I look back on my golf, and my life, and think of all the things I worried about, and all the plans I made, and how rarely the things I worried about happening came to pass, and how often my best plans came to nought. That's golf; and that's life. So, now that I'm old, a little tired, but doing the best I can with what I've got to work with, I tend to be more accepting. From being a young man who saw everything as black and white, I've come to see that there is a lot of grey. The older I get, the less I know for sure. But one thing I have come to understand and accept is that, when all is said and done, it is what it is.
Steve is a bit of a philosopher, at least on the golf course. He accepts his occasional shank with as much dignity and grace as he can muster. He doesn't allow himself the luxury of complaining about his lie after he's hit it in the thick stuff. He just tends to shrug and say, "It is what it is." In fact, he's the one who got me saying it.
I used that phrase once with a woman--I can't recall the exact circumstances--but I do recall her being quite vexed about me using it.
She said, "I hate that expression. What does it even mean? It is what it is? It doesn't mean anything."
As I tried to explain to her, it means a great deal. There are many times in this life where things will just happen and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it. And, when these things happen, you can get annoyed, curse your luck, snap your putter in two, or you can just accept it and drive on. When you accept what life, or the golf course, has given you, you have recognized that, regardless of whether it was fair, regardless of whether things might have been different if your ball hadn't come to rest in someone's unrepaired divot, it just is what it is. You might as well accept it.
I was writing this and suddenly realized I had a tee time in thirty minutes and I wasn't even dressed. I rushed to the course, arriving within a minute of the tee time, and with two quick practice swings, hit a perfect tee shot. That's not the way you should play this game, but it is what it is.
I told Carl the Grumbler--who isn't grumbling nearly as much since I've started calling him that--and Billy that I was right in the middle of this blog. We all thought that the expression was quite apropos when it comes to golf, and eventually found ourselves using it during the round.
I was hitting it quite well, but had missed a couple of short putts to find myself one over after seven. Billy, who has been struggling, was making everything, and Carl was just being Carl, getting it up and down from everywhere. On eight, a par five, I chose to lay up with a 22 degree wood and, going completely blank over the shot, smothered it about 80 yards into the rough, behind a tree. After remarking that, if nothing else, I had at least got it past the ladies' tee, I hit the same club again to just inside the two hundred yard marker and then hit my next one on the fringe, pin high, but about thirty feet from the pin. Billy and Carl had hit two good shots, Billy hitting his third to about fifteen feet, and Carl, who was about forty yards from the pin in two, hit, what was for him, a rather weak chip and left himself about twenty feet short of the pin, and on the fringe.
I stood up and chipped mine in for birdie, while the boys settled for par. Carl clearly thought this was grossly unfair, wondering out loud how he could have messed up that chip so badly. I felt compelled to remind him that it is what it is. Perhaps the golfing gods were listening and thought me a bit smug, because I promptly found myself bogeying the next two holes, courtesy of a flared tee shot on nine, and three putts on ten. Carl, who was tied with me after seven, went par, bogey to take the lead.
I said to Carl, after the three putt on ten, that you just can't play this game putting this way. He agreed, but assured me that it is what it is, and I would have to just keep plugging away until they started dropping. I only had to wait until I got to the next green, where I holed a fifty footer for birdie, after pulling an easy eight iron approach. Carl and I were even again.
Carl then birdied twelve, after I missed a fairly easy eight footer for birdie, and the see-saw battle continued. Thirteen is a short par five, with a tricky tee shot that has to negotiate a pond on your right, and trees and thick rough on your left. Carl, electing to play smart, chose an iron to lay it back short of the pond. He shanked it into the thick rough and had to take an unplayable, eventually making a seven to my par. He was rattled and never really recovered.
I managed a couple more birdies coming in for 71. I had beaten Old Man Par, which happens less often every year. Carl made a double on the par 3 eighteenth, half shanking a six iron out of bounds, for 78. Billy, despite a double on seventeen, shot 80, which, the way things have been going this year, was a pretty good result.
I told Billy that he had played really well, and talked about what a shame it was that he had taken four from the edge of the green on seventeen to make double. I figured he could easily have, and probably should have, broken 80.
"Oh well, " Billy said, "It is what it is."
Ain't that just the truth.