Lessons from the Golf Course

I hope the title of this blog entry doesn’t mislead anyone. I do not play golf and have no desire to learn the game. Occasionally, I participate in a charity golf event called a “best ball” tournament. These tournaments are not real golf because individual scores are not kept and only the team effort counts. In the previous five or six tournaments I’ve played in over the past four decades, my partners were always somewhat competent golfers; so knowledge of my ineptitude was confined to a small group. I even won prizes for sinking the longest putt and placing a second shot closest to the hole in a couple of these contests. I think it’s possible, however, that my individual scores could easily have approached 200 for a typical round of 18 holes. A really good score is usually between 70-80.

My most recent effort took place last week at the annual Albany Firefighters Community Assistance Fund (AFFCAF) tournament. My partners were Police Chief Ed Boyd, Fire Chief John Bradner, and Fire Marshal Mike Trabue. I think the citizens of Albany should take a good deal of comfort in knowing how bad our senior managers are at golf. We are obviously not spending too many hours away from our desks whacking a little ball around a course for no apparent reason. Our team was so bad that no other team came within ten strokes of us. The only glimmer of competence displayed through the course of the game took place when Chief Bradner miraculously made a “birdie” on one of the holes. I won’t try to explain a birdie to my fellow nongolfers, except to say that it is, in golf terms, a good thing.

I am happy to report that despite my miserable golfing skills, I learned a lot about the character of our senior emergency services managers through the course of the tournament. Despite many sound reasons to use profanity during the game, I don’t recall hearing a single expletive from anyone in our foursome. I’m pretty sure a couple of team members were thinking them after some particularly bad efforts, but they showed admirable restraint.

There were no quitters in our group. I’m not sure if this is evidence of good or poor judgment; I’m only certain that we endured to the end. I think we were the last people off the course because everyone else passed us as we struggled to find balls or sent pieces of turf flying into the air. I know that there were a number of shots where the turf went farther than the ball. Mike Trabue and I competed for the most number of swings and misses. We called those “practice swings,” although there was little evidence that the practice produced any beneficial results.

The most important lesson from the game is that it served a good cause. AFFCAF does great work in the community and helps build trust between the City and those we serve. If the price of that outcome is looking a little foolish once a year, it’s one I will gladly continue to pay.