Some of you know that just about four years ago my nephews (Aaron and Jim) invited me to play disc golf with them. It was Christmas Day, 2008, and I was spending Christmas with my sister's family in Columbus, Ohio. Apparently it was tradition for Aaron and Jim to go out to the disc golf course after the Christmas Day feast, regardless of the weather, and play a round of disc golf. For those of you who don't know what that is - some people call it Frisbee golf. You play it like regular golf except that instead of a ball and clubs you throw a smaller, modified and more aerodynamic disc, similar to a Frisbee except that it's faster and flies much farther. (The longest recorded throw of a golf disc that I know of is 820 feet - which is just under 1/6 of a mile.)
The object of the game is to fly the disc from the tee to the basket (used instead of a green and cup) in the least amount of throws or strokes. Many courses have par 3, par 4 and even par 5 holes and there is now a professional disc golf association. Pro players can make up to a whopping $15,000 a year....!
Anyway, I played with them that day with the temperature in the mid 20s and about three inches of snow on the ground. I went out expecting it to suck and they took me expecting to have a good laugh. What they didn't realize is that I grew up in the age of Frisbees. The first professional model hit the market in 1964 but they started getting really popular in the early 70s. Everyone in my neighborhood had one and we would play in the street. So when I threw my first tee shot that day, both Aaron and Jim were surprised that I actually seemed to know what I was doing. And much to my surprise, by the time we finished playing that day I was hooked. I enjoyed it. It's great exercise, does take some skill (to be any good) and it's mostly free. You have to invest in the discs themselves, (which can cost up to $25 apiece, but most courses are free to play. There are a few that charge and some ask for donations.
By mid-summer I began winning games against them on a regular basis, much to their disheartenment. Of course, to be fair, they both had full time jobs and I was retired and only working part-time a couple days a week, which left me a lot of free time to go out and practice on my own. So on the weekends we'd get together and suddenly I started beating them at their own game, literally. Not every game but enough to make them say "Why did we teach him this game?" And being very competitive between ourselves, we enjoyed trash talking each other as much as playing the game itself!
But this post isn't about disc golf itself. It's more about the day I had yesterday at a disc golf course here in Texas. Arden asked me to take her to a beading circle. In her very limited spare time, she hand makes jewelry and belongs to a beading club. They meet for an afternoon of beading and conversation every second Sunday of the month and spend from noon until 5 o'clock working and having fun. She doesn't get to go each month so she really wanted to go yesterday. She suggested that I drop her off and go down a few more miles from her location to a disc golf course that I'd been talking about but hadn't played yet. I thought that was a great idea - I had five hours to kill and could get in a game, get some exercise, then hit a Starbuck's or Panera Bread and get my computer out to pass the rest of the time.
After church, which yesterday consisted of the "Singing Christmas Tree", we loaded up the things we needed and headed out. Her meeting was about 30 miles from the house, in Arlington. The disc golf course was about 10 miles further. So I got her settled in the store where they had their get-together and I headed on down the road to find the park where the course is. It turned out to be fairly easy. It was actually a state park and there were two 18 hole courses within the park. It wasn't crowded at all so I was able to get started right away. I played the first six holes and caught up with a young couple who'd been playing in front of me. They were sitting on a bench on the number 7 tee waiting for some friends. Apparently they were warming up for their friends because the #7 tee was right by the parking lot where they could join their friends when they arrived. As is custom in all forms of golf, they allowed me to play through. His exact words were "You can play through, Sir. We're waiting for someone."
I thought him very polite and thanked him, then asked him if there really was a second 18 hole course. He responded "Oh, yes, Sir. You follow that path around to the left and the first tee is up about halfway across the field on the left." I thanked him again. He said "You're welcome, Sir."
I took my next shot and it was one of my better ones for the day. From behind me I heard "That's the way to do it, Sir." OK, the Sir thing was getting old. Maybe this kid was just raised by proper Texas parents and learned to say Ma'am and Sir at a young age. He was being very respectful to me but making me feel a little old by that time.
I moved on and eventually caught up with another threesome on hole #14. I completed #13 and walked up on them on the next tee. They had just finished their shots but since I was alone they again allowed me to play through. "You can go ahead and play through, Sir" said one of the young men. There it was again. "Sir." These guys were between 25 and 35 and I didn't FEEL like I was that much older than they were. I threw my tee shot and thanked them for allowing me to play through. "You're welcome" one of them said. "Have a good one, Sir."
By this time I was wondering if my hair had turned more gray overnight or if I looked like I needed a wheelchair. I thought I looked pretty good out there. No electric cart, no one carrying my disc bag for me....
I finished up the last hole on the first course and stopped at the van for some water and to sit for a minute. These courses are over a mile long and wind through the woods, up and down hills. So I took about a five minute break and headed to the second course. I still had three hours to kill and figured I might as well check out the other one. I was alone on the tee and could see no one in front of me at all. I threw my first tee shot and it was a beauty - the disc rode the wind for almost 300 feet. That always make one feel good. When you throw a disc and it carries on the wind just right and sails 300+ feet down the fairway it just feels good. That is, until some young kid throws one that beats your throw by at least 100 feet.
I had the first three holes to myself, then caught up with a foursome that I hadn't seen because the course cut through the woods. They told me I could go ahead and none of them called me "Sir." I was feeling better already.
I played that hole and then had to wait for another foursome to finish the next one. I caught up with them on the next tee. It was the couple I had seen earlier and their two friends. The young man I had talked to earlier said "So you found the second course, I see." He didn't call me "Sir." I appreciated him for that. They had already made their tee shots and were getting ready to walk away. We chatted for a couple of seconds and he said "Why don't you go ahead and play this hole out with us then you can go ahead of us on the next tee." So I did.
I threw my tee shot and it turned out pretty decent. We started walking ahead, still talking about the game and the different courses we've played. One of the guys threw a second shot and it went in the same vicinity as my first one. When we got up to it, his disc was actually laying on top of mine. The second friend pointed and said "Look at that. You're on top of him." I looked at him, looked at the owner of the second disc and said "And we don't even know each other!" Everyone laughed and we finished the hole. I thanked them for letting me play through and wished them a good afternoon. One of them, probably that nice young man I had met first, said "You too, Sir." AAAGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!
I caught up with one more group, again on hole number 14. There were six total and most of them were in their 40s. They also let me play through and none of them called me "Sir." It's a good thing because I was starting to feel a little like Oddjob in the old James Bond movie and I had a bag full of "hats". I finished without incident. The six guys were very helpful in guiding me toward the end of the course and telling me about a few other courses I should try. When we parted I thanked them and wished them a good day. They wished me the same. No patronizing, no making me feel old. It was refreshing.
I don't mind getting older, I suppose. Oh, sure - there are days when I feel older but often, aside from a knee that's been bad since my 20s and a bit of arthritis in my shoulder, I feel pretty good. My mind still feels young and some people say I sometimes act immature. Is that the same thing?
Being called "Sir" six times in one afternoon by at least three different young men made me feel a bit older than I wanted to. However, I could look at those boys collectively and know that most of them will never have the experiences in life that I've had. So that makes up for it a bit. There are things I would change in my life if I could, but not many. So if the life I've had and the years I've lived means youngsters are going to call me "Sir", I guess I can live with it.