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The wildlife was sparse at the Bottoms this summer, largely due to the drought and the scorching heat. Doc and I gave it our all to find and photograph as many critters as we could, but I finally threw up the white flag and pursued a different type of birdie for once. Sure this birdie doesn’t have any feathers, but it is a beast of its own and can get a little hairy at times. The animal of which I speak is none other than the wonderful sport of golf.
I have never been a golfer, nor have I ever attempted to step foot on a green or fairway. Sure I have always enjoyed putt putt and hitting balls with reckless abandon in my backyard growing up, but never have I played golf. It always looked so boring to me. You stood around and waited for your turn to take a stick and hit a ball further away from you. You then ran after the ball and hit it yet farther away. It always seemed like you were training a dog to fetch without the dog being present. Doc has been asking me for the last several years to play with him and every pharmaceutical rep I know plays, so I thought why not?  I played baseball most of my childhood where I hit a ball with a stick, so how hard could it be? As it turns out, it is hard as all get out and you have to be a golf genius to get started.
First off, I needed clubs, which seemed simple enough. That was, until I walked into a pro shop and saw an array of clubs, lengths, metals, brands and so on. I began to wonder if anything was easy with this sport! I first had to get fitted for club height, grip size, shaft flex, steel vs graphite, etc. It was like dropping me off in a foreign country where no one spoke English and saying good luck. I was beginning to regret my decision to get into golf already! I began to wonder if this was ever going to be as fun as people said it was.
I was finally ready to head to the driving range after getting an arsenal of needed and unneeded gear. I had a false hope that I would be a natural and hit the ball freakishly far, perfectly straight, and speed of light fast. Instead, the Course Pro came over after only hitting five balls and said, “I figured it was cheaper for me to come over and give you a free lesson than to let you keep hitting my range balls into the pond.” This of course was not quite the grand entrance I was hoping to make with the golfing community. This may sound strange, but it was in that embarrassing moment that I became addicted to the game.
Am I good? Far from it, but like everything else, it is about the experience and the memories you create that will last a lifetime, not the putt you miss or the sand trap that always attracts my ball. As Doc always says, “There are a lot of things that matter when you play golf with friends, but not one of them involves the score.” I am grateful to have friends that chase my ball all over the course with me and put up with my learning of a game I am growing to love. I have yet to beat Doc at a round, but it hasn’t stopped me from practicing daily to shave strokes off of my score.
So if you see Doc or me rummaging around in the rough at Stoneridge Golf Course, it isn’t because we are looking for a snake or trying to take a picture of an interesting critter. For once, the only animal we are looking for is a little white ball that I cannot seem to hit straight for the life of me! Until next time!
Eric Giesing and Dr. Dan Witt are nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers.