Golf, as anyone who has ever played the game will certainly tell you, can be one of the most exasperating experiences imaginable. Just when you are convinced you have mastered the complex parts of the game, everything goes wrong and you realize you know nothing. It seems as though you are constantly regressing to the level of a novice.
I am sure golf is a microcosm of life itself. Golfers demonstrate the same good and bad traits playing golf that they exhibit in their everyday lives. Golf, for me, is more about the friends you make than the game itself. Close observation of the golfers you meet can tell you a lot about what kind of people they truly are.
I met Rudy at the local golf course about seven years ago. He was introduced to me as a fanatical golfer, and at the age of eighty five played almost every day. I was cordial but didn’t give the meeting much importance as Rudy was twenty seven years my elder. I couldn’t imagine the two of us had much in common, but I was mistaken.
I came to learn a lot about Rudy while playing golf with him these past several years. Rudy was born in Verden, Oklahoma September 10, 1922. While still a child he worked on the family farm. He and his brother sold produce in town earning badly needed money which helped his family survive. Those were difficult times for people as the great depression and the Midwestern dust bowl tested the resolution to survive of all families.
As Rudy began to enter manhood he faced a new challenge. It was 1940 and the world was at war. Rudy left his family, enlisted in the army and on December 7, 1941 went off to fight for his country as did millions of young Americans. Rudy loves to regale me with old war stories, and I enjoy listening to them.
Some time back my wife, Robin, passed away. Over the years she and Rudy became friends and before her death he never failed to ask about her. I met Rudy at the golf course shortly after her death and he expressed his deepest sympathy. He then removed his wallet from his back pocket, opened it and removed a photograph of an attractive dark haired woman.
Rudy told me the photograph was of his wife Betty. Rudy said the two were married in 1945, and she had been the love of his life. He told me they raised one son, one daughter and he would not change one minute of his life with Betty. Rudy, following a long pause, then told me Betty died on February 4, 1991. Rudy returned the picture to his wallet, placed the wallet in his back pocket and said “let’s play some golf; I think I can beat you today”.
The high moments in life are acknowledged with modest celebrations while the low points are seen to be challenges to be overcome always maintaining the knowledge that more of these character testing events are sure to come. Rudy has no greater number of exceptional attributes than other ordinary people but I believe he reveals fewer adverse characteristics. That doesn’t make him anything but ordinary and humble.
I’m proud to call Rudy my friend, and even more proud to know he considers me to be his. There will soon be a small birthday party celebrating, not so much Rudy’s 92 years of age, but more so the quality of the life he has lived. I believe if all of us lived such an ordinary and unassuming life as his, showing respect and honesty to others, we could rest assured that we have added value to our world and those around us while we were here on this earth. Happy birthday, Rudy.