Sunday, July 26, 2015

Here's to Clyde and Dave

      My best friend’s father died last week.
      The text was short and stunning. “Clyde passed away unexpectedly this morning.” The words were so difficult to wrap my head around. “What? Clyde? Not Clyde. C’mon.”
      One minute, a 75-year-old man is walking through retirement, all his kids and grandchildren thriving. Then in the span of a few hours, he’s gone. So swift, so harsh.
      Clyde’s three kids range from ages 48 to 51. Whenever the late 40s or early 50s are reached, many people begin to contemplate the loss of parents if it hasn’t happened already. At the age of 58, I already have lost both parents: my mom when I was 22, my dad when I was 56. And my first wife died when I was 39. So loss? Yes I have experience, but warning signs were there for all three of those deaths. Excruciating losses? Sure. Unexpected? No.
      My best friend is Dave. And like his father, he has forged a career in newspapers. That’s how we met, in the newsroom of a daily paper here in Upstate South Carolina. At first we didn’t really know each other. But as the years passed and our paths began to cross more, we formed a friendship. It was made out of what many friendships are: common backgrounds, interests, respect and values. But it also consists of iron, titanium, graphite, plastic, wood, grass, dirt, sand, rubber, nylon and leather. In a word, golf. We have played countless rounds together, and it was on a golf course that I met Clyde.
      Actually, Clyde wasn’t his real name. His real name was Dave. He got his nickname through a column, “Coffee with Clyde,” he wrote for a newspaper in eastern Pennsylvania each Sunday morning for more than 20 years.
      “This is my dad, Clyde,” David said to me with more than a little pride several years ago.
      “Nice to meet you, Clyde,” I said with a firm handshake. “That’s an interesting first name. You don’t hear it much.”
      “Well, actually, that’s not my real first name.”
      “Then why does Dave call you Clyde?” I asked as his son chuckled.
      I then got the explanation of the name Clyde, an alter ego created for the purpose of the column. As I heard the tale, there was a twinkle in both sets of Dave eyes.
      I played several rounds of golf with Clyde and Dave, always a pleasure and always lots of stories … and a few beers (fittingly, I got the text about Clyde’s passing while I was … on a golf course).
      What I sensed between Clyde and Dave was a long-time respect between father and son, one that went beyond the bonds of family and into the commonality of shared life pursuits in newspapers. A newspaper career can be a tough, sometimes lonely existence with its own special set of disappointments and rewards. It also has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, with opportunities shrinking along with the reader base.
      Through it all, Clyde was Dave’s touchstone. Clyde was the one he bounced ideas off of; Clyde was the one with sage advice; Clyde was the one Dave could count on; Clyde was dad. Now, half of that relationship has evolved into a divine realm. The other half remains here, still needing the emotional and spiritual nourishment provided by the stumpy, bald, cherub-faced Irishman.
      My best friend has a tough road to hoe through mourning and grief. It will come at him in waves, sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes predictably … but come it will. Clyde will be in a silent role now, but Dave can draw on memories and replenish himself with the knowledge that Clyde looks on with a twinkle in his heavenly eyes and a smile of approval.
      Here’s to Clyde and Dave.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Of heat, humidity and cornhole!

                                          Players and caddies play cornhole during the rain delay     

      On a day better suited for sipping mint juleps, Tuesday’s action at the United States Golf Association’s Junior Amateur in Bluffton, S.C., was not for the faint of heart. 
      Relief was provided by Mother Nature, but not the kind the field of 156 golfers craved. They would’ve preferred lower temperatures and cooling breezes in place of the temperatures in the high 90s with unreal humidity. What they got was a batch of rumbling thunderstorms that halted play for nearly five hours.
      That weather, typical for this area of the country at this time of year, threw a monkey wrench into the plans of the tournament poobahs. About 70 or so players have to return to the course first thing Wednesday morning to complete their 36-hole qualifying round. After that, the field will be trimmed to the low 64 scores and match play will commence. The players who finished their second round before the weather hit hold a big advantage over those who must return at first light.
      I was caught in the middle of the weather delay since I was a walking scorer in the afternoon wave. The tournament had set up evacuation “centers” around the course in the form of Colleton River homeowners opening their houses in case bad weather hit. Our first delay lasted about an hour, and we spent it in the garage of one of the mansions on Inverness Drive. The second delay was more than twice as long. The heart-of-gold owners allowed all of us to enter their house to ride out a vicious thunderstorm.
      Leave it to teenagers to make the best of a bad situation. At the start of the second delay, a long-lasting game of “cornhole” in the garage between some of the players and the caddies broke out (in cornhole, you toss a bean bag onto a wooden platform with a hole: the object is to get the beanbag through the hole).
      Other “stranded” folks checked their smart phones, watched TV, chatted, and everyone wondered when, or if, play would resume. It eventually did.
“Radar” had some trouble
      My player, Radar, had a decent chance at claiming one of the 64 match play spots. Alas, a balky putter sent him home early. He hit plenty of fairways and greens but he couldn’t buy a putt. No worries though. The feat of actually getting into the field is remarkable. By making it, a golfer is among the best 156 junior amateur players in the world. Hold your head high, Radar. The future is bright indeed.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A game of survival

