Earlier this year - in the depths of a particularly cold winter - I wrote about Dave Begel, an award winning journalist, and passionate lifelong golfer, who was wrestling with doubts; doubts about his relationship with the game he'd loved for over a half-century.
His misgivings, he surmised, were due to the changing golf landscape, and to changes within himself. An unsettling malaise had begun to permeate even his most lighthearted round. He shared these thoughts with his readers. "The question," he wrote, "is whether or not I should give up golf".
His own answer came yesterday in a follow-up piece he penned for those same readers, and it surely wasn't the answer they were hoping for. Dave presented what was in essence an obituary for his golf game. Dave explained, in simple terms, the causes of his disenchantment: Increasing cost in an upside-down economy was clearly a factor, as was was his diminishing ability to compete at levels where he once dominated. Some would see the gradual deterioration as an inevitable part of aging but, if you're highly competitive (so I'm told) you always want to win, and Dave Begel just wasn't winning that much anymore.
The upside of the story is that this once-addicted golfer isn't giving up everything. He's actually helping to pass the passion on to a new generation through his three-year-old grandson, and he's still a fan who follows golf in the media and keeps up with the players.
Dave Begel knows - like John Updike knew at the same juncture - that it's the routine and the relationships he'll miss the most ...and that it's the end of an era for the faithful foursome he's been an integral part of for decades.
I brought you the first part of this story back in late January, because I felt it illustrated, quite clearly, some of the issues that golf is grappling with today. The conclusion bears that out. The message is one we've been hearing a lot lately, and it's a valid one; golf...the golf industry...must reach out to new players and different demographic groups. Perhaps with the economic decline and the aging of the current golf population, it's time to try some new and different ways to A) make the sport accessible, and B)keep people interested once they've tried it. With the Daves of the world retiring from the game in large numbers, golf needs a plan.
As for Dave, I've no doubt he'll be fine. He's got a plethora of exciting hobbies, and I'm pretty sure he'll spend lots of wonderful summer afternoons in the backyard, with his grandson and the seven iron, doing his part to pass on a love for the game.
"Abandoned Golf Bag" Photograph: © iMorpheus on Flickr
"Lone Golfer" Photograph: © NeilAderney123 on Flickr