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There's nothing like hitting the perfect tee shot on the first hole of a green, green fairway at 6 am on an early Sunday morning. It almost doesn't matter what course you are playing. That first shot, that first warm-up swing even – ahhhh. Stretch those back muscles, twist around the 2 iron. Bend and touch your toes and twist around again. There, the kinks are out now. Go ahead and swing.

If you're smart, you will have hit on the driving range for a bit to warm  up. Not too many balls, maybe 20 or 30 shots. Work up from a pitching wedge, to the 9 iron. Just a couple of shots – let the club go through the ball, feel the head of the club move back around to the top of the back swing with your longer irons, drive down and through and let the arc of the club act as the pendulum, your legs the power, your hips the pivot point. Now move on to the longer irons. Now the fairway woods. Maybe the driver, maybe not. Go ahead and save it for the first tee if you want.

Don't overswing. Don't overswing.

I had a McGregor persimmon driver and 3 wood. These were the old days, the days before metal clubs, the days when traditional craftsmanship and forged irons and true sweet spots on metal and leather grips for some were still the fashion.  Graphite shafts were just beginning to be the "next hot thing."  I had a wonderful old Acushnet Bulls-eye putter. How I loved that putter.  The bronze-brass metal of that putter head was almost soft and caramel-like. On a hot summer day, the touch of that warm putter to a ball on a fine sawgrass green was zen-like as it followed a perfect curved line to the dead center of the hole.  The plink of a golf ball in the cup on a green is the sound most golfers long for and if one is truly obsessed, it's a sound heard in dreams at night.  And most days, I could putt. Give me a Titleist ball, a decent green with a gentle sloping rub to the left, a slight drop to the hole and I could sink 'em almost every time from within a 30 foot range.

And that persimmon wood. You see, there is still nothing like a persimmon wood, McGregor-made. No laminate wood for me. No metal wood for me. I liked my Titleist woods and irons, but when I competed, I brought the McGregor 3 wood and tossed my sand wedge out of the bag. With the confidence I felt when I had that 3 wood in my bag, and golfers are as superstitious, if not more so, than baseball players – well, I swear I never hit a bunker in competition. Perhaps the years have faded my memory and erased the difficulty of some of the lies I found myself in.

I speak of golfing lies – of course I do.

In last month's (February 2007) Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter mentioned an old Gail Sheehy Vanity Fair article on George Bush from October 2000 in his The Measure of a Man Editor's Letter at the front of the magazine.

(Flip past the Angelina Jolie ad, past the smirking face of John McCain the fisherman in the Table of Contents, and move to the page right after the Jaguar ad with the Benicio Del Toro lookalike model – sigh.)  

As Carter recounts the Sheehy excerpt, he states "He is a sore winner. And a horrible loser."  The implications for the next two years of our future have lurked in the back of my mind since I read that article and I cannot shake free of my alarm at Bush's arrested development behavior. I know, I just know that he has never grown out of this:

When Barbara Bush took her 13-year-old son and his best friend, Doug Hannah, to play golf at her Houston club, George would start cursing if he didn't tee off well. His mother would tell him to quit it. By the third or fourth hole he would be yelling "Fuck this" until he had ensured that his mother would send him to the car.
"It fit his needs," says Hannah. "He couldn't lose."

Part of the reason that this bothers me is the sheer entitlement and the appalling ignorance implied in that behavior. I, too, played golf at 13.  Unlike George, I did not belong to a country club; I was a public course player. Well, you see, different socio-economic level, of course.  However, I had the great opportunity as I grew a bit older, into my mid to late teens, of being invited to play on some verrra nice courses in the Portland, Oregon area and later, around the state. Peter Jacobsen's (for those of you who know professional golf – truly the nicest guy in the game) mother acted as a part-time mentor to me in those days and would often invite me to play in tournaments at Waverly Country Club as a junior golfer. Her younger daughter Susie was my age and we often played in the same junior tournaments and had about the same level of ability.  Our senior year in high school, we both tied for fifth individual in the state high school tournament. I think Barbara believed that my presence might provide an impetus for Susie to compete more – she had the natural talent and ability, but not the driving competitive urge that her older brothers, especially Peter, possessed. And I, well, I was very lucky and had some great oppportunities in those days.  I was also fully cognizant that it was a rarified atmosphere for a less well-off kid to circulate in. I never yelled "Fuck this" and never stormed off of any course.