      The first day of the U.S. Junior Amateur at Colleton River Plantation started early for me.  I was out among the first wave of players, heading to the first tee box at about 7:50 for an 8 a.m. starting time.
      Like all of the walking scorers, we had to go through a quick training session with pads being used for real-time scoring. Unlike the instructions last week, each of the walking scorers had to keep track of the shots of each player in the group. A tally system was used on the score sheet, then we entered the scores into the pads. Simple stuff really, easily negotiated and no problem.
     The real problem was the heat. It’s one thing to do errands in high 90 temperatures, it’s another thing to spend five hours in the suffocating heat and humidity of the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The first seven holes of the Dye course provides a decent amount of shade, especially in the morning. But as the sun climbs and as players make their way to 8, 9 and the back nine, the shade gets scarce. Players, officials and spectators have to rely on survival instincts: economy of movement and tons of hydration. Alternating between water and Gatorade/Powerade works best.
      My group included players from Iowa, Texas and Virginia. A major point of emphasis for the USGA has been pace of play. At one point, our group received a warning then was put on the clock. Eventually, it got hashed out in the scoring tent, but the young amateurs need to learn to quicken their pace, especially in big events like this when there are so many players (156).
     My player, “Radar” I’m calling him, got off to a fast start, but started stumbling a bit as soon as I showed up after lunch and cooling down. He made an ugly bogey on a par 5, then his mother looked at me with a nice smile and said, “Maybe you should go.” Hey, I’m all about the mojo so I left. Radar shot even on the front, but 4-over on the back when the wind kicked up late in the day.
      Good for Radar that he begins in the second group of the morning off the 10th tee. He’s likely to face little wind and cooler temperatures on the back and that can only help. One of the rules officials told me that probably 6 or 7-over for the 2 rounds will secure a spot in the field of 64. I hope he’s right.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Junior Amateur will have its challenges

      When the players descend Monday on Colleton River Plantation’s Pete Dye course for the start of U.S. Junior Amateur, they will be confronted with a layout that has a split personality. 
      The first eight holes are classic “parkland” style, holes weaving between pine and magnolia trees and oaks draped with Spanish moss and usually bordered on one side by beautiful homes. That translates to trouble for those who are not accurate off the tee, because there is out of bounds on seven of the first eight holes. There also are mounds sprinkled around the course, and those can tax players who cannot think creatively about the next shot. Mr. Dye also put in many bunkers, a few of which are only one stride across.
      That’s the first eight holes.
      But starting on the ninth the players switch to a links-style course, hard by Port Royal Sound and subject to the winds coming off the sound and the nearby Atlantic Ocean. And the ninth hole can smack you in the face. I was playing it back in April and was walking from the 8th green to the 9th tee. As I came up to the tee box, I noticed the white tees and the blue tees, but I didn’t see the championship tees. “Where are they?” I thought. I looked to the right, back toward the woods and saw a platform about 15 above the ground. I realized that it was the back tee … nearly 90 yards away from the blues. If the players have to hit into a head wind (more likely in the afternoon than the morning), that 481-yard, par-4 can turn into a monster.
      The longer hitters may be able to negotiate it, but with mounding down the right, and whispy rough to the left, an errant tee shot could put players in a tough situation.
      Holes 10 through 15 are next to Port Royal sound and its marshes. Holes 16 through 18 are still links style, but they wander back toward some of the grand houses. The par 4, dogleg left 18th is all someone could want at 491 yards. In the afternoon, players may be facing a headwind with their second shot.
      In all, the course stretches 7,365 yards if the United States Golf Association decides to put all the tees back. Normally, however, the USGA will vary the length of holes round-to-round. One day, you may play the 18th at its full, beastly length. The next, it may be a 440-yard setup.
      At any rate, my day starts early Monday. I have to be at the course by 7:10 with my shift as a walking scorer starting at 8. After my shift, I turn right around and accompany the No. 1 player on my high school team in his qualifying round. He starts on No. 10 around 1 p.m. I’ll refer to my player as “Radar” during the week, since he likes to stay under the radar preferring anonymity or the closest thing to it.
      The forecast Monday calls for sunny skies with a high of 92. The real feel, however, is supposed to be 109 thanks to the usual Lowcountry humidity. My strategy, and everyone else’s, should be hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more. Water, Gatorade and/or Powerade will be my close friends.
      I can’t believe the tournament is finally here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The one about climate change

