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On National Golf Day, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways...

5 Min Read


On National Golf Day, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways...

    Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic

    Justin Thomas loves the grind. Max Homa lives for the competition. Xander Schauffele can’t help but enjoy the everlasting challenge.

    It’s the beautiful thing about golf. An individualistic endeavor at its core, golf inherently means something different to everyone. For some, it’s purely social, a place to enjoy friendly company new and old. For others, it’s the constant pursuit of improvement. The question “Why do you love golf?” elicits a wide array of responses.

    I enjoy the walk more than anything.

    Whether intentional or not, the golf course frequently becomes my mental playground. For those four hours, I’m jumping from thought to thought, some about my golf game – mostly about everything going on outside of it. It’s one of the few uninterrupted times to engage in my thoughts all while escaping from the busyness of the day and spending time outdoors. There’s just something about the walk.

    Professional golfers mostly are devoid of the many charms that bring recreational golfers to the sport. When posed with the question, “Why do you love golf?” Max Homa sat with his thoughts for a moment before letting out a wry smile.

    “That's a funny question,” he said. “What's funny is I think when I was a kid, I truly loved golf. I'm not so sure I love golf anymore, but I love competing and getting better so much, so golf provides the platform for that.”

    Homa clarifies, he still loves golf, but it’s different now. The boyish love, the love that still brings many recreational golfers into the game, has slipped away.

    “Back when I was a kid, I loved golf because it was a way to hang out with my friends and try to make an eagle or a birdie and then wig out for a few weeks,” he said. “Now we've done so much in the game that sadly an amazing 7-iron doesn't make me as happy as it used to, which is sad.”

    PGA TOUR players share why they love golf

    The feeling of escape that the everyday golfer clings to has become impossible for Homa to feel. Everything off the golf course is his escape. Golf is a job and it’s changed his relationship to the game. One can sense Homa still is working out his thoughts in real time. Golf has brought him to the pinnacle of the sport – he now is a six-time winner on the PGA TOUR. But it also has buried him. He lost his card twice before finally breaking through to win the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship. He questioned whether to continue, to keep giving so much of himself to a game that had not been kind in return. To keep going he had to love it. The relationship for a professional golfer is much more complicated. Homa is wrestling with that.

    “I love so much of this game, and I'm obsessed with it, but when I compare it to like loving other things, it's just different. This game, this game beats you over the head so much, it's an abusive relationship. I give it everything I possibly have and then I have days and weeks where I just feel like it hates me. It's quite similar to like the very beginning of parenthood, when your kid's like a month old and he's just screaming at you and you're just loving it so much and it's not giving you anything back except literally poop. That would be how I would put golf sometimes.”

    There’s something deeper there. The love isn’t unconditional. Any golfer will tell you the game has kicked him or her to the curb a time or two. The love is earned – and it’s navigating the struggle that often keeps them going.

    “Sometimes as you go and play and everything goes right and you feel great and you're on top of the moon,” Adam Hadwin said. “And then the next day you feel great, and everything goes wrong, and you fail miserably … it is that inner battle. And I think that's what continues to drive me after, you know, 14 years as a professional now, is never being satisfied. I guess it's one day you have it, the next day you don't. This ebb and flow. And it keeps me coming back.”

    Sure, the money doesn’t hurt, either. It makes the long weeks on the road worth it, knowing millions of dollars are up for grabs when a golfer plays good. But money is far from the main motivator. Given how much stress those stakes add, it’s remarkable how much professional golfers still love the most rudimentary aspects of the sport.

    When Justin Thomas is asked why he loves golf, he struggles to be concise. Most of us can’t relate to winning some of the biggest tournaments in the world. But the essence of Thomas’ words captures the uniqueness of golf.

    “I love the individual part of it,” Thomas begins. “I like that there's nobody to blame or nobody to pick you up or no one to bring you down other than yourself. I like the fact that you can just go out and get it. It's finding what you need to get better at, it's the challenge of trying to get better. I don't know … I just, I love everything about it.”

    “There's nothing better than when you put a lot of hard work in, and you start to see it paying off and you get yourself in contention in a big tournament like this, or in a major championship, and you execute those shots and make those putts and handle that moment like you know you can, and how you've been practicing and you pull it off and you're the one holding the trophy – that's why I love golf.”

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