It goes without saying that there is always more to learn about virtually any topic. I have loved reading fantasy novels all my life, but in no way have I run out of things to learn and enjoy about fantasy novels or their many intricacies.
Same goes for everything, ranging from politics to science to culture to history and everything in between. This point couldn’t have been better made than it was this weekend when I tried to wrap my head around why it was so amazing Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters Tournament.
I must admit I didn’t watch it. When compared to soccer, football or basketball, golf isn’t exactly what I would call a fast-paced game. Golf is, however, an incredibly difficult sport that requires, to my limited knowledge, an immense amount of skill and mastery.
It also apparently requires a Herculean amount of patience and mental fortitude. I have neither of those — my possible career as a golf pro swiftly came to an end when I was informed you needed those two traits. But beyond this cursory knowledge of golf, I simply have no idea what else happens in the game.
I don’t know how the tournaments work. I don’t know how the seeding works. I don’t know why everyone watching it wears visors or has the same brand of Oakleys. I especially don’t understand why it’s so difficult to put a ball into a hole.
When I see it happen, I think, “I could do that.” Then I try it, hit the ball off the green and proceed to smash my mini golf club into the astro turf as small families point to me and say, “Don’t be like him, Jimmy.”
So when I read an article in the New Yorker about how amazing Wood’s achievement was, it really dawned on me that I had had no idea why it was so amazing he won; I just accepted that it was.
But when I read about it, read about him overcoming back surgery and dropping to below 600 in the world rankings, it all began to come together.
There is no argument that the Woods of the past made horrible decisions and hurt many people and burned his public image in a furnace.
But over the course of 10 years, he has fought on the golf course to regain that throne and to remind people of just how incredible he is at the game he loves.
After the article, I watched nearly all of the 2019 Masters’ highlights and saw Tiger climb higher and higher in the rankings as the weekend progressed. Watching golf, an activity I equated to cleaning my bathroom with a toothbrush as a child, became exciting.
Even knowing the outcome, it was so rewarding to begin to see why one shot was harder than another, why putting is such a difficult skill, why hitting a little ball over a long lawn has much more nuance than I first thought.
I see a lot of parallels between golf and tennis, a game that requires more mental strength than anything else. In both, you will make mistakes, hit a bad ball — maybe even hit five in a row.
But if you let those five bad shots sit with you for longer than a second, you have already lost, and the rest of your game is thrown off.
But the great players — people like Tiger Woods and Serena Williams who have shown their determination, patience and fortitude time and time again — overcome these mistakes and win the battle against human error.
While I do still prefer watching tennis to watching golf, I can now watch a game of golf and not have the sudden urge to re-clean my closet.
I can see the possible tactical intricacies that go into a shot, and I can hopefully explain to my dad why it’s so amazing that Tiger won the Masters again.
The more I learn, the more I appreciate something.
The more I’ve learned about golf, the more I realize that my past prejudices against the game weren’t founded in any actual knowledge, just the musing of naive boy. It’s a game full of history, excitement and skill and one that deserves my respect.
The next time I attempt to golf, I’ll make sure not to break my club over one bad shot because there will be plenty more bad shots down the road.