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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Maybe Age Really Is Just a Number

Lately I've been considering the saying "the golf ball doesn't know how old you are."

Although it gets batted about by the media quite often, I'm convinced that few of them really believe it. If they did, would they be so shocked when Tom Watson competes at an Open Championship? Would they gaze in amazement when Fred Couples shows up on a Masters leaderboard... or on any PGA Tour leaderboard, for that matter? Would they be so surprised at the number of wins Vijay Singh has amassed since the age of 40?

No, clearly the media still doesn't believe their own words. It doesn't matter what they say, their attitudes are proof that they truly believe golf balls know your age... and have a vendetta against seniors.

Older players who have become commentators -- as well as commentators who never played -- just can't believe it when an Ernie Els or a Steve Stricker pokes his nose into the Top 10 of a tournament. They keep speculating on just how long Phil can "hold it together" and "be competitive." I'm beginning to believe that most of them are now convinced that the game has passed them by and therefore it's only fair if it passes by the rest of us as well.

I've got news for you, folks. All that talk about how your putting leaves you when you get older because you lose your nerve or get too much "scar tissue" from missed putts is just so much sour grapes. Don't listen to those who lament how young players play with such confidence and how "those days are gone for us older folks."

Do you want to know why older players struggle with their games while younger players don't? It's because the older players have learned so much that they believe they can control every aspect of their games. They believe that if putts don't go in, it's because they didn't take something into account. They believe that if they don't take all those things into account, they are bad golfers and even worse people. So they "focus" themselves into a nervous mindset that won't settle for less than perfection. And this attempt to over-control their games eventually destroys their ability to play well.

But those are lies, folks -- pure boldfaced lies. You never control it all. You never did, and you never will.

Ernie Els and Steve Stricker aren't unusual in their passion to keep playing. They're just unusual in that they haven't given in to the lies that most golfers believe. They know the game hasn't passed them by. As long as you're reasonably healthy and willing to play the game with the same patience you need to live your life, the game will never leave you.

Even players in other sports are beginning to realize this. Payton Manning expects to make some waves with the Denver Broncos this year, and other "old" players are proving that they can still play football with the young kids.

I've been watching the NBA Playoffs as I write this. The Dallas Mavericks were supposed to be too old to win last year and after they did, the oddsmakers didn't even give them a fighting chance to defend. Well, here they are in the playoffs again and giving the much younger Oklahoma City Thunder a run for their money in the first game. Too old indeed.

Several of the young players on various teams are out of the playoffs due to injuries sustained during this shortened season. The Boston Celtics were written off early in the season because they were too old, and people laughed at the San Antonio Spurs when Tim Duncan sat out a game earlier this year and the listed reason was simply "old." But not only did both teams make the playoffs in relative good health, but the Spurs finished with the best record in the West and analysts are saying that nobody wants to face the Celtics right now.

Maybe age is just a number after all... and not just in golf. If I were you, I would ignore the people who tell you otherwise.

And if you suspect your golf ball really does know your age, just lose it. Ignorant balls are available by the dozen.

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