Another fast friend, Roland Betts, acknowledges that it is the same in tennis. In November 1992, Bush and Betts were in Santa Fe to host a dinner party, but they had just enough time for one set of doubles. The former Yale classmates were on opposite sides of the net. "There was only one problem—my side won the first set," recalls Betts. "O.K., then we're going two out of three," Bush decreed. Bush's side takes the next set. But Betts's side is winning the third set when it starts to snow. Hard, fat flakes. The catering truck pulls up. But Bush won't let anybody quit. "He's pissed. George runs his mouth constantly," says Betts indulgently. "He's making fun of your last shot, mocking you, needling you, goading you—he never shuts up!" They continued to play tennis through a driving snowstorm.

This is a man who doesn't know when to quit; who has no sense of timing, who thinks he doesn't need to know diplomacy or the rules of the game.  If he does quit, it is only ever on his terms. He thinks he just needs to keep going until he wins. That is not how the game should be played. This is not how a Presidency, or a country should be run.

Etiquette was drilled into me on a golf course.  As a young golfer, I learned more about the proper way to compete on the golf course, and perhaps in life, and how to act when things are not going your way, than from any other activity I've ever been involved in.

I learned how not to block someone's line when they are eyeing their putt to the hole on a green. Not proper etiquette.  I learned when to be quiet. I learned it's never acceptible to throw things (not that I was ever like that, but there were others who did and they were promptly castigated).  Just not done. When I caddied occasionally during the summer, I learned how and when to give advice. When I competed, I learned how to analyze how someone else played the game. And how to look ahead and see what holes I might be able to gain advantage on, given my own strengths and weaknesses. For me, my weaknesses were always the long irons and a lack of consistency in lining up properly on a dogleg left. My draws were always a bit out of control. But my fades were a thing of beauty. I could hit a long drive like few others in those days.

"George would say, 'Play that one over,' or 'I wasn't quite ready.' The overtimes are what's fun, so you make your own. When you go that extra mile or that extra point ... you go to a whole new level."

Play the course, not your opponent, not yourself. Play each shot for its own value; read the fairway from start of shot to where you want the ball to land. Don't look ahead, just play the shot you are on. Feel your hands as they hold the grip of the club –it's like holding a live dove – you should have the lightest touch, coupled with the firmest grip, but do not hold it tightly. If you hold the club too tightly, the bird will either die or struggle to escape.

That is the way you hold a golf club.

Golf is a game of degrees. From tee box to next shot. From shot to shot. From pitch to putt. And then you start over again. Each hole is different. With each hole you get another chance (unless it's match play).  There is finiteness to it from the first hole; after that you know you have only 17 more chances to make it right on that day. When the game is over, you sign your score card. Your signature implies your honesty in verifying the score of your game.

Then you shake hands and walk off the course. George, walk off the course.  Game over.

(Note - This editor's letter was also mentioned by Maureen Dowd and referred to in dov12348's previous diary on January 13, 2007 on this site - "Maureen Dowd - Bush always "had" to win")

Originally posted to exmearden on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 11:10 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Bush needs to go (5+ / 0-)

    The facts are there.  Time for Dems to use their power to bring them to light.

  •  Tee time... (21+ / 0-)

    I'm compelled to read Graydon Carter's Editor's Letter each month, even if I have to plow through hundreds of beautiful people pages to do so.

    He's had some fine comments over the years.

    How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives. - Annie Dillard
    Visit me at exme arden

    by exmearden on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 11:15:00 PM PST

    •  I have to tell you... (8+ / 0-)

      I've subscribed to your diary.

      You've written two excellent diaries in a row, and I look forward to seeing what you have to say in the future. Keep up the good work, and watch your grip -- not too loose, or too tight.  

      ;-)

      •  for what ever reason, (7+ / 0-)

        this diary from last June -

        The tide, death and time

        of all the ones I've written, is the one I think is my personal best. I'm not sure why I think it is...if you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think.

        I appreciate the notice..and thank you for reading.

        How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives. - Annie Dillard
        Visit me at exme arden

        by exmearden on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 11:32:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  amazing (7+ / 0-)

          Your wordsmithing is superb. Evocative and clean, you don't waste words. You lovingly prolong our stay with your words by using just enough to make us want to stay. And then to end it with such an amazing statement left me... bruised? done? finished? It's as if you'd laid me out with a 2x4. All of the pain, emotion, pressure and feeling swept down around the statement that

          Most of the question marks on the other lives, the other deaths, are not placed by accident.  It is a painful deep and dense sediment that falls to the bottom from the Bush administration's tidal wave of constant and conscious criminal action and uncaring inaction.

          and I vividly saw what you see in your mind's eye when you think about the tragedy that is our sordid history over the last few years.You set up the pins perfectly, and you knocked them down with one strike. If I had never gotten to the last graph, I would have still loved the piece as a great examination of memory and history. But to turn it into a searing indictment with one turn is masterful.

          Thanks for alerting me to it. I am deeply impressed.

