Ready, Aim, Fore!

forays into golf, trap shooting push writer’s boundaries

Luc Anthony

U.S. CPB / Public Domain
U.S. CPB / Public Domain

There are certain activities in life that we would just as soon never do. Some are required – taking out the garbage, doing paperwork – and some are optional, but lead to frustration or indifference or distaste; being optional, we can avoid them. However, opening up your mind and broadening your horizon can be more fulfilling than you might imagine, and doing something different can bring a certain joie de vivre. Ultimately, this all relates to a mindset of “Why not?” So, on consecutive June Thursdays this year, I golfed and shot trap.

Golf and trap shooting have a notable similarity: focus. Many external factors can alter your concentration, but being “in the moment” really helps.

Unlike most forms of athletics, golf is a sport I could almost play. I grew up a block-and-a-half south of the old Lowes Creek (now Pine Meadow) Golf Course, so it was easy for my dad and I to walk there. I almost went out for golf at Memorial High School (until realizing I was not remotely prepared), and took golf as one of my two required college phy ed courses. My dual issues were: not doing well at hitting the ball (whiffing, topping, shanking, and endless putting), and having a short attention span with an easily attainable impatience. In 2000 at Hickory Hills, after another day of screwing up fundamental shots, I stopped playing. Why golf again? I prefer to enjoy life.

Time and maturity ease the wounds, and by the 2010s, I thought that perhaps I should give a round another round. I surprised myself last August hitting some tee shots at a United Cerebral Palsy event, so on a nice recent vacation day, I looked at my wife and suggested we go golfing. My 18-year dormancy was at an end.

Being the descendant of my “home” course, Pine Meadow was the natural destination; it’s also good for novices like me. Thankfully, the bit of technique I picked up in that college golf class stuck with me, and a decent number of drives took nice airborne arcs or at least bounced a good distance down the fairway. I was constantly over par, but usually by only one to three strokes.

Then, it happened: a topping here (trying to hit the ball hard but barely making contact so it only bounces several feet), a whiff there; I could feel the frustration building. By the end of the nine holes, I was trending worse, my strokes increasing; this was why I hated the sport. My wife suggested I do another round. Good call: The second time through was marginally better, and it featured my first-ever birdie (one shot under par for a hole). Maybe some good ol’ experience and that elusive patience were all I needed.

Experience was something I thoroughly lacked one week later, at a charity trap shoot for the Aging & Disability Resource Center. My radio station was putting together a team, and, incredibly, I signed-on – despite never having shot a gun in my life. If you know me, you might never have expected I would get some ammo and start shooting anything, yet there I was at the Rod & Gun Club, holding a Remington shotgun, ready to take down some clay pigeons.

When doing something like, say, firing a weapon for the first time, some personal guidance is a necessity, and the folks helping me and my team were wonderful instructors. Push the stock of the gun into your shoulder, stay upright, lean forward, watch the bead, time the shot – all helping to hone the process. After my first few attempts, I pulled the trigger and saw the orange disc change trajectory – I hit my target. Whoa. By the time I was done, this gun rookie hit seven of 25 discs – not exactly a marksman, but perhaps better than one would expect from a guy who had never fire anything besides water and a couple of paintballs during his first 40 years.

Golf and trap shooting have a notable similarity: focus. Many external factors can alter your concentration, but being “in the moment” – as we are often told to do to optimize life in general – really helps you to perform in these sorts of activities where the assumption is that you would struggle. We won’t be Tiger Woods – well, that’s probably a good thing – but we can find small amounts of excellence where we never thought it was possible. Take a shot.