Next Saturday will be the six-year anniversary of my venture into the world of golf. I was reminded of this when Mark M., on Facebook, when he noted that his Wichita State Shockers had won another game in the NCAA Basketball Tournament and I reminded him that I was happy for him, just as long as Texas A&M hired away their coach the way they did with Mark Turgeon back in 2007. All of that got me to thinking about how all that came about, about taking up golf and about how my game is doing now, six years later.
This is the second Saturday since Andy and I went to see the Texas A&M Aggies play in Kyle Field, so I’m a bit slow in writing about it all. After writing about the flight with my father, I haven’t had time to finish out our trip, with the story about going to the game. The game was the highlight of things we did, but not the highlight of the trip. The highlight of the trip was spending time with Pops and Nonna and watching Andy get a chance to know his grandfather.
Yet, the reason we were there was to go to the game. Andy hasn’t been to a Texas Aggies game since he was in the womb. I mean that literally. My wife and I went to an Aggies game when they were playing Clemson back in 2004, a few months before he was born. He did experience the game, only on a limited level. Every time the Aggies would score and the Corps of Cadets fired off their canon, Andy would kick inside the womb in celebration. So you can see it’s been a while since he has been to a game.
I think I was more excited in taking him to the game than he was in going because I’m not sure he knew what he was in for. He has been to football games, but nothing like a Division I college game, especially a Texas Aggies game.
I remember my Dad and Mom taking us to University of Houston Cougar games growing up and I really wanted to share the Aggies with Andy, and hopefully next year with Joey. It was something I did growing up with my folks and I hope that I can do the same with the boys over the coming years.
We left early in hopes of seeing the band march into the stadium, but traffic had something to say about that. Parking was also a problem. I couldn’t find a parking lot that was open to non-permit holders. I finally found one, but by then, we were too late to see the band march into the stadium. It turned out I was so far from the stadium, I should have left the car in Brenham and walked over.
Once we were in the stadium, I think Andy began to see what a massive place it was. He was loving the fact that we were really high up, that we had neat souvenir cup and that there were so many people. He was cut off guard when we sang the Aggie War Hymn. For those who don’t know, at one point during the song we lock arms with those around us and swing back and forth as we sing “saw varsity’s horns off!” He didn’t want to put his arm around the young woman next to him. He was too shy.
I didn’t know that about my son. But he has a shy streak in him. When we were walking through the tunnel from the parking lot, we ran across one of the Texas Aggies Swimmers and I wanted him to take a picture with her, but he was too shy. I think it was Allyson Sweeny, but I’m not sure.
By the end of the game, he did warm up to the girls sitting next to us to the point that they were sharing food with him. I should have given him a few lessons about singing the Aggie War Hymn.
He also loved the firing of the canon. I knew he would and he got a lot of opportunity to hear it go off as the Aggies managed to score 70 points on South Carolina State. The offense was clicking and State was outmatched. We were hoping for a high-scoring game, since it was Andy’s first game.
I wanted to take him to see the Aggies play Arkansas, but Pops and Nonna had to fly out of town last Friday so we would have missed them. Dad recommended the SC State game in order to make sure that Andy’s first game was a win. Little did we know that A&M would decimate the Razorbacks as well, 58-10. As a friend and I joked all week, Arkansas is so bad this year that the teams they have played are still scoring touchdowns on them. As he texted me this week: “Liverpool just scored on the Razorbacks.”
As for our game, when I asked Andy what he liked about the game, he said, “the whole entire part of it.” Since he has worn his Aggie ball cap at every opportunity, I think he likes the Aggies.
There was a report out on ABC News Radio that says middle age doesn’t start until one reached the age of 55! This means I haven’t reached middle age yet.
Therefore, to all of my congregants, namely Dave and Marie, who gave me such a hard time when I turned 40, back years ago, I respond: Ha! I am NOT middle aged! I won’t be for another 4 years!!! (Does this sound like I have issues?)
