Rope Rider

The last day of July was upon us with warmth. It wasn’t hot in the Puget Sound Area, maybe ticking up to eighty or so. We decided to venture up into the Cascade Mountains for the afternoon. One of my favorite spots on earth sits about 90 miles from my front door. Of course, with my joy for the game of golf, there are two golf courses upon this favorite spot. This week we played Rope Rider instead of Prospector. Usually on an afternoon like this, we would opt for one of our favorite courses. However, Prospector was closed on this last day in July, so Rope Rider beckoned. Rope Rider had never been played this late in the year. The golf course has historically been the first to open in the early spring. If you want to travel up to Suncadia for golf in April and early May, Rope Rider becomes the destination. The course was probably going to look and feel different in the middle of the summer. In addition, the timing of our golf afternoon was unusual. Making the 90-minute drive to play in the summer months hadn’t happened in years. We had gotten into the habit of venturing up to Suncadia in the spring and fall. Trying to avoid the crowds who vacationed in the resort community. But, with schedules becoming more crowded these days, we were presented with the last day in July.

Arriving, the parking lot was almost entirely full. There was little doubt summer was in full swing. The golf shot for Rope Rider sits at the end of a large building. The building feels like one of the epicenters of the Suncadia property. Housing a winery, restaurant, gift shop, and large lounging area with a deck. It all sits on a hill overlooking the final few holes of Rope Rider. Usually a relatively subdued building in the spring, the feel was much different in July. We wondered through the gathering of people having an early evening cocktail. The noise of conversation and moments of audible laughter bringing a smile to my face. After finding a couple sandwiches, we headed out. Across the road and winding through the pines, we found our destination to begin the evening round. The first at Rope Rider is a slightly downhill par-4 from an elevated teeing ground. Normally playing the forward tees on a course I’m not familiar with, today would be different. The tee box of choice would be yellow. That would be between the forward tee and the white “men” teeing ground. It would provide slightly more distance to a course I was familiar with. We got our tee shots in the fairway and off we went.

The temperature of our Wednesday afternoon was ideal. The early evening sun bouncing off the pine trees and ponds, engulfing us in color. My tee shot on the second hole found a fairway bunker, yielding a disappointing eight on the par-5. This wasn’t the start in my mind’s eye, as we traversed the Cascades a half hour earlier. The round would require some work to get things back on track. The front side of Rope Rider plays relatively flat following the elevated tee shot on the first. One downhill shot greets the golfer coming into the fourth green. The fourth being a lengthy par-4 and one of my favorite holes of the layout. This round of golf took some time to get grooved into. My mind still floating around with events left on the west side of the mountain range. But, by the time we headed back up the hill from the fourth and were off the fifth tee, that Suncadia warmth started its penetration. The apprehensions of life began melting away and emotional fog lifted. By the time, we stood on the sixth tee, my sandwich had been devoured. The normally trembling hands from cerebral palsy, relinquished to the warmth of the sun, and relaxed. The tee shot of the sixth was roped down the middle, the second found the left side of a large green, I made a couple solid putts for my par, and onto the par-3 seventh we voyaged. The form had been found, as I settled into the round.

As my round of golf began taking shape, comfort started running through my body. The warmth of the summer sun was sinking into my bones. While playing the par-4 ninth, events of life were trickling into my brain. Suncadia has often been a place to clear my head, helping sort out a life of ever-changing challenges. Since originally traveling to the mountain resort to play golf nine years ago. The peaceful place has often guided my thoughts into a more productive direction. Just when it feels like life might be wobbling at the edges. An afternoon with clear thought can help bring life objectives back into focus. This late July afternoon didn’t disappoint in getting the car onto a more productive track. It seems to be the hope of possibility that can begin inheriting dents and through those pines can often bring goals and dreams back to the forefront. Leaving me with the belief again, that my thoughts could be turned into reality. We ended the front nine with good momentum. The path took us back across the street, past the large clubhouse, and down the hill to the tenth.

