The golf season is in full swing in the northwest, so Michael is often out of town volunteering as a golf rules official. Although there is very little about his gig that I can relate to, I get a lot of inspiration from his commitment to the players and those crazy rules.
Michael used to spend much of the summer in the mountains. He was an avid backpacker until his heart health changed and he could no longer hike off for days of solitude and adventure.
He had to retool his summers.
Michael has always been involved in sports as a participant, coach, or an official. And regardless of the role, he is a guy who can take the rules of a game very seriously. Earlier in life, my husband could be an embarrassing jerk on the basketball court when he disagreed with a referee’s call. Then he switched to the other side and became an interscholastic basketball official. He enjoyed doing it well until he had too many other responsibilities to take time for basketball.
When Michael retired from teaching, he continued to coach golf and assist in girl’s basketball because he enjoys sports and being with young people. As he looked to a future without hiking, he considered becoming a golf rules official. He could ride around in a cart and help players make wise decisions within golf’s archaic rules.
So Michael got started on making the grade. Literally.
It is not easy to become a golf rules official. You have to attend a national three-day workshop and then take a three-hour test with situational problems that may include improbable craziness. Not only do you need to get the correct answer, but you also need to know the right rule number to back up your decision. Michael is smart but not a great test-taker, and he didn’t get a high enough score the first year. So he did it again the next year, and then the next. A lot of aspirants give up before they get the required score, but Michael believed he would eventually succeed. He studied and worked as a volunteer or an official’s apprentice until when, a few years ago, he finally got the required score.
Officiating has worked out well for Michael. He enjoys helping golfers in a jam make the best decision they can within the hallowed rules, and he enjoys the friendship of other officials. Occasionally when he travels, he stays in hotels arranged by the tournament organizer. But this is not always the case. I’ve never admired Michael more than his preparation and attitude regarding one of these stints in arranged housing.
Last summer he spent six nights with 14 other men and women in a house that had meandering additions with rooms tacked onto other rooms in a patchwork that often provided little privacy.
The 15 folks gathered to volunteer for the week of the state youth golf championships. My husband was the oldest with about fifty-five years on the college intern. Michael was assigned to an upper trundle bed and to share a bathroom with five other men and women. To get to those facilities in the middle of the night, he had to walk through a room where someone else was sleeping. This closeness would overwhelm my ability to enjoy what I’d gone there to do, but my guy just dug in and figured out how he could help make it work for everyone.
As they all talked ahead of time, Michael volunteered to cook one of the evenings. He paid attention to diets and food preferences and planned the ingredients to make “Hawaiian Haystacks.” When one of the guys heard the word “Hawaiian,” he made a crack about Spam, so in addition to supplies for a health-conscious meal, Michael took a couple of cans that I assumed would not be eaten. I forget that it was a coed party.
At the end of the week, I traveled to pick Michael up so that we could spend time sightseeing on the way home. When I met some of the other officials and volunteers, the camaraderie and jokes they shared made it apparent that although Michael was old, he fit right in.
As we traveled home together, I reflected on the transition Michael made from the solitude of mountains to group housing on manicured greens. He is an inspiration that I can use right now.
I’m recovering from back surgery, and my future strength is unknown. I work hard with physical therapy and do my assigned exercises while not knowing what my future limitations may be. I may have to accept that I won’t be able to climb high to catch wildflowers at the margins of glaciers or go on uncertain trails to see a remote meadow again. As I try to regain my strength, Michael has taught me that no matter the outcome, I’ll be able to find and develop something I love.
For now, there is only one thing that I know absolutely. My future won’t include any coed slumber parties!