Friday, July 18, 2008

The Golfing Von Trapps

Written 5 July 2008

I have said it before, but I am going to say it again: my life is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. My family is not Greek, and most of us aren’t that fat, but the point remains that that movie has always struck a chord close to my heart. Sometimes I look around me and think, “No other family spends this much time together,” or “Nobody else tells their aunts these kind of details about their love lives,” or “Do other people make this much food for no reason?” Once I asked my uncle[-in-law] what his first reaction to the Creamers was, and he laughed. “I was like, ‘What is wrong with these people? This is not normal – they like each other too much!’”

To further prove our abnormality, now we golf together. That’s right: we golf. For those of you who know me [even slightly], this may come as a shock. Don’t worry though, I’m not leading alternate lives, one in which I am Carly as you know her, while in the other I am simultaneously a super athlete, ultra-sweet and domesticated, shy and docile, yet laced with tomboyish tendencies. Rest assured that I am still the girl who can’t bake cookies, pacify a baby, hold my temper, and detests long, boring sports.

Still, this morning at 9:15 sharp I found myself holding a golf club for the first time in my life, surrounded by twenty-two family members “warming up.” Mind you, such an ambiguous term means different things for different people. For my golf pro Uncles Mark and Terry, it was an intense swinging/driving/putting frenzy. For my cousin Ginny, it was sitting on a bench with her book about an emotionally abused girl. What about me, you may ask? I was merely thanking God that my scramble team consisted of a.) my dad, the most patient and fun-loving man I have ever met, b.) my fabulous Aunt Nan, who manages to see the good in every situation, and c.) my cousin Dustin who actually has skill on a golf course. I was in good hands, but I figured I should probably join the crowd and swing a club or two.

But which club do I swing? Irons, woods, drivers, putters – these words mean nothing to me. Aunt Nan held one out to me, and I asked her what it was. “Uh...um…a metal one…” she said, searching for the word. “Oh, I know! An iron!” We laughed loudly until we received scandalized looks from those old men who didn’t come with us and actually wanted to golf. “Oh, they’re fine,” Aunt Nan said. “It’s not like they’re in a hurry. What do they want to do? Rush home to do chores? Get back to the office? You know they don’t want to go home to their wives. They’re probably happy that we’re slowing them up!” See? Ever the optimist.

At some point, Papa came around and dispersed the golf cart keys. Now this is what I had been looking forward to. Inwardly cursing myself for taking the desk job instead of the job as a beer girl on a golf course, I expertly navigated Aunt Nan and I into the queue to tee off. You see, this whole situation was a birthday celebration for Papa. He turned 76 last Tuesday, and this was his Second Annual Creamer Golf Scramble. Last year I had to work and was exempt. This time, I had no such excuse.

Let me just explain something – I don’t golf. The closest I have come to a golf course is Pirate’s Cove [or any other putt putt place for that matter] and even there my cousin Tyler beat me when he was four. I think I was thirteen at the time. A four year old beat me!! Ever since then, I have put golf in the same category as bowling and horseshoes…fun for five minutes, but after that I am only too aware of my own inadequacy, at which point I get frustrated because I want to win but I CAN’T, then I get annoyed and, in the end, very angry. Better to avoid the whole scene [although I’m cool with putt putt, since there are generally go-karts to placate me after the general slaughter.]

Needless to say, then, I felt very out of place lining up to drive the first ball, and rightly so. My swing was awkward, I probably lifted my head up, and as a result, the ball flew away from me, terrified of my club…but it died a few feet away. Seriously – I tried to drive the ball to the green, and it landed mere feet away from the tee. Luckily, Daddy and Aunt Nan and even Dustin were nice about, and since it was a scramble, we got to use Dustin’s perfect hit anyway. No harm, no foul, I guess.

At one point, Daddy explained the difference between the clubs to me. At this point, I probably would not be able to tell you much, except the fact that golf clubs are boy versions of make-up brushes. Scoff if you must, but I am right. My picture of golf began to come together.

By the fourth or fifth hole, I really felt like I had the hang of it, and I was ready to be good at the game. I saw my golfing future stretch out before me, full of fabulous little outfits, fun dates, and cocktails at the end. My team was quite impressed with my swing; apparently I am a natural, something in which Papa took great pride. I felt so adult, so mature swinging that club, twirling my hips and turning my toe, just like I have seen a hundred professionals do. I was awed by my own ability – how much inside of me remains untapped? I began to wonder. What other secret skills linger beneath my regular surface? Am I a secret martial artist? A painter? A chef? A car mechanic? The possibilities are quite endless, you know. All of these thoughts swirled through my head as I lined up for my practice shot. “Nice swing, Carly!” Daddy called enthusiastically, and I smiled to myself. I have a nice swing. Then I hit the ball, and I learned that my nice swing has little to do with anything, since I could barely move that dumb, little dimpled thing anywhere.

All I wanted was for it to pop up, arc gracefully, and soar to the green. It’s not like I asked for a hole in one or cheering crowds – just a mere bit of flight would satisfy me! But no, if my form was good, the ball hit the tip of the club, or I brought my head up, or my putt was too hard. There are a lot of little things to adjust and remember, and as soon as I did everything that I had learned until that point, there was another issue that needed to be addressed. I shanked drives, I sliced putts, and I overshot plenty, but I am shocked to say that I had a lot of fun, and was one of the nine recipients of the “Most Improved” award.

Still, after two sink-to-par putts on my part, I felt pretty decent as we came to the final hole. My team was the last one, and nine carts lined up ominously at the green, waiting for us. Our drive had left us in a difficult position Рwe needed to chip it up, over a sandtrap, and set it up to roll over the rough and into the green. According to the order, I was up first. Daddy handed me some club, and I walked up to my ball. I heard my aunts and uncles and cousins jeer teasing cries in my direction, and I suddenly felt every sports movie clich̩ in my very soul: this was it. This was my championship, my big game, my knuckle puck time. I focused, kept my head down, swung the club, and prayed that God would at least laugh lovingly at my attempt and give me a decent shot.

That ball rolled to exactly where I wanted it, gracefully stopping on the green within easy putting range of the hole. The crowd sat in stunned silence, and then they cheered. “Carly!” they exclaimed, rightfully shocked. “Nice shot!” That was enough for me.

So there it is: I golf now. Not well or often, but I feel adequately equipped to start…next summer. Who knows? Maybe I’ll take that job on a golf course someday, tap the deep well of talent within me, and before you know it I’ll be on the LPGA or something. This is doubtful, of course, but still. I’d better start shopping for cute golf clothes just in case!!