Space potatoes! What if… now bare with me here… what if there are potatoes floating around space? Wouldn’t that be something? I think that would really be something. Or even more, what if there is a Soft Serve Starch Station in the corner of the galaxy? The possibilities are endless. Endless I tell you!
I’m very much tethered to the chair today. (I know, great transition. Often times my introductions have nothing to do with anything, but I like them just so.) I had a very sad Saturday. I had been practicing pretty hard for this golf tournament, which was a qualifier for the United States Amateur. I haven’t played much competitive golf over the last couple years, but I’ve been playing a fair amount this summer and was feeling better about my game than I have in a really long time. I’ve come very close to qualifying for the US Amateur on a couple different occasions, and the qualifier was the one tournament this year I really cared about. This was my year.
The tournament was on Monday. On Saturday, I woke up sick. I was pretty pissed, but I knew if I rested up I would hopefully be feeling better for the 36-hole qualifier on Monday. I slept all day, ate dinner and watched some baseball in the backyard. Then, I went to put the cover on the TV, and as I went to step down off about a three foot ledge, I slipped on some water, fell off, and landed sideways on my ankle, suffering a high ankle sprain. I smacked the hot tub in a pit of rage and then laid back in pain on the concrete. I looked up at the sky and simply began laughing.
I laughed for probably ten minutes at the comedy of errors that was my Saturday. I stared at the sky and let the pain run through me, giving it no attention at all. I didn’t even care about my ankle, or the highly unpleasant physical sensation I knew was coursing through my veins; which I was aware of only from past experiences of ankle injuries, because in that moment, I was somewhere else. I was on the golf course, wondering how I was going to walk 36 holes and qualify for the US Amateur on one leg.
I wish this story had a heroic end. Maybe it does, somewhere off in the future. All I can say, is that I gave it everything I had. I taped up my ankle, took some kratom to help with the pain, and got up at 4:45 AM on that Monday morning to give it a try. I could hardly walk, and the injury was to my left ankle, so I was unable to transfer any weight on my golf swing. In short, I was swinging on one leg. My back leg at that. I would swing and then step through the shot or lift my leg up, trying to find some modified manner in which I could move the ball forward.
I sprayed my first shot way right, with little power behind the drive, turning a short par four into a long iron approach. I was 170 yards away and took out a five iron, which I normally hit about 190. I hit it perfect, right at the pin. It ended up on the green about 20 feet short of the flag. I two-putted and went on to the next hole. I thought “alright, that wasn’t so bad.” I somehow grooved a drive down the middle on the second hole, and ended up with about a fifteen foot putt for birdie, which hung on the lip of the cup. I made par on the third hole, and then bogied two of the next three, realizing that any lie that wasn’t on flat ground was going to give me a whole lot of trouble.
I made par on seven, and headed to eight, a par five. Hilariously, I went driver, three iron, four iron and made the putt for birdie. I laughed. It was funny. I was in pain, but I was having a lot of fun. I was really focused, and my swing was perfectly on plane. I had no power, one leg, and could hardly walk, but something in me felt I still had a chance. On nine, I found myself in the green side bunker. Unable to dig into the sand, I clipped the ball clean and launched it forty yards over the green. I thought this shot was going to do me in.
Somehow, I put the next shot to six feet and made the putt for bogey, making the turn at two over par. I birdied three of the next four holes to get to one under. I knew you had to be at about five under after the two rounds to get in, so I actually thought I had a chance. I ended up limping in both literally and figuratively for a first round 75.
I went out there for the second round, but after three holes, I couldn’t walk anymore. I had given it all I had and withdrew. I felt an interesting mix of emotions. I was deeply upset and disappointed, because I really felt that if I was healthy I would have qualified. I was one under through fourteen holes on one leg. When I thought about this, though, I also felt a deep sense of pride.
I’ve had a round of 64 before. I’ve lipped out a putt for a front nine 29 in a tournament. I’v had two holes in one. But I was more proud of shooting 75 on one leg. I proved to myself something that none of those other accomplishments could give me. In the past, I would have withdrawn before the tournament started. I had no business playing. I only made the injury worse. There wasn’t any way I was going to walk 36 holes, let alone qualify. But I had to try.
I learned I could push my body and my mind further than I thought. I also learned how valuable the lesson of going until you can’t go anymore is. It showed me how we as people can do more than we think we can. The limit of human achievement is crazy high. I think about the things people are able to accomplish, and it boggles my brain hole. It’s stuff I would never think of doing myself. Things that are so much greater than anything I’ve even come close to touching. Those people, who are unfathomably exceptional, have become experts of pushing the limits.
I’m nothing like those people, but pushing through my privileged little golf tournament on a high ankle sprain helped me tap into something that my bitchy little past hadn’t had the nut to understand. And that’s something.