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Life lessons from a golf course

Forty something years ago (gulp!) yours truly was “cutting cups” at Penobby.

What does cutting cups mean, and where is Penobby?

Well first, cutting cups refers to cutting into a golf green with a special tool that digs a round hole for the cup to be placed in. You know that thing the flag sticks out of on golf greens? The cup that often seems waaaay too small and hard to locate with your Titleist? That’s the cup I’m talking about. And Penobby? Penobby refers to the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono, located just up the road a piece from the house I lived in during my schoolin’ years.

Early each morning during the weeks of late spring, summer and early autumn, it was my job to careen around the hills and dales of Penobby in a spare golf cart to cut new holes into each green, perform the appropriate amount of manicuring around the freshly cut holes, then place the cup and flag into the hole.

After that task was completed, I spent much of the day on a tractor pulling a gang of rotary mowers across the roughs, daydreaming about the day the Bosox would finally win a World Series title. So to be sure, I have fond memories of my time at Penobby from back in the day over 4 decades ago.

This is why it was especially cool to have our eldest grandson, who plays on the Old Town High golf team, ask if I would join him for a round of golf at Penobby on a recent Friday. The next day he was scheduled to participate in the state championship match in Vassalboro, and he wanted to get in a practice round the day before the big match.

As we began swingin’ the sticks together that day, and after I got over my fear that the stink of my golf game would rub-off on said grandkid thereby ruining his chances the following day, I began to sense how the game of golf serves to teach at least two valuable life lessons.

As examples, each time we set-up to smack our drives from one of the 18 tee boxes, I was reminded that it was just a few years ago, or so I thought, that my grandkid, now in high school, attempted to swipe at whiffle golf balls in our back yard barely after he learned to walk. I was the teacher, he was the student. But not anymore, I thought, as I watched his drives soar across each fairway, as mine bumbled and stumbled many yards behind. Time flies fast; don’t take it for granted became my first lesson of the day.

And as we played, we hit some decent shots, but we also hit some sour shots. OK, it was mostly yours truly slicing, dicing and hooking. Yet we were surrounded by brilliant fall foliage on and around Penobby and the nearby Penobscot River. Lesson #2? The toils of golf amidst the beauty of an autumn day in Maine reminded me that the journey of life includes both triumphs and trials, yet if we look around we will surely find beauty around us somewhere.

I’ve always appreciated sports, especially playing various games with my twin brother and our buds over the years. I still enjoy the challenge and competition of shooting hoops, attempting to hit assorted varieties of base/soft/whiffle/golf balls, and trying to perfect a spiral with our worn-out football as someone races across the back yard on a post-pattern. Yet lately, I’ve come to embrace the lessons sports teaches us.

I hope I can pass these lessons along to my grandkids, but it may be hard to get their attention as they out-race, out-hit, and out-shoot me. It’s quite the struggle to keep up with them these days….

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