The good news for Dave and Marie: you are not old age yet! That will not happen for years, since neither of you are in your 70s yet. Of course, Dave, it will hit you much sooner than it will for the lovely Marie. But the good news yet is that you have yet to hit it according to the new study.
Written October 6, 1993 concerning the events in July 1970.
My mother was lying on the wooden board and the car was no longer making that screaming noise it did when I ran for help. The smell of burning rubber was still in the air. All around me was the commotion of ambulance drivers and state troopers checking out the scene. The paramedics were attending two of my brothers, but I could tell they would be all right. It was my mother who looked the worst. I went over to my mother and tried to clear the tears from my eyes.
“Mom, can you get up?” She just laid there and for a moment and I thought she didn’t hear me.
“Mom? Are you ok?” I asked.
“No” was her reply. That really scared me because I had never heard my mother say things were not OK. That was not like her at all. All my short life she always tried to be positive, but not now.
I tried to heal her like we had been taught in church. I though very clearly “Mommy is created in God’s image and likeness. She is not hurt, she is OK.” I said it over and over, but my mother just lay there on the stretcher.
“Mommy you are made in God’s image and likeness and you are OK,” I told her.
She said thanks, but kept on lying there. I didn’t know why. In church they told us that when we were sick or hurt that if we held to the truth we would be OK. But my mother wasn’t OK. Why did she not get up? It must have been some sort of failure on my part, because she continued to lie there on the side of the road.
I tried not to cry but I couldn’t help it. Tears welled up in my eyes and I knew I wasn’t supposed to cry. But my mother was still hurt. I wanted to hug her but they told me not to touch her.
Another ambulance came down the road and hit the breaks when the driver realized she was passing the accident. She tried to pull over and when she did, the ambulance flipped upside down, just as our own car had done.
We were traveling up to see Granny get married and on the way we took the wrong road. As was the habit of our family, whenever we got lost or took the wrong road, Dad or Mom would say “we’re taking a short cut. It’s longer, but bumpier.” This always seemed to make things better.
So on our “short cut” we were trying to make it to Highway 59. We had gone through Trinity, Texas, and as we did, I remember pointing out the hospital. Why I would do such a thing was beyond me. We didn’t believe there was a need for hospitals. After all, we were Christian Scientist and Christian Scientists know the truth. Hospitals are merely recognitions of error, and since we had the truth, we never acknowledged error.
I was sitting in the front seat in between my mother, who was driving and my father. David was in the back seat and Scooter and John were in the back, back seat of our 1969 Pontiac Station Wagon.
As we drove down the highway, I was playing copilot for Mom. Every speed limit sign we would pass, I would announce the speed so my mother would not drive too fast or slow. I had just told her the speed limit was 70 mph.
The hot Texas sun had melted the tar that was holding down the road. When we hit the freshly paved road, it was similar to driving on marbles and the rocks began pounding the bottom of the car. It was loud.
“Velda, pull over,” my father yelled.
As she began to pull over, the front wheels dropped off the road. There was no shoulder to the road leaving an 18-inch drop. The car slid sideways and began to roll. I remember seeing a white fence just before I shut my eyes. The white fence turned on its side and we began pounding down the road. I thought it would never stop.
I could hear glass breaking and the sound of metal slamming against the pavement.
When I opened my eyes, the windshield was folded in and was only inches from my chest. One look at my mother and I knew she was hurt and that I should not touch her.
The car was screaming. The speedometer read 120 mph, but we were not moving. The car had landed in a ditch and the tires weren’t touching the ground. I didn’t know what to do. Mom was not moving, and neither was Dad. Why? Dad was supposed to take care of things, but he wasn’t doing anything at all.
I tried to move, but couldn’t. David was already out of the car. He seemed to be the only one awake other than myself. I released my seatbelt and climbed over my father.
“Dad, help,” we said. “We’ve got to get dad out.” We both grabbed a hold of his arm and pulled. Our hope was that if we could get him out of the car, he would wake up and tell us what to do. That had always been Dad’s role. He was the commander, the captain of our family. Yet, he wouldn’t wake up and because of his seatbelt, we couldn’t pull him free.
The seatbelts had been my idea. Mom had taught me that it was the rules to wear the seatbelts. That being the case, I made sure everyone had on their seatbelts when we got in the car. Now it seemed the seatbelt was working against us.
“We need to go for help,” David said. After looking at Scooter and John, who were both laying in a ditch. I knew that it was up to David and me. I didn’t know what to do. Providentially there were two houses right there where the car came to a stop. David ran for one, and I ran for the other. By now, I was in tears. I was scared like I had never been before. For some reason, David was cool and calm and at this point, he was calling the shots. David took the house on the right and I took the one on the left.
I ran as hard as my 9-year-old legs could and fell upon the door. I pounded hard as I could, but no one would answer. “Please help,” I cried. “Somebody please help.” But there was no one home. I began to panic. What if there was no one to help? What then? That fear was monstrous.
David had more success than I did. His house held a family. The father ran out and was heading towards our car. I couldn’t look. The man’s son came and took my hand and asked if I needed anything. He took me inside their home and gave me some water. I cried, even though I knew I should not, the tears came uncontrollably. I didn’t understand. I knew that I was supposed to be a little man but I couldn’t help it. The boy held my hand and said everything would be all right. But somehow, I knew it wouldn’t be.
His brother came in and told me my father wanted me outside.
I went back to the car. It was rumpled. The hood was smashed and the roof was pointed. The engine was no longer running and I could here my little brother, John, crying as he lay in the ditch. It was OK for him to cry, but I was older and wasn’t supposed to cry. I tried to be like Dad. Scooter was next to him holding a bandage to his ear. There was blood everywhere.
My father was now awake.
“Timmy, where is Stokely?” my father yelled at me.
“He’s not with us.”
“Timmy, where is he?” he shouted.
“He didn’t come with us. We left him with the Stouts.”
“Are you sure?” Why didn’t he believe me? Didn’t he remember that just a few hours ago, we dropped Stokely off with the Stouts? Stokely was the baby. Less than a year old, and my parents felt it would be better if he was left at home for the wedding.
“Are you sure?” my father yelled again. I told him I was sure and that he didn’t come with us.
Then I saw Mom.
Her body was lifeless as she lay on a board that the ambulance men had placed her on. I knew she was hurt. That is when I began to pray. In Sunday school, they taught us how to pray and how to heal and I knew God would listen to me if I prayed. But she just lay there and wouldn’t get up.
They finally loaded Mom, John and Scooter into an ambulance. I wanted to ride with them, but they wouldn’t let me. They closed the door and I felt like my family was leaving me behind.
John thought his back was hurt and Scooter almost lost an ear. Both of them had been thrown out the back window when the car rolled. Only David, Dad and I were uninjured.
A stranger took us to the hospital we had passed not 30 minutes before and left us in the waiting room. Dad immediately headed for the emergency room, leaving David and I alone.
I felt very scared and alone so I prayed some more that mommy and Scooter and John would all be OK. I asked David if he was scared and he said yes. But he didn’t feel like talking much. He never did. He was the quiet one and now he was even quieter than usual. I tried to get him to say something encouraging, but he wouldn’t. I wanted someone to just hold me and tell me everything would be all right. But no one did.
It seemed like I was in that waiting room for hours. Dad was with Mom, and Scooter was having his ears sewn up. John had to be X-rayed; because they thought his back might be injured. And Mom was undergoing all kinds of things I didn’t understand.
Dad finally came out to use the phone. I asked him how Mom was doing, but he didn’t know and had to call Granny and tell her we wouldn’t be there in time for the wedding.
I can remember him telling Uncle Bill that Granny should go on with the wedding, we wouldn’t be there, because he didn’t know how serious mother’s injuries were.
