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What Is Love

A few months ago, my fiancé came home from work and announced that she had signed up for golf lessons. This came as something of a shock to me because throughout the course of our relationship Melanie had just barely tolerated my enthusiasm for the game. But, she thought, if you can`t beat`em, you can always try to join`em.

When she delivered the news I tried to temper my excitement knowing that if I tried too hard she`d feel the pressure to actually do well which is a recipe for disaster. I do have to admit though that I was fairly confident that, if she stuck to the lessons, she`d actually be able to play the game at an enjoyable level. We have been playing tennis together for a couple of years and through her steady improvement on the court she has demonstrated a natural athletic ability.

On the weekend before her first lesson I took Melanie to a local Par 3 course so that we could have something to measure her progress against. I had already taught her how to grip and swing the club it but she didn`t have any consistency yet. I have to give her full points for sticking with it and it really wasn`t until the 7th hole that she began to flag. By the time we got to nine she couldn`t get back to the car fast enough. That is not what this story is about.

Melanie`s lessons took place every Tuesday and Thursday night at the Ken Fulton Golf Centre. She was in a group of 10 students. Each night they would buy themselves a bucket of balls, get basic instructions about the grip, take away, follow through or finish and then head out to the practice mats to hit their balls. The instructor walked up and down the line spending a little one on one time with each of the students. One week he told them that in all of his years, only one student has ever not improved after taking his lessons and practiced. Practice, he told them, was the key to success.

And practice she did. Melanie was determined to follow through with this and see what happens. After each lesson I`d ask how things went and she would either tell me a funny story about how the teacher insisted on calling her Å“Amy or she would grumble that she was the worst golfer in the world and didn`t know why anyone would want to play the game. I, of course, smiled. Melanie wasn`t the only person to have ever thought they were the worst golfer ever. She was merely the next person to say that they were the worst golfer ever.

For the most part, I tried to stay away from fiddling with what she had been learning. When the family would go to the driving range I`d watch her swing and I`d see that her fundamentals were all in place. When I told her that she was building a really sound swing, she complained that the balls went the same distance no matter what club she swung. And then she demonstrated the fact to me. Sure enough, her 9 iron, 7 iron and 3 wood all traveled about 70 yards.

Two weeks ago, Melanie`s set of lessons were coming to and end. She came home one night to say that another series of 16 lessons over 8 weeks was coming up and they`d be learning how to his off grass rather than mats. I told her that if she wanted to take the lessons that I`d pay for them. She happily accepted my offer. I nodded. Inside, I exploded. She hadn`t said anything, but clearly she wasn`t hating this.

Last week, I had the opportunity to play at the magnificent Galt Golf Club as part of their 100th Anniversary media day. I played with the club`s head pro Dave Smallwood who was both as gracious and gregarious as any one you`d want to play with. I told him Melanie`s concern about the distances on her clubs and he made a solid point. He told me that at her swing speed, the distance increments between clubs are not going to be that big. Once her swing speeds up, her distances will change.

That night I told her what Dave said. I also told her that I could tell how much she loved me because she was trying so hard to learn this game that she hated. Å“I don`t hate it, she said. I didn`t respond. I didn`t smirk. Inside I was just giddy. I had my confirmation that she didn`t hate golf. Baby steps. Baby steps.

Melanie and I spent Saturday and Sunday morning painting the garage doors. We spent Sunday afternoon at the Royal Ashburn driving range. I bought a large bucket of balls and watched her groove one ball after another straight towards the 100 yard pin. Most of her irons were flying about 70 yards and rolling another 10. She`s really gotten the swing of her driver and 3 wood and those balls flew 90 yards and rolled another 15.

About three quarters of the way through the bucket I asked her if I could suggest something. She stood back and listened as I explained how to bring the club back slowly and then accelerate from the top of the swing through the ball. I demonstrated by miming what we do with our tennis rackets. Å“But I have this other hand in the way, she complained. I told her that it`s just along for the ride. So she set up away from her ball and tried it. Almost immediately you could see that the more aggressive swing was bring the club down into the ball, something she had been having a very difficult time doing to this point. After 4 or 5 practice swings she placed her 7 iron behind the ball. She pulled the club back at an nice even pace to the top of her back swing and then¦BOOM, the ball flew! It actually flew through the air. It traveled straight as an arrow and hit the ground at about 90 yards and rolled past the 100 yard pin. Three of her next four shots repeated the flight. She pulled out her 6 iron. BOOM. It landed past the 100 yard pin. She pulled out her 5 iron. BOOM. It went further still. I got her to bring out the 3 wood. She crushed it 130 yards. Her driver sent the ball past the 150 marker! Her clubs were now hitting the ball correctly on most swings. When she missed a shot she knew instinctively what had gone wrong. I bought a second bucket of balls and she kept swinging until she couldn`t lift her arms anymore.

On the ride home Melanie waxed on enthusiastically about how she finally felt what the swing was supposed to feel like. She noted that now that she swung faster the swing actually felt more natural. She even said that she enjoyed herself! She enjoyed herself.

That, dear reader, is what love is about.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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