A few years back I had a friend who belonged to the Medinah Country Club, the posh set of courses perched in the west suburbs of Chicago. This past weekend the BMW Championships were held on the course I once played.
During one round the rain began to pour from the skies and the course became flooded within minutes. There were ponds on the fairways and water running in rivers down the hilly terrain.
As a child, it was on rainy days that I’d go out and play golf. We lived fifty yards from one of the fairways of Meadia Heights Golf Club south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When rain kept the country club members off the course, I’d take a three wood, a seven iron and a putter and couple golf balls and run the course in bare feet.
Of course I’d be careful to avoid the holes near the country club. Or occasionally I’d see a greenskeeper out driving the course in a cart and have to make a run for it. But I took it as a challenge that they’d never catch me. Perhaps that fueled my ultimate life as a distance runner.
They never chased me down. I was either too fast or they simply did not care that a local kid had the nerve to run around whacking golf balls while soaked to the skin and in bare feet. Admittedly, I once stepped on a honeybee during one of those rounds and got stung on the tender arch of my foot. It quickly swelled but I was not going to be deterred from my free round of golf. So I wound up hobbling around the course in pain. Again, that experience probably prepared me for life as a distance runner too.
Competing on the golf course
Years later I’d run cross country meets on golf courses in high school and college. That was an environment I knew well. Between races we’d sometimes do workouts on the smooth fairways of local golf course. But those days are long gone. These days that will most likely get you chased off the course. The game of golf is protective of its turf in both literal and metaphorical ways. Liability is one of the main reasons golf pros frown on anyone but golfers taking to the links. They don’t want the legal risk of someone being struck by a golf ball while out running on a golf course.
Rainy days and grownups
All those memories of golf in the rain and other half-approved activities on the golf course ran through my head that day at Medinah when our round of golf got rained out. In that moment the liabilities and risks were real. There was lightning and thunder rolling over the course so we jumped into our golf carts and humped our way back to the clubhouse to take part in the rest of the Camelback event to which we’d been invited. We shed our golf shoes and were ushered into a big banquet room where they shoved sandwiches at us and told us to get ready for the strippers to arrive.
That’s right. The entertainment during lunch at Medina was a phalanx of half-naked women wandering between tables with legs hanging out and boobs barely covered. They were dancing and distracting the crowd of men from their sack lunches. After twenty minutes of that manner of entertainment, an announcer stepped to the microphone and told us the girls would begin offering lap dances in five minutes.
I looked around the table at my fellow companions and said, “I don’t know about you guys. But I’m married.” I gathered up my ham sandwich, potato chips and a Coke and headed out the door.
In that departure I was not alone. There were a number of men in the room who felt the same way. We all exited by the same door and went to find a place to consume our lunches in peace.
What happened back in the room was really not in my best interests as a person. And it did illustrate the difference between men committed to the ideals of respect for women––especially wives––and those willing to stretch those boundaries for their own entertainment.
I’m not a prude about the world. People can do what they want. Take off their clothes if they choose. Like many a manic twenty-something craving freedom, I used to like to run around golf courses naked at night. Run between the sprinklers and howl at the moon. We all need a release now and then.
I just think there are certain situations where you make choices that reflect your present values and character. I found the lunch entertainment at Medinah that day out of bounds relative to the reason I showed up. I was there to play golf. Mixing it up with other stuff just wasn’t that interesting to me.
They say golf is a game that depends on a code of honor. You govern your own penalties out there on the course. Count your own strokes and mark them with honesty or it becomes something else. That’s an allegory for life itself. I’ve always preferred to land on the side of honesty when I can. In looking at the headlines these days (and always) it is obvious there are plenty of folks playing fast and loose in the game of life. It’s hardly even necessary to name names. You can tell who keeps an honest scorecard by the company people choose to keep.