Then Dad left and went back to be with Mom, leaving David and me alone in the waiting room. Why did he have to leave us alone there? Why couldn’t we be with Mommy too? Why did he have to leave? I had all these questions, but there was no one who could answer them and no one to try.
There was a fish tank in the waiting room and I liked fish tanks. But this one didn’t seem to have the magic effects that most fish tanks do. So I just sat next to David and waited. It was an eternity.
After what seemed like an eternity and then some, my Uncle Bill came up from Houston to help. He was one of my favorite uncles and I was hoping that he would offer some encouraging words as well. But he didn’t.
We drove back out to the site of the wreck and I asked him if we could look for my glasses. They were a brand new pair. I had only had glasses for a couple of months and I thought they made me special, because not everyone got to wear glasses and I did. Now they were gone.
We stopped where we had the wreck and Uncle Bill began walking the site. He found that a construction sign that was intended to warn us had been knocked over. He pulled out his camera and began taking pictures. We walked the site again. All the while, I was trying to find my glasses.
He then drove us to where the car was kept.
“Maybe we can find my glasses here,” I said optimistically.
“Boy, give it up,” he said with the tone of disgust. “We’re not going to find your glasses. They’re not important.”
Maybe not, but they were to me.
We drove back to the hospital in silence. And then back to Houston where we spent the night in Pops’ house. Pops was a Christian Scientist as well and I really like Pops. But he wasn’t there. We were left to their dark house alone, with Grandma. I didn’t sleep very well and the next day they finally told us that my mother would probably never walk again. That was difficult to take, especially in view of our belief system. She should be healed by now, but she wasn’t. I didn’t know it at the time, but from that moment on, I don’t think I really believed in Christian Science anymore.
And then came the silence. Since the accident was an event full of error, and we were to deny error, we denied the existence of that error even though so many things in our lives screamed of its existence. That day became known as “the accident.” And it was never openly acknowledge.
Yet with every treatment that Mom underwent, with every new setback, the reality of that accident shouted its reality. It would not go away, no matter how many prayers, how many times we tried to “correct” our thinking, the accident lived with us.
That hot-summer day in June, God did hear my prayers. But I believe the answer was “no.” His very character would not let Him answer my request positively. To do so, would have allowed me to believe the very lie I had been taught in Sunday school. That being the case, and out of His love for me, He said “no.”
So I praise God that the answer to my prayer that day was no, even though my mother lived in a wheel chair for the second 35 years of her life. I don’t mean that in a spiteful way. I did pray that Jesus would heal my mother, I just didn’t want Christian Science to heal my mother. I wanted her to see Christian Science as it really is and see their leader as she truly was, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Christian Science is not of God, it is of Satan.
That day was a dark day in my life and still haunts me from time to time. I truly believe that God was in control on that day, and the He is still sovereign. What seemed like a tragic event so long ago, amidst the smell of burning rubber, broken glass, and a crumpled car, was God’s sovereign plan being unfolded in my life. And today, I am a Christian because of His sovereign plan, not a Christian Scientist. Amen and amen.
UPDATE: Just an explanatory note for those who don’t understand Christian Science. In Christian Science something is bad or sinful only as long as the “thought” of something bad and sinful continues to exist. Therefore the idea was to quit thinking about the “accident” and healing would quickly follow. This is why we never spoke of the “accident” and did our best to make it not real by not thinking about it. But the realness of it, lived with us every day and it was quite obvious that the truths of Christian Science, were lies.
Taken from 1967 or 1968… based on my brother’s appearance of age. I think John was about 3 at the time this was taken so that would be 1967. We were at Six Flags, or Astroworld, or something like that. I’m the second boy from the left, win the blue and white shirt. I can see how Joey looks a lot like me from this shot.
These pictures are of a friend’s son. I have to say, I’m glad I’m a pastor when I look at the pictures, given that I’m afraid fo heights. Regardless, I wanted to share them with you since they are such interesting shots. I’m glad there are men like my friend’s son, who is willing to climb these bridges to make sure they are safe. I’m told the man loves this sort of thing. He also inspects the bridges from under the water well, so his job is full of adventure. I rate what he does up there with the men who inspect high-power lines from a helicopter. Those jobs have to be some of the most dangerous in the world.