      The debate on climate change is fascinating. On the one hand, there are scientists (whose job is to conduct research, collect data, study the environment and make learned conclusions) saying that the reason for the warming climate is humankind and the burning of fossil fuels.
      On another hand, there are the deniers who say the earth isn’t getting warmer. Tish, tosh, it’s all a baked-up scheme. These “lefty” scientists only have an agenda so keep burning your gasoline, coal, whatever, say the climate deniers.
      There isn’t any doubt that the earth is warming. Take a look at the melting polar ice caps and honestly tell me temperatures haven’t risen in the past 50 years.
      But to claim that humankind is the ONLY reason that this is happening, I believe, is an incomplete answer. No one can say for certain what ALL the reasons are. I hear precious little talk that this could be part of a natural shift in the earth’s climate. Climate data collection is, geologically speaking, a recent occurrence. The earth is about four billion years old, so we do not know all the facts of how long climate changes take.
      So it comes down to responsibility. And one of the responsibilities all of us have is to be wise stewards of the earth and its resources. It is a sacred responsibility to care for God’s creation. As it is written in 1 Peter 4:8-9: “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”
      One of the greatest gifts is this precious planet. So when I say we don’t know for certain what all the reasons are for global warming, don’t misunderstand me.
      Should we start cherishing the oceans instead of using them as a sewer/garbage dump? Yes.
      Should we continue to improve recycling and reusable energy sources? Of course.
      Should we keep searching for more alternatives to fossil fuels and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? Absolutely.
      Should we invest more in solar power and wind power as two pieces of the energy puzzle? Certainly.
      By the year 2020, the world’s population will have tripled in 70 years, so should there be conversations about over population and its ramifications? A big thumbs up.
      Is it possible to find solutions that are ecologically and economically sound? No doubt.

      John F. Kennedy believed that difficult choices must be made, but he also had an unbounded belief in the human spirit and in our collective ingenuity. He once said, “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”
      I firmly believe that we must take better care of God’s gifts – God’s grace – to us. It is our sacred duty not just to our Creator, but to each other and future generations.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Slaves without knowing it

-->       The New Testament gives us many clues on how to conduct our lives. But the one passage that seems to be all-encompassing is Paul’s letter to the Colossians, chapter 3, verse 12. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
      Those virtues seem in precious short supply here in the second decade of the 21st century. I often wonder why. Our culture has taken such a path that those five qualities are almost viewed upon as weaknesses, not strengths. Part of the reason is the proliferation of the media, institutional and social. Reasoned discourse, honest discussion, compromise … those seem to be so foreign to us here in the age of 24-hour news channels, the Internet and Twitter.
      But, of course, media is not the sole reason. As Shakespeare wrote, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” We have become slaves to our smartphones, computers and TVs. We have been seduced by immediacy and technology, but it’s only the latest example of we sheep being led astray. Speaking for myself, it is very easy to get lost in the world of technology. It’s like a moth to a flame: we know it can burn us, but it’s difficult to resist the glittering light. We don’t realize that it’s a false light, and that it can lead us down dark paths.
      Remember Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.

      “1Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.”
I Corinthians 12:1-3

      This is not to say that all media is bad. Quite the contrary: The Internet has been a wonderful tool for many people: doctors, students, writers and many others who are curious and wish to expand their knowledge. I actually used the Internet in writing this  (thank you, Our phones let us connect to family and friends in ways that were impossible less than a generation ago.
      But when we let those tools be our only avenue to connect with other people, that’s when relationships can fray. We lose that sense of community that promotes empathy, a key component of becoming more compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient. In short, being a slave to technology can quickly separate us from the loving arms of our families and God.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The hate of late

      I just don’t get hate. There seems to be so much of it lately. The Web can be a big avenue for that, but it’s only one way hate is delivered. Why does hate even get created?
      Hate is a “taker,” to use in-vogue vernacular. Like a petulant child, hate demands more and more. The more you feed it, the bigger it gets. And it destroys all in its path.
      The counter balance is love. Love shares with hate the need to be fed, but it is a constructive act. Love in its true form does not destroy, it blossoms, it spreads, it grows out of the heart.
      Here’s what Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently. “.. Love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”
      For me, I hope that everyone knows the power and value of love. Let’s relegate the hate to where it belongs: a rare flash of anger, a darker side of humanity that love will always overcome.