There are very few things that I regret having sold in my years as a bike rider. Three stand out above all others though, and I sold them all at the same time – July of 2008.
I needed every penny I could scrounge together to move to Austria to be with Ashley. I had pretty much nada, so things that would normally be considered unsellable were suddenly on the auction block. The three items? My awesome, cheap, dependable Honda Civic that Pat and Theresa sold me, my cross bike, and my golf clubs.
Sitting here today, almost four years on, I wish I had all of those, especially my golf clubs.
I didn’t start riding bikes until the beginning of 2002. Before that, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I was completely and utterly in love with golf. Cliches were made for my devotion to golf – I lived, ate, slept, drank golf…then I discovered bikes, and there just wasn’t enough time in the day to nourish both loves, so golf eventually faded further and further away from my consciousness.
And to be perfectly frank, there just wasn’t enough money. When I played golf at home in Stone Mountain, I always had the support of the great people at Stone Mountain Golf Course – they let me become their resident golf bum, and because of that, money was never an issue. When I moved to Athens, I was suddenly faced with the prospect of paying to play golf. It just wasn’t possible. After an initial investment of 400 dollars, bike riding was 100% free.
Before that, there was a time when I dreamed of becoming a professional golfer, designing golf courses, or at the bare minimum, teaching golf. There was a time when I knew the stats for every golfer, tournament, and course, and there was a time I would absentmindedly draw courses in my notebooks.
I think it’s understood then that the idea of ever selling my golf clubs was somewhere along the lines of selling my family into slavery. Unimaginable.
But then it happened.
I sold them, and it was a horrible experience. My clubs were priceless to me. I saved up for them mowing lawns, raking leaves, doing chores, working at a restaurant. They were the classic teenage hard-earned prize…so putting a price on them was nigh impossible. When I did put a price on them, the buyer scoffed and offered me half as much.
I sold the clubs to that evil man for 200 dollars that July afternoon in my driveway. He tossed my bag of memories into the back of his car and drove away.
I almost cried.
I got over it though and moved to Europe, and our adventures began.
Today, on the second day of 2012, I played golf for the first time in two years (I borrowed clubs on New Year’s back in 2010), and for perhaps the fifth time in the decade since I started riding bikes.
It was magic. I’m always so scared that one day I’ll pick up golf clubs again, and it will be like I never played. I’m scared that the hole I wore out in my bedroom carpet swinging incessantly will have been for naught, or the raw calluses on my hands never existed…but then I start swinging, and it’s like I’m a junior in high school again, and try outs for the golf team are next week.
It’s like nothing has changed. It feels like my body has no idea that I became a bike racer, and a whole decade has passed since I last played golf regularly. Everything is the same. The club feels so perfect in my hands. My hands take to the grip like they were designed specifically for holding a golf club. I feel like I was supposed to swing a golf club.
I used to practice clearing my head of any thoughts or limiting it to just one mantra-type thought when I would hit a ball. Typically, a golfer would think positive thoughts – focus on a simple, essential part of the swing, anything but negative, anything but – don’t hit the ball in the water, don’t hit hit the ball fat, etc. Unfortunately, ten years on and very little golf later, I have no control over my thoughts.
My thoughts during most every shot today? I’m definitely going to hit this badly. How bad is it possible to hit a ball? Where in the world is this going to go? This is a bad idea. Stop swinging now.
And yet, no matter the noise my conscious mind blabbered, my unconscious muscle memory had no problems. I pulled the club back from the ball and moments later, there was the crisp sound and feel of solid contact, eyes flashed skyward, and there went the ball, beautiful, straight, arching high in the hazy blue, cool winter sky – to my complete and utter conscious amazement.
I did not shoot a good score today, nor was every shot great or even good, not by any means, but everything was still there. The foundation, the thousands upon tens of thousands of swings that defined me for the better part of my younger years were still there, living somewhere in my brain and my hands and my arms and my back and my legs.
When I finished playing golf with my friend, Stephen Maxwell, and his father this afternoon, I was ecstatic, elated, nothing short of high. I had found that treasured old possession deep in the recesses of the attic, and it was still just as perfect and fantastic as it was all those years ago.
They gave me the best gift I’ve received in a very long time tonight – they gave me a bag with a driver, a 3-wood, a 5-wood, a lob wedge, a pitching wedge, and a putter in it – almost half of a standard set of clubs. Just thinking about that gift makes me want to cry. It makes me so happy to have golf back in my life. I might not play every day, or even 10 times in a year, but just knowing that there are clubs waiting for me, for when the time is right, is a comforting feeling.
I grew up as a golfer. No matter how far I roam away from golf, it will always, always, always be a part of me. I’m glad that I finally realized that today.
I came home tonight and finished up what the Maxwell’s generosity started – I bought a solid set of irons online. They’ll be here by Wednesday.
After that, I made a solemn promise to my 14-year-old self with his countless pictures of golfers and courses on the walls of his room and a faded, worn nine-iron in the corner – I won’t ever sell these clubs.