Not sure which bridge he is on, but I’m told he was over the Hudson River in New York. Let’s pray he stays safe.
It wasn’t much, but enough to get me excited all over again about the game of golf. I took the boys golfing yesterday (they just ride in the cart, mess up the sand bunkers and run alongside the cart as I head down the fairway.) Given that the boys were with me, I knew I wouldn’t golf well. Add 10 to 15 strokes when I take both boys. But I have to take them if I want to go. So…
Also, it was Monday. I’m always tired on Monday and wasn’t hitting the ball well. But on hole number 9… I had a minor break through. Three successive shots in a row to reach the green in three! I was pumped! It was so sweet to have a sweet drive and two perfect follow-up shots. When I say perfect, I mean perfect. My third shot was 135 yards off the green, and I planted the ball on the green 15 feet away from the hole and it rolled to within 5 feet.
YES, the birdie was within reach… and then the par… sadly, I ended up with a bogey. But it was still a great hole. To have a great hole, everything must come together, and it’s been a while since I have had this happen. Hopefully, the next time, I can bring the putting game back in line and actually get the birdie. What fun!
I did it again yesterday. I was approaching the Number 9 hole at Spring River Golf Course with a personal best 47 strokes for the front 9. For those of you who do not golf, this means that I was approaching mediocrity in my golf game as opposed to just bad golf. But for me, it was a big deal. My goal is to shoot less than 50 on the front 9 and back nine for a score less than 100 by the end of the year.
My goal yesterday was to shoot a 54 or less on the front nine. I learned a trick from my brother while playing golf out in Arizona with him. Realize what your game is, then set your own par accordingly. It’s the same principle that many use to figure a handicap, which is used in amateur golf all the time. My brother’s method was to set a 5 stroke limit for every hole. Five ends up being his par. Well, I know I’m not going to do that well, so I set a 6 hole limit for every hole, which would have given me a 54 for 9 holes.
Six is my par. That takes the pressure off me to obtain what I cannot obtain in the real game, a true par. Doing this gives the golfer a psychological advantage in that when you come to a par 4 and you decide it is a par 6, the pressure is off to make 4. To make a true par you cannot muff a single shot for the hole. To make a true par for each hole, your tee shot has to be really good, along with your mid-range shot, your short shot onto the green and your first putt. 90 percent of golfers cannot do that, especially given that most of the game is played in the six inches between one’s ears. (With my par at six, I actually hit a par on the Sixth hole. That truly helped my score.)
This is why handicaps were introduced. We may see great golfers like Tiger Woods shoot a 68 on any given day, but most golfers are not great. In fact, statistics show that 90 percent of all golfers never break an 80, and only about 75 percent of all golfers ever break 100.
My brother shot a 102 when we played, so he is above average, and falls into the 25 percent that do break into the double digits. It was the first time he has golfed in 4 years, so I imagine if he continues, he will drop back into the double digits.
Breaking 100 is my goal and I was trying to take a baby step toward that goal yesterday, just shoot 54 or less on the front 9. That goal was in reach when I came off the green at number 8 and headed for the tee box of 9. To be honest, butterflies begin bouncing in my stomach as I approached number 9. When it comes to Spring River Golf Course, number 9 has witnessed some of my biggest meltdowns. You could say that hole is doing her duty in getting inside my head, because she is there, sitting on a bucket, just laughing in my face when it comes to my game.
I tried not to listen to her. My mind immediately jumped to the facts. I have a 47, I simply need to finish the hole with 7 strokes to reach my goal. That is truly doable. In fact, I’ve done it before. I scored a par on this very hole… o so many months ago. She just laughed and shouted “meltdown!” I couldn’t get that word out of my head.
