Taking a Mulligan

My brother loves golf. As far as I am aware, he is not a particularly adept golfer but he enjoys playing the game. Even with his amateur skills, he considers golf to be a calming experience. More of a leisurely pursuit than a sport.

When the two of us get together, we will often chat about different places to golf. I tell him about local courses he would enjoy if he was ever in the Coeur d'Alene area for more than an overnight stay. He will tell me about his favorite (and sometimes disastrous) rounds. I am not a golfer but I know enough to hold my own in a conversation about fairways, drivers, wedges, and getting stuck in the rough. However, with my knowledge of the game comes the assumption that I actually want to play.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not opposed to playing golf. If someone is willing to cover my green fees and allow me to borrow a set of clubs, I will go. But if you ask me how I would prefer to spend a free day, there are greater activities I could choose to occupy my time. I would rather spend my money on something other than balls and clubs and those fancy covers for the clubs. I do not hate golfing, but rather just indifferent.

Yet with my brother, I will play along. It is of interest to him so I have no reservations indulging him. He frequently mentions how he wants to take me out for a round of golf during one of my future visits to Cheyenne. As long I can use someone else's clubs, I might take him up on the offer.

Despite my reticence to play golf, there is a concept about the sport I do appreciate: the mulligan. In golf, if you make an unnaturally atrocious shot, you can (depending on who you play with) declare a mulligan and retry it. If you have a sloppy swing which results in a wild hook or slices into the trees, it is OK. Ask for a mulligan and you can pretend it never happened. No penalty. No impact against your score. No shame on your golfing reputation.

In the few times when I have participated in a round of golf, I made one thing abundantly clear. I am a player in desperate need of liberal mulligan usage. I once tried to explain my golfing handicap to my brother; the conversation was not as simple as I had anticipated. It went something like this:

Me: “When I go golfing, whatever is par, I will quadruple it.”
Aaron: “I did that once. By the time I reached the green, the best I could do was a bogey. But I had a bad approach so I knew it would take me at least two putts to sink it. However, I overshot the second putt and cruised past the hole. Then I was looking at a triple bogey. That putt fell a little short and I had to tap it in for a quadruple bogey.”
Me: “No, Aaron. I am worse than that. Not par plus four. More like par times four.”
Aaron: (dumbfounded) “Oh.”

My brother might not be a good golfer, but I am terrible. Thankfully, there are mulligans.

I love the concept of a mulligan. Sometimes, we need a second chance. Sometimes, we need a do over. And if that maxim is valid on the links, it is even truer in life.

Unfortunately, reality can be a bit crueler than a day of golf. Life does not often reward us with a chance to do it all again. Usually, what is done is done and we must suffer the consequence of every decision we make. Good or bad, we know we are stuck with the results. We have to play it as it lies. Yet there are moments of grace; times in our lives where we get a do over even if undeserved. To be honest, this is how I would describe my year so far.

I ended 2015 on a high note: surrounded by my kids and some of the best friends I have ever known. The holiday season was wonderful and better than any I have had in recent memory. Things were looking up. Between church, kids, and work, my calendar was filled. From my professional routines to my writing projects at home, it seemed like everything was going my way.

Then life fell apart. The first weekend of the new year brought crisis. By the time January was over, I was ready to write the month off as a practice round. And by the end of February, I needed a mulligan.

While I had an awful start to the year, it was not all bad. I discovered a lot about grace. I learned how and when to ask for help. I was humbled. I risked a few brave choices. I took a break from blogging. I put in a lot of exercise. When I asked, “Who is on my team,” I received an answer. I am thankful for a rough couple months, yet those are two months I do not wish to relive.

As for the mulligan? I got one. January was a sand trap. February was a water hazard. All things considered, I am calling March my first month of 2016. I may be two and a months late in saying this, but happy New Year. Welcome to my mulligan.

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