Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Man Mike

One of my more annoying traits, to those that care about me, is isolating. I have recently received quite a bit of feedback from friends and family about this; how I need to get out of my man-cave and at least pick up the phone once I a while. They’re right. I do tend to isolate. I could get into the reasons why but I won’t, at least not here. Not the purpose of this story. What this story is about is someone that I have known for 46 of my 52 years on this planet, how he has re-entered my life, and as a result has broken through my isolationism.

Mike grew up one block over from me in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. We went through grade school, middle and high school together. During our teen years we both gravitated towards golf and played tons of rounds together. A far better player than me, Mike went on to play the mini-tours in the 80’s and was a professional for a while. During our adult years we would get together every few years for a round of golf – maybe we were both in Ohio at the same time or business would bring him over to my neck of the woods. So we have more or less stayed in touch for the last three or so decades. He presently works in the golf industry with a job that allows him inside access to some fine courses. He lives in Ft. Myers but is up here in Orlando every week on business.

Back in 2009 when I took a job in Orlando, I got hold of Mike to let him know. Since then we have seen a lot of each other, and about four months ago we decided that we were going to get together once a week to play golf.

Awesome decision.

Wednesday evenings at Winter Park Country Club is our time. Two fifty-somethings that still play pretty decently but mostly get together to bond, play the game we love, share. We walk, never take a cart. Dinner always follows our rounds. I am not sure Mike knows how much these rounds mean to me, but they have become the focal point of my week. An oasis of fun in an otherwise demanding schedule of work, meetings, commitments. They ground me. Give me relief and a chance to walk in the fresh air, laugh, just have fun.

Mike is a total bro. Extremely easy-going, supportive, an ally. When I recently went through a break-up with my girlfriend, he called me to see how I was doing. When we got to the course that week, I took a few minutes before teeing off to update him on things, how I was feeling – I wanted to get it out of the way before we teed off. Because once clubface meets ball, we are golfing. Life gets put on hold and we just enjoy each other’s company and the game we both love.

As I mentioned earlier, Mike is pretty damn good. He’s about a 2-handicap, hits a nice controlled draw, can pump it out there 260 yards if need be. Good touch around the greens. And, most importantly, a great attitude. Hit a bad shot? Drop another ball and try again. Three putt a green? Mike will say “C’mon you’re a better player than that. Hit another one.”

Last week we were on the sixth hole at Winter Park. A 310-yard dogleg-right par 4. Tall trees down the right that make cutting the corner difficult, The fairway runs out at about 230 yards, so the ‘prudent play’ is to hit a fairway metal or hybrid about 210 to the corner & have a simple wedge to the green. Every time we get to this hole, Mike pulls out the driver and tries to cut the corner. Of the 15 or so times we have played this hole, he has succeeded once in getting it on the green. The other times he's failed to clear the trees or hits it through the fairway into the woods beyond. Finally this past week I said “You know Mike, not for nothing, but you and driver just doesn’t seem to be a good fit here. Just too many things can go wrong, especially with your length. Why do you keep doing it?” His reply, which totally embodies him, was,

“Because it’s fun.”

And that reply was what it is all about, and what he is all about. Having fun. Score is irrelevant, well kinda. Sometimes we play for a Snickers Bar. But outside of that, yes, it’s about having fun. We don’t play golf to torture ourselves, we do it for fun. And Mike is fun. Fun to be around. Fun to have as a friend.

And he is my dear, dear friend. I would recommend anyone to get to know him, but knowing me, I would probably get jealous if you did. He’s mine.

And I’ll fight you for him.

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