I teed up the ball, relaxed, took several easy practice swings and then launched my shot. I hit it well, but just slightly to the left and into the trees. “No problem,” I thought. “Just another opportunity for greatness to follow.”
Then I had to wait. There were four golfers ahead of me that I had not had to wait for since passing the elderly foursome back on the fourth hole (which is where my game really began to improve.) I had to wait to take my second shot… and I began thinking.
As every golfer knows, you must concentrate on your game because the most important aspect of the game is mental. Or is Yogi Berra once proclaimed, “90 percent of the game is half mental?” But to think too much about the game is catastrophic. In other words, you need to concentrate, but not think too much.
I was thinking too much. I thought I could hit my second shot along the tree line and get it closer to the green for an easy chip shot. That wasn’t clear thinking. I should have aimed for the middle of the fairway for the longer, but easier followup shot. Instead, my second shot went right along the tree line until it hit another tree and ended up behind a small burn.
“OK,” I thought. “Wait for the foursome to get off the green and put the ball right up on it.” Again, I was still thinking too much. I should have shot for the front of the green, then my chip shot instead of trying to go for the green.
Again, another tree. The ball went left again and now I had bunkers to worry about.
The next shot went to far to the right, but actually landed with an easy chip shot onto the green. If I got the ball onto the green and two putted, things would be well. But it was too late. By now, the pressure inside my head to finish off the hole meant that the nerves between my brain and muscles were no longer firing as they should. I wanted so bad to finish off this hole so well, that my muscles could no longer function. The chip shot flew over the green and to the fence. I was officially in meltdown mode.
I haven’t figured out how to break the cycle. But I do know the feeling really well. I could tell what I needed to do, but my muscles, hands and arms couldn’t do it. Every swing was filled with an unbeatable tension, followed by complete disgust at the results. I even ended up in the sand bunker, twice. Normally, I can play the bunkers well, but not in meltdown mode.
Instead of getting on the green in 4 strokes, it took me 9 strokes. I was utterly defeated. The goal of 54 was long gone and Number 9 was dancing around me shouting “Meltdown! Meltdown!”
“OK,” I thought with futility once again. “Just 2 putt and everything will be well.” Only problem, I couldn’t putt either. Another normally descent aspect of my game had left me. It took me three strokes to get the ball in. Instead of getting my my 54, I ended up with my normal 59. What looked like it would be a good 9-holes of golf, was shattered with one hole. Number 9 had won. She had done her duty and humiliated me. I couldn’t help but think that had I had just found one decent stroke in all of that, I could have come away with something. But even my putting was putrid.
That’s why the call it a “meltdown.” It’s purely psychological. It’s not as though the ability isn’t there physically, but the hole itself truly is inside my head like a giant mountain standing between me and my goal.
I’ve talked to other golfers about it. Zach, who works in the pro shop, said that is the hardest part of golf. Getting over the psychological barriers we face is what makes the game so difficult. Good golfers find a way to play through it. I haven’t yet discovered the ability to do so. I know when I’m in meltdown mode, but haven’t found a way through it.
I know when I do… I will score a 54 or even better. But until then… I will have to face the meltdown again.
I did try to play the back 9. But I must confess the joy had left me. I was truly having a good time on the front 9. I did manage to get the ball on the green on Number 13, which is a par 3. But I 5 putted to get it in.
By the time I hit my tee shot off Number 15, the joy was completely gone. So much so, that the thought of a turkey sandwich sounded much more appealing than finishing out the round of golf. I picked up my ball and headed for home.
Here is a clip from the movie about Bobby Jones, the greatest golfer ever to live.
Here is one on the life of Bobby Jones.
Trying to get my 7 year old out of the land of make believe and get dressed, I said, “Andy, get dressed, there is no need for a naked superhero in the world!”
By the way, the picture was taken last week as Andy began to realize the benefit of having grass in the backyard. I had just cut it for the first time since planting seed back in late March. Before then, there was nothing there but weeds.