          •  thank you! (6+ / 0-)

            thank you very much for reading it...
            your feedback is helpful, encouraging and very much appreciated.
            -exme

            How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives. - Annie Dillard
            Visit me at exme arden

            by exmearden on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 01:04:30 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I invested a year in playing golf once (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              exmearden, B12love

              Generally I played 27 holes a day, seven days a week and fit that into my schedule teaching.

              I would show up when the dew on the course was still untrodden and you could come upon an osprey with a snapping turtle in its beak. During the day I would work a bit and come back to leave after dark.

              Golf is a habit I picked up caddying as a kid and what it taught me was always take the most positive possible outlook and never take the easy way out.

              In the evenings some of us would play aerobic cross country which is where you hit the ball and run to where it lies to hit it again.

              Other times we would play from the tee of one hole over the trees to the green of another, or play a round with three clubs, or match eachothers tricks.

              Any game is what you make of it I guess.

              Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

              by rktect on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 06:36:55 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  True story about Bush and golf (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      exmearden, B12love

      A few years ago a young man (who emailed me his story) was at a club where Bush was playing.  When Bush came in after his round, he asked Bush how his day had been. Bush said, "The President always wins," and walked away shouting, "The President always wins. The President always wins." Of course, someone told the horrified young man later that the scores had been "adjusted."

  •  In my high school gym class... (11+ / 0-)

    we had a sort of smorgasboard deal where we could choose from a few different sports (and a couple of "sports"), then take 6 weeks of this, 6 weeks of that. I chose golf for one of mine and the coach told me, after a few days, he'd pass me if I picked up all the balls every day. I was quiet and only laughing on the inside, never pissed off in the least and was, actually, happy to give up the destruction of all that lovely grass. I understand that the mere (and complete) awfulness of my golfing was an affront to the game. There are standards.

  •  Excellent diary. Reminds me of this story (13+ / 0-)

    from Minutaglio's book:

    Evans said he'd love to go flying. At the airport he watched Bush stare at the controls, at the panel, and he realized that Bush-though not admitting it-had no idea how to fly the thing properly. After finally figuring out how to launch the plane, Bush pushed the Cessna hard down the runway. Evans screamed, "Give it some gas!" The Cessna's warning system was blinking and crackling. Bush tried to lift his craft fast, almost as if he were piloting a jet back in the Texas Air National Guard. The plane wobbled into the air, and the unsubtle maneuvering threatened to shove it into a stall. Now the rented plane was rattling in the sky over Midland

    The endless petrochemical complexes, all the aluminum and steel and smoke stacks that pockmark the Permian Basin, were spiking up just below the aircraft. Bush nervously turned to Evans, put his hand on his knee and blurted in his self-mocking West Texas way, "Okay, Evvie, I’ve got it under control."

    After more seemingly endless moments, he somehow got control of the plane again. He aimed the aircraft down, and the landing was as shaky and brutal as the takeoff. The plane careened off the runway and onto the desert. Evans sighed in relief. Then an unbelieving Evans braced himself as Bush suddenly and unexpectedly spun the plane and bounced back along the runway. Evans stared at Bush. He could see the fear and panic flooding his face. Bush pressed on. Evans had no idea why Bush wanted to go again. The plane wobbled uncertainly back into the West Texas skies, and Bush turned to Evans. "Hey," said Bush airily, as if he had just had an original, amusing idea, "let's fly around Midland."

    The men began cracking up. Bush brought the Cessna back to the airport. It was the last time he flew a plane.

    "Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention; it is all memory." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    by reef the dog on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 11:41:38 PM PST

  •  As someone who has... (7+ / 0-)

    ...sent more than one golf club helicoptering at high angular velocity down the fairway after a poor shot, I must say that I deeply resent the similarities between myself and Dubya that you have pointed out here!

    And yes, after a missed 2 foot putt, I have on more than one occasion treated my putter like a garden implement, embedding the putter head several inches into the ground.

    Never mind the fact that I have on one occasion played so poorly that if I got another double bogey or worse on the next hole, a club from my bag was going to be "sacrificed"; and I did, and then I did-- my 5-wood IIRC, which I couldn't hit worth a darn anyway, broken over my knee.

    I need to do much better (and improve my game in the process!)  I want to be nothing like GWB in any aspect of my life.

    YOU GO TO WAR WITH THE PRESIDENT YOU HAVE. You don't go to war with the President you wish you had. --Tim Ryan, D-OH

    by skymutt on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 11:46:20 PM PST

  •  Georgie has been allowed more Mulligans, (9+ / 0-)

    virtual Mulligans, than any president I can think of.

