Bob Lutz

Golf has endless appeal

The best of 2009?

I've got nothing. The best of 2009, for me, was watching a long-time coach like Wichita Heights' Joe Auer finally raise a championship trophy at the Class 6A state basketball tournament at Emporia in March.

I felt really good for Auer.

But as years go, 2009 was one. Not a lot jumped out. I've been thinking of what I was going to write about for a couple of days now and my mind went blank.

Then I got to thinking. What was the best of sports in 2009 for me? Forget everyone else. What about me?

Playing golf.

It's simple, really. I love playing golf. It's not even so much about the game. It's about being around people I enjoy in a beautiful setting and completely forgetting about everything else.

I don't get to play enough golf. But I cherish the times when I do. And as golf years go, 2009 was my best yet.

First and foremost, I played four rounds of golf in Dublin, Ireland, on what so far has been the vacation of a lifetime. I went with my high school buddy, Doug Baber, and we played golf. Don't worry, we weren't shy about partaking in the Dublin nightlife, either, but the focus of our journey was golf.

We played at Druids Glen, a gorgeous, almost surreal course about 50 miles from Dublin. We also played at the K Club, which recently hosted a Ryder Cup.

Both courses were heavenly. The weather was perfect. It was a dream golf experience.

I regret not picking up golf at an earlier age. I really didn't start playing until I was in my 20s, when I took a golf class at Wichita State because it was an easy credit.

I didn't love the game immediately. It's hard to love something that is so hard and that makes you feel like such a fool.

Over time, though, as my game improved to a level that at least wasn't embarrassing, golf became a passion. These cold winter days make me long not for hot chocolate, not for a warm blanket, not for a Caribbean vacation, but for golf.

I'm still a hack. Only four times in my life have I broken 80, but two of those happened this year. In back-to-back rounds, no less.

I bought a new driver a couple of months ago. I lose fewer balls than I used to. I always wear a glove. I never wear jeans when I play, even on public courses. Never, never, never.

I've become not only a better golfer over the years, but a more honest one. I play by the rules now whereas... let's just say I didn't always play the ball from where it lies.

I watch more golf on television than I could have imagined 20 years ago, when I watched hardly any.

When I think about it, my love and appreciation for golf coincides with the sport's explosion about 15 years ago, when a certain someone with a feline nickname took golf by storm.

Tiger Woods didn't win a major in 2009 while coming back from a knee injury. But as is his way, he found a way to be a major story in golf, in sports and in American society.

Oh Tiger, how could you?

The world's most popular athlete has proven himself a Grade-A cad. There hasn't been a day go by in the past three weeks where I haven't been subjected to a crude Tiger joke. I feign a laugh, although inside I'm crying.

It's so sad.

Woods' alleged infidelities don't prove he's human, they prove he's unscrupulous. It's true that none of us are perfect. And my transgressions are too many to list. Yes, we are all worthy of second and third chances, maybe more.

It's difficult, though, to begin the process of forgiving Woods because he has not taken ownership of his issues, other than to mention them on his Web site.

Did he even write the words that appeared there? We don't know. Does he feel ashamed? We can only assume.

The story is nearly a month old and Tiger apparently hasn't left his gated compound.

The guy we thought we knew has proven, once again, that we never really know these athletes we idolize and cherish any better than they know us.

When I play golf, I try to swing like Tiger Woods. I try to putt like him, chip like him. I have even been known to wear a red shirt on Sundays, just like Tiger.

On the course, I'm a 54-year-old man trying to emulate the greatest golfer in the world. I always fall short — always — but I never stop trying.

Tiger's not someone I want to emulate now. Perhaps that will change. I am not closing the door on Woods because I believe everyone deserves a second chance.

He has disappointed me, but he hasn't lost me. I wonder if he cares.