I’m a member of Tom Watson’s generation. I started playing golf when Nicklaus was beginning to battle Palmer, and was beginning my first “real job” when Watson and Nicklaus had their Duel in the Sun. I was crushed as I watched Watson’s 8 iron shot go long at the 18th at Turnberry, and could hardly watch as he lost the playoff to Cink.
I cheered when Watson made the cut at this year’s Greenbrier. I knew it was just making the cut, not winning, but it was more than a pair of current top stars could do. And even though Watson finished near the bottom of the field his performance gives golfers my age a warm feeling deep inside.
I know comparing my game to Tom Watson’s is like comparing a drunk karaoke singer to “The Velvet Fog.” Both do vaguely similar things in similar places, but only Mel Torme is worth a second look. (Unless you like train wrecks, of course.) But Watson’s game at his (and my) age encourages me to keep at it.
Last week I played with a different group than I usually do. One person in my group was 78 years old and another was 93. (That’s not a typo. He was ninety three years old.) We made it around in under 4 hours, had a good time, and everyone played pretty well. As the young kid I was hitting it longer and fewer times, but both of them beat me on a few holes. I actually enjoyed those defeats as much as they enjoyed those wins.
I was once playing with a guy my age and we got behind a group of older fellows. We watched as they shuffled along the fairways and across the greens, and the guy I was with said something like “I only hope that when I get to that age I’ll have the good sense to quit.”
I feel just the opposite. Some would say I’m an old fart now, and I’ve got over 30 years of golf to go before I catch up to that 93 year old. I only hope that when I get there I’m doing what he’s doing now.