It’s the season of the sun in America and, naturally, the sun people have come out to play. Judging by the Tee Off Calendar in The African American Golfer’s Digest, one of the games we like to play is golf. Though I may watch the game every now and then (when Tiger Woods is playing), the closest I have come to playing golf is driving a few balls on a range in the park near my home. I was told on that one occasion that I have “a strong swing” and should seriously consider taking up the sport.
I have since been given myriad other reasons for taking up the sport, chief among them being the networking and decision making that takes place on the course and in the clubhouse among the people in high places who play. I power walk on the treadmill and outdoors, work out with various machines and weights, do tai chi (including with the straight sword and a kung-fu form with the broad sword), but I do not play golf.
That does not mean I do not appreciate the game or its lessons.
Someone very near and dear to me taught me that playing golf is like running a business. You start off with your bright idea on a pedestal, just like the ball on the tee. The first energy you apply to your idea is like the big first drive in golf, where you swing with everything you’ve got. You must stay on the course, in the fairway, to get your ball to the green in order to sink the ball with the least number of shots. Your focus on that little white ball must be unwavering. On a course of 18 holes,each hole is equivalent to a short-term goal.
In business, what’s being tested is your ability to stay the course and your skill in controlling your shots. In golf you stay ahead of the game by sinking the ball with fewer shots than the course allows. That’s tantamount to surpassing the goals you have set for your business.
Then there is the caddy.
Recently, I met Edward S. Wanambwa, the Ugandan-born senior editor of The African American Golfer’s Digest, who served as the lead consultant on The Last Colored Caddy: the Untold Story of Golf’s Forgotten Heroes, Jada Harris’ 2005 film that examines the challenges faced by African-American golf caddies and their legacy to the game. The film was named one of the year’s best documentaries by the 2006 Urban Film Series and the 2006 Independent Black Film Festival. Wanambwa is now penning a book, Stories From the Caddyshack, that takes you back to the days when caddies were synonymous with Black. Most of the legendary Black male golfers, like Lee Elder, came out of that caddy tradition. Blacks caddied for some of the sport’s most famous white players.
The relationship between golfer and caddy is so tight that, as we say in Guyana, “breeze can’t blow” between them. The caddy is the person the golfer trusts most on the course. More than toting the golfer’s clubs, the caddy knows the course intimately and tells the golfer which iron to use depending on the play of the wind or the position of the ball on the course, say. The caddy’s sole interest is guiding his golfer to a win.
It’s game time in America. Do you know who your caddy is?
By Rosalind McLymont