Whenever I tell someone that I studied in St. Andrew’s, they immediately ask whether I golfed while there. (If the person in question is a man, he will generally make vague golf motions and look at me quizzically.) Sadly, I have to explain that I did not take up golf until this summer—two months after I abruptly left Scotland. I did, however, run past the Old Course nearly every day. Once, I actually ran through the course, which is most likely frowned upon…oops.
I may have missed the opportunity to play in “golf mecca,” but I have since taken to hitting the range and, occasionally, battering my way through 18 holes. I’m not bad. I’m not good. And yet, I enjoy it. Plus, any sport with a dress code is worth trying because, let’s face it, polos are flattering!
Really, though, I enjoy golf because it is active (but not as strenuous as running) and mental (but not as stressful as researching). I enjoy it, too, because it takes me back to St. Andrew’s, where I used to work on papers in the Golf Café, listening for the sharp clink of a driver amidst the crying of seagulls.
Struggling with homesickness, loneliness, and the displaced feeling that naturally comes with being in one’s twenties, I did not love St. Andrew’s as I should have. I feel now that I should have danced with greater abandon at each ceilidh, thrown my window open each morning to watch the sun rise over the sea, and been more outgoing in forging friendships and seeking mentorships. I did these things, but not with nearly as much love as I wish I had.
Tennyson wrote his In Memoriam while enduring tragedy, and likely I will continue to write my own poetry as I learn more of love and loss. My “active and imaginative” inclinations, however, also compel me to physically do something with my yearning, grieving, and remembering. And so, taking up golf is itself an act of memoriam. Golfing has become a small, silly way of loving St. Andrew’s from Arizona.
Golf has greater significance, too, as a familial endeavour. I play with my grandfather’s clubs, which have sat dormant and, I think, depressed, for twelve years. He passed away when I was twelve. I’m a bit stoic by nature, but this affected me more than I let on. While my grandma and I always had activities in common (crafting, reading, baking), I felt that I had somehow missed that bond with my grandpa. I loved him and have wonderful childhood memories of him, of course, but losing a relative at a young age leaves a sad gap regardless.
Like my reluctance to throw myself wholeheartedly into St. Andrew’s life, as a child, I was reluctant to tell anyone aside from my parents that I loved them. I’m not sure why, aside from some odd stubborn streak or maybe a distaste for the vulnerability this would require, even in the safety of a healthy family. I am not sure I told my grandfather just how much I loved him before he passed away.
And so, I am making up for lost time by lugging his hilariously heavy cart bag to the range, tags labeled “L. McLaren” jangling against each other and making such a racket that I feel as though the bag itself is celebrating its comeback, even at my inexperienced hands. Upon trying the long-abandoned Pings, I found that I had grown to be nearly his height, for his clubs (and even his tattered old glove) fit me as they had him.
Sometimes I drag my dad along and he laughs as he remembers how Grandpa, his dad, would do an awful little dance each time he addressed the ball. He tells me that I’ve inherited the McLaren curse and am, like Grandpa, abominable at putting. (Fortunately, he says my swing is not quite as atrocious as my uncle’s.) When we play together, we share a seven wood because it’s both of our favourite club and, somehow, we only have one between us. I’ve stolen a few of my dad’s clubs, making my bag not only a tribute to my grandfather but my father as well. It’s become a hodgepodge of McLaren men and, now, me.
It seems such a small thing, learning to golf. To those who know me, it probably sounds silly. After all, I am a runner strictly because it’s the most straightforward sport, consisting chiefly of two rules: start running, keep running. My brother has always been the athlete in the family. And yet, like running, golf is serving a marvellous purpose; it’s connecting me anew to a dear place and a deeply-missed person, helping me to actively process the love and loss of this life.