For those who don’t understand the game of golf, think it’s silly to take 4 hours or more to play a game, or are simply bored to tears by it, let me explain it from a different perspective. I do understand that not every boyfriend or husband is as considerate as mine is. Andy ensures that chores are finished, that it works with my schedule, and then sets off to enjoy his round.
I began to take golf seriously in 1995 while I was pregnant with Thirteen. Mr. EX played every weekend and it would often cause irritation for me. It took him away from the house for 5-6 hours at a time but he never budgeted his time correctly or with his family in mind. THAT is a big difference from my life today.
I worked for United Airlines back then and so I stopped flying at a certain point and was home. Didn’t really know many people in Champaign because I worked out of town, and I was quickly bored out of my mind. So I decided to find out what the big deal was with golf and I joined a 9 hole group.
Surprisingly for some who don’t know me well I am not a competitive person by nature. I am with myself – setting the bar and trying to reach it. Pit me against someone else though and I could not care less. One exception to that rule is if the opponent purposely tries to throw my game off, get inside my head, or shows poor sportsmanship otherwise. I can’t stand people who want to play like that and instead of getting inside my head or hurting my game, I come out swinging (no pun intended) and I usually win.
I soon understood the passion people have for golf and I made some very good friends through the 9 hole group. A beautiful day, great company, and exercise. There were a few girls my age that played but they always showed up with their own group formed and I just fell into whatever group was there. That is how I met the older women. I didn’t care who I played with as long as it didn’t take more than 2 hours and it typically didn’t.
Meeting and getting to know these women was and still is one of the single most important parts of my life. Euileen who had worked at the University, traveled the world, husband worked and had coached at the University as well, was funny and shared her passion for education with me. Nell whose family founded large portions of Champaign, shared her life story and journey and how certain parts of town were built and by whom. Ruth who was born and raised in C-U was kind and quiet but shared her own version of life. Jill who is still the largest personality I’ve come across was married to a lawyer and widowed. She wore matching everything including her glasses. Passionate, funny, educated, and entertaining beyond belief especially at lunch afterwards when she ordered scotch.
They shared their history and lives with me and I learned more about C-U than a townie knows plus I learned a lot about golf.
Soon however I began to want more from the game so I joined the 18 hole group. I was intimidated at first because they were the “grown up golfers” and most were quite good and serious about the game. I learned the rules of the game with this group, especially tournament rules. Most everyone was welcoming and after a period of time even the most seasoned golfer didn’t mind playing with the new girl.
What I write next is terribly emotional for me. These women sustained me through some very hard times in my life, always there during the good, but I cannot stress enough how they carried me through darkness all while playing the game of golf.
Mr. EX put me through hell beginning in 1987. Everyone in town knew the story and I dreaded going anywhere in public and our son would spend every other weekend with Mr. EX and I was truly lost and miserable without my child. Everything I had known was ripped from me and I suffered horribly because I had to hand my child over to him and a strange woman, whose family of strangers were suddenly forced into my child’s life. Want to bring me to my biggest rage boil … talk about that time period. I will NEVER forgive what he and his “new family” did to my child. And no I won’t apologize or explain that. Until you live it – shut up.
I sought solace and distraction on the golf course. I would play 36-56 holes of golf when Thirteen was taken from me to exhaust my mind and body. Play until dark, play until I couldn’t think, play until I dragged myself home to shower and cry myself to sleep. It was the safest place I could find and I never minded if someone joined in for a few holes, but I wasn’t the best company at that time.
When I was ready to begin dating, golf was the way I went about it. You truly get to know someone when you put a club in their hand and spend 4-5 hours talking and walking. I learned if they were quick to anger, poor losers, cheaters, could carry on a conversation, and if they were gentlemen.
Fast forward one year and Judy Murray seemed to be a regular partner that I was paired up with. She and I played as partner challenge teammates which was another day of play. A lot of people couldn’t take Judy’s demeanor but I adored her. She kicked my ass up and down the golf course and it wasn’t by hitting the ball. Judy took it upon herself to mother me and did it with blunt and brutal advice but it was always done with love.
She would ask who I was dating and talk to me about my life choices and I can tell you this, when you go through a painful ugly divorce….you don’t make great life choices. Judy let me know when I was screwing up and did so usually by saying “Amy what the hell are you thinking”. We lost Judy in 2005 to cancer. I was pregnant with Larkin and I am still not over that she would never know my child, never see the woman I have changed into, never be able to let me say “thank you” again. I miss her.
Linda Mills who most people in town know from her battle with breast cancer and the Mills Breast Institute at Carle. I know Linda from years on the golf course where I learned what grace, passion, and being a lady was about – all directly from her. Linda had been an amazing gifted athlete in her younger days and by the time she and I met, her knees were bad but she was out there playing, laughing, and sharing her life with me. Linda and I last saw each other at Carle when Jean Brunson was wheeling her out after a treatment. Linda saw me holding Larkin while I was waiting in line at the pharmacy and they both came over to oooo and ahhh over baby Larkin. Linda held my hand, pulled me close and gave me a hug. She asked about where we were in our treatments and that is what this amazing lady wanted to focus on. Linda told me that she read my updates, how proud she was of me, and it will forever be one of my most treasured memories.
This group of women has been a strong part of my life and walk of strength for many years. Judy T, Joann, Stephanie, Sue, Suzanne, Barb, Jean, Lisa, KK, Jeanene, Margo …. too many to list. I value each and every one of them for the influence they have had on my life and losing any of them is losing a mother figure, role model, and friend.
Golf gave me a group of women to guide me and support me and it wasn’t just about a game. It’s about life. 4 hours a week is an easy piece of time for me to carve away because it feeds my soul. I met Andy on a golf course. Our first date was golf. We got engaged on hole #3 and married on #9. I have grieved, cried, laughed, and loved on the course.
I am forever grateful to the little white ball and the gifts it has given me.
I love stories like this. Stories of people willing to invest their lives in each other. Going beyond the superficial and being willing to wade through the deep stuff when it’s what a journey brings. I pray often for this kind of mentor-type woman to find me. I ask God to bring her to me, or me to her. I’m not picky about how it happens, but I hope it does one day. Soon. Everyone is so busy and has their own issues. It’s understandable but it’s still sad sometimes. If nothing else, the yearning for such an influence in my life has made me want to BE that kind of influence on another or two or ten. I can see how golf would provide the right kind of opportunities to get to know people… maybe I should check it out. 🙂
Amy…just read your blog, and it tugged at my heart. I started playing golf when I was 10 years old, and am now picking back up again, as I told you. Just want you to know how much I enjoyed being with you, Andy and kids this week. You have inspired me beyond words, and you are wise beyond your years. I hope you will call me a friend, as I do you, Thank you so very much for all you do, for all of us. Love, Mary