Playing golf can often be about the people around you. Sometimes we play the game with someone we wouldn’t have met otherwise. On our trip to Hawaii this year, we were joined by a gentleman. We found out early in the round that he was from Calgary. There often becomes apprehension on my part when playing golf with someone unfamiliar. Cerebral palsy has an effect on my golf game. The anxious feelings of how someone will relate to me causes shyness. It especially occurs when I haven’t played golf for some time. With the winter months upon us, golf around home hasn’t been played for three months. Traveling out to the islands in January brings the opportunity to play golf in the warmth. Ko Olina has been a course we have played while in Hawaii. This year would be no different, as our year of golf would begin there again. Golf becomes foreign to my body after not playing for a while. Sometimes leaving me questioning my ability to play the game. Cerebral palsy has always made movement more challenging. It would take some time for my body to reacquaint itself with the golf swing. But, the sun was shining, we were wearing shorts, and there was golf to be played, so it was going to be a good day.
Sandie struck me as a kind man when introducing myself. With our golf carts parked in tandem and the tee time in the displayed visibly, we knew who would be joining us. Walking up to shake Sandie’s hand, he removed his cap before saying hello. It was something foreign to my experiences. A more formal approach to meeting someone unknown. The action was noted into my mind, reminding myself to remove my cap when shaking his hand after our day of golf. However formal his initial action might have been, it did seem to reveal something about his character. Sandie would probably conduct himself with strong etiquette on the golf course. My father stressed proper etiquette on the golf course, but it’s never been something extremely important. Being polite and knowing the basic rules of etiquette on the course seems respectful. However, there are nuances that aren’t particularly part of my game. There was comfort in knowing Sandie understood his way around a golf course. This would be far from his first rodeo.
One of the most entertaining things about our first morning in Hawaii was the rain. After spending some time on the driving range getting warmed up, it began misting on us. We met Sandie and headed out onto the putting green to hit some puts before our round. The clouds opened, welcoming us to the Monday morning with a nice shower. This shower probably lasted only fifteen or twenty minutes, but found us a bit concerned. Back home in Seattle it can begin misting and continue misting the entire day. We thought the whole idea of traveling to the islands was to get out of the rain. Having been to Hawaii a few times, we were familiar with the passing shower, but this rain was slightly heavier and was lasting longer than memory served. So, naturally we inquired about the unwelcome precipitation. The young guy who was getting us ready to begin, kinda looked at us cross eyed, saying the shower should pass. Still skeptical, we explained our origination from Seattle. It all made sense then, but if this continued another twenty minutes, we were all going home. As predicted, by the time we reached the first tee the rain cleared and sun welcomed our first swings.
The first few holes felt uncomfortable. Trying to find my golf swing was no easy task. It was made more difficult from the nervous energy of being around someone new. A person close to me once said I should just walk around with a t-shirt that reads, “Hi, I’m Pete and I have CP.” Maybe in certain situations it would provide more comfort. Playing golf with any stranger can cause more shakiness in my hands and tension throughout my body. It’s almost just wanting them to know what’s going on, but not understanding how to work my disability into the conversation. Then, the opportunity finally came on the 5th hole when Sandie inquired about what I did for work. That question gave me the opportunity to talk about having cerebral palsy and writing this blog. Sandie’s response back took me by surprise. He told me about a friend from home who talks just like me and looks like me. When Sandie first saw me that morning he thought to himself, “That’s cool, Justin is here.” Obviously, his friend from home wasn’t here to play, but it did provide comfort. It let me know Sandie understood the disability to some extent. My nerves began to relax, as our round continued.
Even with the new-found comfort, it was still a challenging day of golf. My hand began to relax, which made the shorter shots easier to strike. But, my body didn’t want to do what it was being asked. This probably happens for anyone who has taken time away from an activity. The golf seems to be a foreign movement and any tension in the body simply adds difficulty. Most of what cerebral palsy does is add tension to my body, so my golf swing has that going for it. As our day wound on, my body began to thaw. The warm island air began loosening my body and good golf shots began occurring. It was still difficult to get any consistent timing down, but a good shot here and there worked for me. The golf ball was also flying further when good contact was being made. Showing me that the workouts during fall and winter were strengthening my body. The game of golf has become a good barometer for how my cerebral palsy symptoms are improving. Extra distance on the spattering of good golf shots was a good sign.
As the round of golf continued, so did our conversations with Sandie. We found he was staying at the same resort. He lived in a town about sixty miles north of the border, which was buried in snow for five months out of the year. Sandie couldn’t play golf during those winter months, but got his swings in during the spring, summer, and fall. He seemed familiar with Seattle, so we talked about all the goings on of our home. Beginning with the interest of hockey, as Seattle will soon start construction of its new arena. The anticipation of possibly gaining a professional hockey team was something to discuss. It went on to business and the changing landscape of our downtown area. Of course, no chit chat about Seattle is complete without the opinion on Amazon. We agreed later, Sandie was one of the more enjoyable people we’ve been paired with for a round of golf. He was kind and engaging, pretty good player as well.
It becomes challenging to get back out on the golf course. Winter months naturally bring less physical activity. With the rain and cold of Seattle, skiing has been my winter sport of choice. But, travelling to Hawaii brings different opportunities. The warm sunshine relaxes the body and provides some time for golf. That first round of the year has always been most challenging. Joining someone we don’t know can add another element to the day. However, getting to interact with people we wouldn’t otherwise meet can be rewarding. It was fun spending those few hours with Sandie. We learned more about our neighboring country to the north and what it’s like to live there. My golf swing improved as the day continued. The warmth helping me relax, staying patient with my rusty golf swing. Ko Olina has slowly become a familiar place to play golf. The course seems to grow more fun each time we play there. We shook hands with Sandie to complete our round and our vacation was just getting started.