The next time I would play tennis would be at military school. A golf team at a military school wasn’t very likely. But at least I had the tennis. I played in the Florida heat every chance I got but when the pressure of an opponent increased I became timid. I could make the shots but I needed coaching to help me get to the next level and military school wasn’t the place for that. I did beat the Corps commander in the final tournament of the year but by that time I was just glad to know I wasn’t coming back.
When I first looked down the list of sports available at Tabor I saw tennis, rifle team, and golf. I knew I could do those but there was some overlap that would always cause me not to be able to play any golf. There was a Tennis Club in town and I knew that several of the Tabor townies belonged there and their game showed it. Tennis was their game and all the lessons and coaching they had over the years put them well above anything I was going to achieve. But that was ok I thought, we each will have a sport that will allow us to achieve, and while I really liked to play, this wasn’t going to be my game.
Another of the games available to Tabor was squash. For those that are not familiar, think of it as tennis is a closet with a very hard solid rubber ball. I was really glad I had learned it because I would go on to play it for many years. At that time squash and handball were two very popular games in New England, much like racquetball is today. There were many municipal outdoor squash courts available throughout the Boston area and there was always someone at one of the places I worked that would want to play after work. But it’s really a young person’s game. For office workers who sit all day, squash can be a little much. But it was free, as was tennis, and that was important. Golf cost real money to play and it would be a while before I could do that.
Along the way I got a job as a bank teller. The branch manager there was very interested in tennis and we began to play on a regular basis. Somehow I became his teacher and I discovered I had a natural affinity for teaching. Interestingly, the more I taught him the better I got. I would go on to play for a few more years at a B-level before my knees got so bad I couldn’t play anymore. I had probably damaged an ACl or MCL in each knee more than once over the years although there was never a doctor that could diagnose it properly, it became obvious that the sudden stops and quick changes in direction that tennis required was more than I would ever be able to do again.
And so for about 5 years I didn’t play any sports at all. I tried to rehabilitate my knees as best I could with the thought of perhaps getting back into it at some point. I knew that golf was a game for a lifetime but only if your knees would let you. I guess that was my main fear that I would never get to play golf again. But slowly I would try different shots at the driving range with some success and finally I started to play again. I was seriously terrible but I was determined to learn this game or die trying.
I was always drawn to games and sports that were inherently impossible to achieve perfection. You could bowl a 300 but what then? No one had ever achieved a perfect score in a shooting tournament, not even close, not even in the Olympics. Ben Hogan is largely credited with having shot the perfect round of golf but afterward was quoted as saying, “there were probably only half a dozen shots that I pulled off the way I wanted to.” I watched players from Rod Laver to Jimmy Connors, Billy Jean King to Chris Evert beat their opponents 6-0, 6-0 but never did they think their game was as good as it could be. These were the games I was drawn to, games that were inherently impossible.
By the time I was 32 or so I got a job where there was a golf league. It was nothing too serious but it gave me a reason to concentrate on this impossible game. I didn’t want to embarrass myself and I wanted to be a good teammate. Slowly I got better despite using clubs I borrowed from my father and finally I bought my first set of clubs. They were nothing special but they were designed for someone my age and ability and that made a lot of difference. Later when we were transferred to Virginia I played golf more often because the weather was better and the facilities were better and more plentiful.
When I retired and could play and practice as much as I wanted, I got my handicap down to about an 8. I was never too trusting of that since country club golf can be somewhat easier than playing the municipal course. I still play, although not as often. But I never came close to achieving perfection and that was what kept me coming back.
© J T Weaver