed that I can do that.  And a lot of the time, the ball goes straight; and occasionally it will fly the way it’s supposed to.  Frankly, I impress myself. Often my friends will encourage me by suggesting that if I took a lesson or two I could be a decent golfer.  I’m not sure any of them have actually said these words but what I get from what they’re saying is that I have the potential to play a lot better.

This is a sentiment I know well.  When I was a kid, I was a pretty good athlete and usually played with guys from the neighborhood who were older than I was. I would often hear those exact words directed towards me: “You have a lot of potential.”  This (along with “he’s good for his age”) was one of the highest compliments I could then imagine.  But now, as I think about it, apart  from what I intuit from the golf comments, I haven’t heard anything about my potential for many decades.  Meaning, I guess, that most of it is behind me.  Probably stowed away and rotting in some old suitcase. What a sickening thought!

The thing I’ve always liked  about having “potential” is that it’s all in the future. Anything is possible; the sky’s the limit!  But trying to realize or cash in on that “potential’ can sometimes often  almost always be a fool’s errand. Which is why I’m not signing on for those golf lessons. Why risk that my “potential” has been mis-diagnosed? I think it’s best for all concerned that we think I could be good. After all, it’s not as if I want to become a golfer for Chrissake! I’d much prefer to stick with tennis.  Even though I’m pretty sure that I’ve reached my full potential at tennis, I have a feeling that I’m getting awfully close, once again, to being “good for my age.”


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