Par For The Course / Adios For A While

I’ll be taking a brief hiatus from this blog for the Summer. Posts throughout the next couple of months will be sparse if they pop up at all and will only really come if I get flustered enough to bother you with my ramblings. That being said, I’ll probably post twenty times in the Summer and make myself and this, “see ya real soon, kids!” post look silly. I am used to doing that however, so I don’t mind. I thought I’d give a few kernels of wisdom I gleaned from my Summer job at a country club when I was a younger man before I bid you adieu for a while. Let’s get to it…

When I was in my late teens and early – mid twenties, I worked at a private country club here in Southwest CT. I was a bag room attendant and eventually the morning starter. For those of you who do not frequent country clubs or golf courses; a bagroom attendant is someone who retrieves a golfer’s bag from a room where they are stored at the club (the bagroom) and then gets it set up on a golf cart so the player doesn’t have the horrific inconvenience of carrying something they spent two grand on themselves. Once the player is finished, the attendant cleans the mud off of the clubs and returns them to the bagroom. Usually, if the member isn’t an unholy piece of trash, they will throw the attendant a few bucks. A starter has the easiest job on the planet. If you could train a monkey to tell time, country clubs would invest in zoos in order to ensure a steady stream of starters. A starter just tells you when to start. If your tee-time is at 7 and you are a few minutes early or late, the starter tells you to either wait or go ahead. Pretty nifty. Basically the starter is a traffic cop on grass. At the end of the day I would plug the rounds into a computer program and the members would be charged for greens fees and cart fees. If you were nice to me, the charges were light to non-existent. If you were exceptionally nice, you never paid a dime. For two seasons there were a few members at that club who saved thousands of dollars because of my existence. They had also done me wonderful favors by opening doors for me when it came to my education and were just incredibly generous, genuinely good-hearted people. So yes, sir or ma’am, this one is on the house. They were both decent jobs. Super simple and paid decently for a young guy.

What I learned at that club was far more important to me in the long run than the beer money it provided during long New England Summers. Here are the top three things that I learned during my time as a country club employee.

  1. Be a Chameleon: The greatest skill I acquired at the club was not the ability to clean crap off of irons but the ability to be whatever the member wanted me to be during our interaction. I was the perfect grandson to our older more decrepit members. I was the gung-ho, all-American, well-spoken college student that the members desperately wanted instead of their own loathesome progeny. I was the cool, ladies-man, boozer that the young hedge fund guys who desired nothing but to look cool in front of us younger guys wanted. I was a professional friend. And they ate it up with a spoon. And I was tipped well. Now, this is not to say that I was totally full of shit all the time. There were some members who I genuinely thought were great people and I was always on the level with them. But I was very good at being whatever someone wanted at that moment. This skill would pay off later in life when I realized that every professional encounter that a human being will be subjected to whether voluntarily or involuntarily, is basically a sales pitch. Job interviews, reviews, development meetings, etc. These are all gussied up sales meetings. You are selling yourself. Pretending to care about someone’s amazing fade on 14 with the wind in their face when all you’re thinking about is how to turn their usual two dollar tip into a three dollar tip is fantastic practice for the real world. This skill is priceless.
  2. Rich People Aren’t Evil: They’re not. Criticizing someone for being successful is akin to wearing a shirt that says; “I Don’t Even Bother Trying.” Having a special aptitude in a field which then yields enough money that allows you to be bracketed as “rich” is something to be celebrated, not vilified.  This idea that the wealthy owe me or anyone else for that matter something simply because they are wealthy is pathetic. This is why I loathe socialism and the Sanders movement.  I simply can’t understand how anyone can find self-worth in activism which is based completely on jealousy. That being said; most rich people are incredibly helpless when it comes to practical life. Every single member at that club was wealthy. I would wager that 85% of them had at one time in their lives called an electrician for a service call to change a light bulb. Along with being turtle-on-its-back helpless, they are also painfully lame. We used to have a tournament every fall around Thanksgiving. It was essentially cross-country golf. Hitting from the tee on the first hole to the green on the 15th and so forth. ANYway, the first year we did it, the pro-shop staff felt pretty confident that they had struck gold. Although, they felt pretty confident about a lot of things which made for hours of entertainment for the bag room staff. So there we were, a grey, cold, late Autumn, New England morning with a course hopelessly covered in leaves. A morning that God gifts us every once in a while. Not for outdoor activities but for a couple more hours sleep. It was a get up late, bagel and coffee while you lazily get ready for your day morning. But here we are. Who in their right mind would want to go golfing in this weather let alone get up at this hour on a Saturday? Then they arrive. Twenty five of the biggest dorks known to civilized man. They come bounding out of their cars and begin finding their carts. They are throwing a football around. They are playing Van Halen. They are pouring nips into their coffee and cackling like they’re getting away with some sort of grand mischief. They are doing things that most guys wouldn’t think of doing at their ages and they feel like punk rockers. The kicker; most guys wouldnt think of doing those things at their ages because most guys would have already done them ad nauseam when they were much younger. It was like watching the insurance salesman character from Groundhog Day have his first beer. It was kind of sad. So why do I bring this particular instance up as an example of the nauseating lameness of the wealthy? Because for the first time in my life, at 20 years old, I felt bad for older men. Men who were much wealthier than me. This was their idea of fun. This was the social event of the year. This. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Golf is a Dangerous Habit: It is one of those sports where if kept in check can be great fun. When left unchecked it can become a virus that turns even the most level-headed, practical men into the worst kind of loser. It is also the only sport where the hardcore players can turn the more moderate fans off so completely that they vow to never pick up a club again. The hardcore guys are sort of creepy. There is nothing more icky than watching someone talk about local golfers. Tour guys, sure I can see the conversations being somewhat normal. But local guys? C’mon. I used to listen to conversations about different local amateurs and their upcoming tournaments, what they shot on their practice rounds, putters they had switched to and how they swore that Callaway made better balls than Titleist. I used to ask myself, is this what happens when alcohol has lost you your family? Once a man has reached the hang-out-in-the-proshop stage, there is little hope left for him. Truth be told; most people who work at golf courses initially got the job because of their adoration for the sport and prospect of some cash and free rounds. By the time the person has finished their time in the golf biz, they either hate the sport or hate the idea of the sport. So be careful, if you are going to consider a career in golf or even the delightful hobby of playing golf. It can suck out your soul.

Well I hope you enjoyed my list, ladies and gentlefolk. With the school year coming to a close and a new and admittedly exciting opportunity opening up for me within the next few weeks, I will be taking a bit of a hiatus. I can’t say what the opportunity is just yet but I can say this much; it involves being even more of a blowhard than I already am and my favorite soccer team. I will post when something seems post-worthy but I wouldn’t count on it. Much to do in the next couple of months. So this is so long for now, dear reader.

Have a fantastic Summer!

-JM

Par For The Course / Adios For A While