17. Golf keeps you interested in being alive. Harry Vardon once wrote, “I have sometimes heard good golfers sigh regretfully, after holing out on the eighteenth green, that in the best of circumstances as to health and duration of life they cannot hope for more than another twenty, or thirty, or forty years of golf, and they are then very inclined to be a little bitter about the good years of their youth that they ‘wasted’ at some other less fascinating sport.” You don’t hear people talking like that about their jobs, except, perhaps, inversely.
Whenever I play a round with a good older golfer, I mentally subtract my age from his or hers, and figure that, with a little luck, maybe I’ll be able to play decently at least as long as that. The only reason I don’t regret not having played golf through my adolescence and young adulthood is that if I had done so I would have been miserable during the eight years my wife and I lived in New York City, where playing golf in-season is frustratingly time-consuming. I now judge all illnesses and injuries solely according to their probable impact on my game. I drive my car more slowly than I once did, because even a minor car accident would be golf-threatening. When I see a man on crutches or in a wheelchair, I think, “Gee, I bet he can’t hit it more than about a hundred yards.” I used to think that if I suffered some terrible injury to my hands I would have the surgeon fuse my fingers so that they would fit on the home keys of a typewriter keyboard; I now know that I would have them fused in a slightly strong overlapping golf grip.