The two-foot birdie putt was tapped in on the par-3 eleventh. The shift in perspective over life had taken full flight. There was something going on inside of me, but it hadn’t just started. The transition had been in progress for some time now. As we began the five hole stretch of my favorite hole on Rope Rider, things were starting to take shape. The kids playing in the park just off the twelfth tee sounded like a blasting stereo. But, not the kind playing that music you can’t stand, instead the song you always turn up so loud it leaves you worried about the speakers. Nine years ago, we came to Suncadia for much different reasons. I was simply trying to survive my life on a daily basis. It would have made me happy to get through the day without negative emotions like anger or frustration taking domination. Without the fear of getting wrapped up in emotion and saying something regrettable to a loved one. Or the real fear of causing irreversible harm to myself. Today, after continuing the work to place those things behind me, a different kind of challenge begins to build.

We took some video of my tee shot on the par-4 thirteenth. One of my favorite holes on the course, thirteen moves slightly from right to left. The fairway roles over spots of undulation before reaching a good sized green. The nervousness of being filmed got to me, causing the tee shot to slightly suffer. We would take another short video disembarking off the fifteenth teeing ground. That shot was much better with more comforting thoughts while in front of the camera. The video seemed to show more stable movements from the last golf video being taken in Hawaii. Serving as a reminder of the productiveness being found from the physical training and chiropractic adjustments. Also, reminding me if we take on the challenges of cerebral palsy, there does become improvement to experience. When we continue with the path of strength building, activities like golf are made easier, and the enjoyment of the game elevates. Cerebral palsy doesn’t require us to sit on the sideline. Or give into the idea that we physically struggle too much for there to be participation in activities. The activities might take some extra work to become efficient, but it seems the reward turns out to be worth the effort. Doing the things to guard against the breakdown of my body allows me to enjoy these late July evenings. We executed the following couple holes well, hearing distant sounds of people enjoying each other’s company. By the time, we reached the sixteenth green, another sound gave my life pause.

This time it came in the audible voice of a child. While leaning over my putt, with my head down, eye on the ball, she could be heard. “Watch out for golfers,” was all she exclaimed. Announcing protective instructions to someone who may have wondered an uncomfortable distance, at least for the young girl. I never looked in wonderment of where the little voice had originated. The sound simply caused a smile with an emotional warmth passing through my bones. There was a moment’s hesitation before my putter head rocked back and through, knocking in the five-footer. The ball was retrieved from the bottom of the cup and we walked off the back of the green. It never occurred to look back toward the direction of the child’s voice. In that moment, she could have given me something for which I may always be grateful. The perpetuation of an involuntary emotion creeping up and encompassing the entire golf round. After living through the fear of fighting for emotional survival, playing golf on the same property which helped me win that battle. Now, it felt time to take on the challenge of thriving. The challenge of building a life to be proud of and giving back to those who helped me through the darkest hours. Maybe on the brightest of sunny summer days, in the safety of one of my favorite places, I was being told it was time for the next challenge. It was time to move from surviving to thriving.

We reached the home hole of Rope Rider without feeling a chill in the air. The mid-summer night would remain warm as the sun descended. Evening was in full swing with the sun falling behind the pine trees. Casting long shadows across the eighteenth fairway. We watched the large clubhouse perched above the green become engulfed in shade, as we made our way toward the final green. The sounds of people gathered on the clubhouse deck echoed down the hill. Providing the ideal soundtrack to the last few moments of a memorable day. We made our final putts, shook hands, and the round of golf was complete. It had become a day of unexpected wonder. One not expected to take the course of presenting new challenges. Rope Rider calming my mind, giving me the ability to understand the next tests of my journey. However, a challenge doesn’t take root unless it becomes accepted. Attempting to shift from merely trying to survive a life to giving that life meaningful purpose. It’s a question that wouldn’t have even entered my headspace nine years ago, when the only objective was coming out of a dark time. Now, the blessing of golf on the last afternoon in July could be enjoyed. The warmth of the sun and the company providing the safety to be presented with a new set of challenges. Challenges that just might lead to enjoying a mid-summer drink one evening, with the people I love, on a deck overlooking someplace beautiful.

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