Julius Caesar was stabbed on March 15th in the Roman Senate. Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus led 60 conspirators in overthrowing the government and killing the Roman Emperor. Caesar had been warned by the soothsayer to “Beware the Ides of March”, but he ignored the warning and regretfully met his fate in 44 B.C.
Thankfully, my biggest regret did not result in anything as dramatic as Caesar’s betrayal and death. By historical standards it pales in comparison. In fact, it is insignificant by almost any standard or comparison. The biggest regret in my life is that I never learned to enjoy the game of golf.
While I played golf sporadically from college through my forties, I never got the hang of it. I was hampered by eyesight that eventually required tri-focal glasses. The ball appeared slightly different depending on the angle of my eyes.
More importantly, I just did not have the right temperament. I liked controlling things and I usually could not control where the ball would wind up on the course. I was not patient enough to practice enough to get better. I did not like playing a game I seldom won.
On my 50th birthday, I gave myself a present. I would no longer do anything that I did not enjoy doing, and I never picked up a golf club again. I regret that decision, though I still think it was the best thing for me to do at the time.
My wife, Mary Lou, and I, along with her sister, Charlotte, joined their brother and his wife, Tommy and Gail, at the Grand National Golf Course for the Tiger Invitational Golf Tournament. Twelve SEC collegiate golf teams, along with five non-conference teams gathered in Auburn on the Ides of March. We were there to cheer on Tommy and Gail’s son, Thomas, who plays for the University of Alabama.
While I never liked playing golf, I enjoy watching it immensely. It was a beautiful day, with the highs in the mid 70s, a brisk wind and overcast skies. The course is magnificent with water coming into play on 14 holes of the course they played.
I tease Thomas that I will watch and cheer for him, even wear crimson shirts, but I cannot be expected to utter the words, “Roll Tide”. Some things are too much to ask, even for family.
As I got dressed Monday morning for the 36 holes that we would walk that day as spectators, I realized that I did not own a single cap that did not support Auburn in some fashion. I did have two old caps from the Master’s Tournament in Augusta, but apparently my head size has changed since those were purchased.
Nevertheless, we followed the threesome that Thomas was playing with for over twelve hours. Andrew Kozan was a player representing Auburn. Davis Thompson was a player from the University of Georgia who ironically grew up in Auburn. Incidentally, he is currently ranked as the top ranked amateur golfer in the world. Not a bad group to follow.
I had never played or walked the Grand National Course, part of the famous Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. It exceeded my expectations. I had never been on a course that almost surrounded a single body of water, in this case, Lake Saugahatchee. You could see a half dozen holes in play from certain spots.
The geese were honking as the early morning players disturbed their resting spots. The steady sounds of trains going through Opelika and Auburn were joined by more planes than I would ever imagine in such a rural setting.
There were boats fishing in the lake just a dozen yards from the flags on several greens. The sunset over the lake at the 18th hole was a setting made for television. Everywhere you looked, there were athletic young men playing a game with a high level of expertise. They were calm, calculating and collected. They seemed to be having fun, both those at the top of the leaderboard and those lagging far behind.
I have never enjoyed a day of golf more than I did today and at one of the top courses in the country to boot. The weather was perfect. The setting was beautiful. My nephew and his threesome played well. And to top it off, Auburn University was the team in the lead at the end of two rounds.
I regret I never learned to relax enough to enjoy golf like all these young men. I regret I do not play this game in my retirement with men of my age. However, on this day that regret was more than offset by my enjoyment of the competition between these young golfers representing their respective college teams at a high level.
For this particular Ides of March, I have no regrets at all.
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]