Pam, my dear Polish blonde friend, had asked me to take golfing lessons with her one year but I was busy and unable to. We had both been interested in trying golf but knew without lessons we would be so busy laughing at everything we were doing wrong that we’d be kicked off before we made it to the second hole. Pam went ahead and took the lessons with another friend but didn’t say much about it except that she should probably take a few more. The following summer I asked her if she was ready. She didn’t sound very enthusiastic but, after realizing I was going to take lessons with or without her, decided to join me. Pam reassured me when I expressed concern that I would be so far behind my modest friend that I would never catch up. Knowing there were two instructors, I was sure they would split us up. Pam would be off with the grown-ups in the advanced class while I was left behind with a group of pre-teens just starting out.
Since we lived in separate towns, I spent the night at her place and off we went to the driving range in the wee early hours of the morning. We had a great time the evening before and Pam said nothing that hinted of impending doom. She didn’t seem quite her cheery self that morning but I was so excited that I didn’t think too much about it. THEN…she pulled into the parking lot, stopped the car, and turned toward me with a troubled look. “We need to talk first”, she said. She looked so serious that I was worried and wondered what terrible thing had befallen my dear friend and why she chose this particular moment to share it with me. With trepidation, I prepared to listen. I was ready to lend my ear, my shoulder, add my tears to hers, even give up the golfing lessons that day to be there for her.
Sternly, she warned, “I just want you to know that this is not fun. It is hard work. You probably won’t even hit the ball this time. It is hot, frustrating work but it is NOT fun. Do you still want to go? We don’t have to.” Suddenly the butterflies in my stomach were no longer from excitement but anxiety. I bravely nodded my head and assured her I was ready to do it. I had waited too long for this day to give it up that easily. Wishing she had warned me earlier that we were not embarking on another fun adventure, I went forward to my fate. I was more sure than ever that Pam would be in another class and I would be left far, far behind, swatting at balls that refused to budge. Maybe nothing would be gained but it would only be the loss of one day. I wasn’t committing to anything but that one hot summer morning. If it was as bad as Pam said, I would forget about golf and take up one of the other little hobbies we’d discussed…flying a small plane or white water rafting.
The instructor, Bill Hopple , was there with a few other students and a tiny lady in her 70’s who took the money and berated us to get started. I assumed Bill was nice enough to let her help him. I assumed wrong. She was a seasoned pro and he was her assistant. When he had a tough problem with a student, Ginny would take one look at the swing or stance and solve the problem. Little and spry, Ginny Fay, LPGA, had a New York to-the-point way about her. She didn’t worry about hurting feelings or being nice. She was there to teach and if you weren’t there to learn, you could just move on. Pam and I got in trouble all summer for laughing but she knew we were also taking the game seriously so she put up with us. We even had her giggling a time or two. Once Pam relaxed and didn’t take it so seriously, she actually started having fun and looked forward to our lessons. I’m glad I’ve learned not to take her warnings of doom too seriously or I would have missed out on some great times.
To my delight, my first stroke hit the ball and I was off to a summer of fun and a lifetime love of the game. I talked my friends Cindy and Ellen into joining us for lessons and the four of us would go out to eat, visit museums or saunter through downtown art fests after. Lovely Dixie, a true southern belle, would have taken lessons with us if it didn’t involve getting up so early on a weekend. Bill Hopple, Jr., PGTA , is now a seasoned pro and I highly recommend him if you’re interested in taking lessons in the Ocala, Florida area. Ginny, thanks to Bill’s loving heart, spent many of her last days at the driving range in a wheelchair, still teaching. She passed on in 2007 from cancer. Cindy and I lost touch but I think about her often. Ellen and Miss Dixie are now in colder northern states. Pam is still…well…Pam is still Pam.