    I loved playing scrambles with my bros-in-law--great golfers
    who cooperated and didn't need to WIN the whole damn game
    all the time. Yeesh--they could go with the woman's drive,
    laugh, teach me how to putt and chip and not yell at me when
    I didn't. Amazing how welcoming that is to a teammate, how
    productive to the team.

    My favorite golf advice was one instruction about driving:

    "Sit on the bar stool, do your Lamaze breathing (works incredibly
    well for golf!) and swing the damn clubhead."

    TY yet again,
    em.

  •  Thank you for the memories!! (6+ / 0-)

    I haven't played a round of golf in 10 years. I played regularly. But for the 10 years before that, I played 54 holes a week. My dad was an avid golfer his entire life and I had my own set of clubs when I was 5 years old! I hit balls at driving ranges every week until age 14 or so. Too bad I never learned how to shoot under par!

    Your description of the game was incredible! I could smell the golf course as you described teeing off at 6:00AM on a Saturday morning!

    And speaking of clubs, my dad had a set of McGregor persimmon woods 1,3,4,5 and I believe a matching set of McGregor VIP irons that are still in the family. I don't know much about the clubs, but 30 years ago, he said the woods weren't worth much but the irons were worth a lot because "they don't make 'em like this anymore and all the pro's want them"

    And there I was, having a great time, smelling the freshly cut grass, lining up my putt, and you had to mention George! Slapped back into reality! I too share your respect of the etiquette and gamesmanship that is the game of golf. It really isn't any surprise to discover GW would engage the game that way. It would almost be a given!

    Thanks again for a very enjoyable diary! Now, where did I leave those clubs? Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Draw and fade? In my game, those are known as hooks and slices!!!

    John McCain for president in 2008? Very Funny!!!

    by reflectionsv37 on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 12:48:41 AM PST

    •  if you still have those woods and irons, (6+ / 0-)

      they are now worth thousands of dollars. I kid you not. Just take a look on ebay.  Though i wouldn't recommend selling them there.  Actually, I wouldn't recommend selling them at all.

      The woods are worth every bit as much as the irons. McGregor irons were great irons - but I hit my old Titleists better for some reason.

      The woods, though...almost makes me want to get on a golf course again.

      thanks for reading!

      How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives. - Annie Dillard
      Visit me at exme arden

      by exmearden on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 12:57:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If I remember correctly... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        exmearden, possum

        30 years ago he said the irons were probably worth $2500. It's a complete set, 2-9,w,pw,sw and possibly another wedge. I don't recall a 1 iron, not sure they made one then. They are still in the family. My brother and I could never use them because we couldn't find the sweet spot to save our lives!! I took them to the driving range a few different times, even as I matured in the game, and still couldn't hit them straight!! Needless to say they are in excellent condition!

        In the same bag are 2 Acushnet Bulls-eye putters (slightly different). I carried one of those in my bag for a number of years!

        And I should probably mention...

        I don't recall ever beating my dad in round of golf! And we played together regularly!

        Thanks again for the memories!!!

        John McCain for president in 2008? Very Funny!!!

        by reflectionsv37 on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 01:17:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks exmearden. This is a great piece of work! (4+ / 0-)

    I think I'll print it for my students - if you don't mind...

    Bush the lesser, horrid king besmeared with blood Of human sacrifice, and parent's tears. [apologies to Milton]

    by Clive all hat no horse Rodeo on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 02:35:09 AM PST

  •  one of the hidden treasures (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    reflectionsv37, exmearden, Cronesense

    at Dkos.

    Exmearden's writing never fails to impress.

    don't always believe what you think...

    by claude on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 05:26:30 AM PST

  •  This article says volumes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    reflectionsv37, exmearden, B12love

    Not only about Dubya, but also about Barbara's ability as a parent. If either of my daughters had pulled such a stunt just once, they would not be allowed to return to the course. One thing I won't put up with in my daughters is poor sportsmanship.

    "Truth never damages a cause that is just."~~~Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by LynneK on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 07:31:37 AM PST

  •  Terrific diary. And now, after 18 years (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    exmearden, begone, B12love

    'off the course,' it's time to go again to the driving range and knock the Hell out of something.

    Tell me how you spend your time and how you spend your money -- I'll tell you what your values are.

    by oldpro on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:18:19 AM PST

  •  Great diary, beautifully written. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    exmearden, begone

    And thanks for the golf tips...as soon as the snow melts I plan on playing a round or two.

    The meaning of life is LOVE (-5.13, -5.95) 1st-Clark 2nd-Edwards

    by B12love on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:35:39 PM PST

  •  Beautiful metaphor, exme. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    exmearden

    Thanks for sending me over here.

    What a sad, sad little man we have as our President.

    As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. - Justice William O. Douglas

    by occams hatchet on Wed Feb 21, 2007 at 08:25:03 PM PST

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