Absolute Beginner

Find the openness to learn something new.

I am now 52 years old, but, until this fall, I had never once played a round of golf. I don’t have anything against the sport. I just never had the opportunity to hit the links and, to be honest and no offense, I’d rather go for a hike or ski than knock a ball around a manicured green. I grew up on the New Jersey boardwalk so I got in my fair share of putting through windmills and other mini-golf obstacles. I think we spent a few days on the sport in a high school gym class and, OK, my brother-in-law used to be a caddy at Pebble Beach, where I embarrassed him and scared some of the staff by once hitting the driving range years ago—which I have been told is akin to saying I have never skied except for a run at Jackson Hole. Again, not that I had anything against golf; it just didn’t fit into my world.

There was one other reason: Since I had not played the game at all, I was not going to be good at it, a fact that only compounded the older I got and the more those who would play with me honed their skills at a notoriously difficult sport.

This all changed in September, when Eric Henderson of Meteorite PR told me I was going to play in a golf tournament in Vail with him and the gang from Phunkshun Wear, a ski and snowboard mask company based in Denver. I could not refuse because, for one, Eric assured me he was a lousy golfer, and, more importantly, two, this was for a good cause that I stand behind, the High Fives Foundation, founded by Roy Tuscany, who fractured his T12 vertebra at the Mammoth Mountain terrain park when he was 24 years old, leaving his lower body paralyzed. But he persevered and worked to get back to the slopes in 2008. That experience and the support he received along the way put him on a mission to help others who suffered similar accidents. Now the foundation gets athletes out skiing, fishing, biking, and surfing. Eric and I have a personal connection to High Fives as well since it was instrumental in helping our friend Sally Francklyn recover from a traumatic head injury. Which is all to say—golf? Hell yes.

I wanted to approach the experience with respect for the sport and an open mind. My fears were assuaged a bit too when I found out the tournament was a best ball format, meaning the four of us on a team would all hit, but only play the best shot. Doable. I teamed up with an outstanding crew: Lanny Goldwasser, the laid-back founder of Phunkshun who participates in the High Fives Charity Golf Tournament every year, and two outstanding golfers—Hans Herner, who manages Christy Sports in Beaver Creek, and Matthew Mazza, gym director at Shredder Indoor Ski and Snowboard Schools. They were quite patient with me and taught me the one key lesson: Don’t lift your head too early on the swing; eye on the ball. I was shocked (and so were they) when I put a good stroke on the ball and felt the thrill of hitting the crap out of it. In the bubble of an absolute beginner, anything I did would be decent, but I also felt as if my commitment to just try helped me relax, listen to advice, and have fun. 

So I challenge you to do this. Try something new this winter, no matter your age. Learn to Nordic ski, work a potter’s wheel, go splitboarding, try curling, or maybe take a snowboard lesson—even if you have snowboarded all of your life. Give in to the beauty of being an absolute beginner. This is the spirit of the High Fives Foundation. Don’t stay in when you have the opportunity to get out.

Cover Photo: Eric Henderson of Meteorite PR and High Fives Athlete Trevor Kennison hit the links. Photo by Doug Schnitzpahn

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