Sure, there are the aches and pains; the occasional bout of erectile dysfunction--just kidding--but generally, there is almost, for me at least, a sense of relief. You've got nothing, or at least very little, left to prove. Your best days might be behind you, but, on the golf course, sometimes you can still find a little magic. And best of all, not much is expected of you anyway, so if there's no magic, no one is really going to be disappointed, including yourself.
Golf is such a head game. You eventually learn that your most potent adversary is not your opponent, or the golf course; it is definitely yourself. You can really beat yourself, and you are really ultimately in control of whether you have a good day, or a bad one.
I played with Steve and Radar today, and it was a great day, marked by lots of talk and laughter about golf and life, and little or no worry or stress about how we were playing. Actually, Steve was playing really well, while Radar started with four straight bogeys and, while playing better as the round progressed, didn't have anything to write home about today. But, like me, Radar is accepting of the fact that his best days are also likely behind him.
I was even par until the fifth, when I swung hard and quick off the tee and hooked it into a bunker. I had an uphill lie; took a mighty swipe, hurt my back, hit the lip, and barely got it out. From there I made bogey and, after two more bogeys before the morphine kicked in, finished the front nine in 39.
My morphine took effect, the back spasms subsided, and I found myself back to even par standing on the seventeenth tee, after making an eagle on sixteen. I actually thought I was four under on the back, and told Radar that I was in a similar spot yesterday, sitting four under on the back, only to then finish with two bogeys, both of which were the result of missing putts of three feet or less.
Radar said, "Good for you. You're facing your demons."
I'm not sure that I was really facing my demons, but I was sure as hell admitting to them being there. There was a time when I would have still worried about getting it into the house, especially after yesterday's debacle, but I'd have kept it to myself. Instead, I readily admitted that I was thinking, and perhaps even worrying a little, about choking my way home. The good thing was, being an old guy, while I really wanted to get it to the house with a little more style than yesterday, I knew I'd survive either way. It's kind of a blessing when you come to terms with the fact that, whether you choke or not, you will survive. Golf shouldn't be a life and death struggle, and it's a relief when you get to the point where your self esteem isn't all tied up with how well you are playing.
I hit a nice tee shot, then hit a 58 degree wedge to about three and a half feet. I calmly hit my putt at the right edge and the little bugger horseshoed right back at me. But, it was still a par. On the final hole, I pushed my tee shot into the right bunker. But it skipped out and left me a tricky pitch. I pitched it to about five feet and barely missed the putt that I thought was for 71. As it turned out, the putt was for an even par round of 72. I try not to think about my score when I'm playing, so I'm often not quite sure where I stand against Old Man Par until I add it up.
There was a time when I'd have really been cheesed off, missing a four and a half footer for 72 on the last hole. Today, being an old guy, I have come to accept and understand that missed four footers are just as much a part of your round as the good shots. They are really not some strange occurrence, and so I really try not to see them as such, even if they do seem such a waste.
I used to be one of those guys who would say, "I would have shot 72, but I missed a short putt on 18." In fact, as I see how I've just described this round, I'm still doing the same thing. I essentially suggested that I would have shot 72 today, but for a missed short putt on 18. But, the truth is, I might also have shot 75, but for an eagle on 16.
The fact is, I shot 73. I hit some good shots. I hit some bad shots. I might have tied or beat Old Man Par, which is what I love to do, if I hadn't missed a couple of short putts. But, that's not reality. As a buddy of mine used to say, "If my aunt had had nuts, she'd have been my uncle."
So, now I just want to count myself very lucky. I had a great day, with a couple of good guys; I played about as well as I could reasonably expect to play, and my back is hardly hurting. These days, that's about as good as it gets. Anything beyond that is just gravy.