Slam! Thwack! Thump! “Son of a b—-!” Tom’s scream echoed from the 18th hole through the restaurant and bar. Everyone turned to see who was once again interrupting their post-round dinner and drinks. Losing once again to longtime golfing partner Evan, Tom forked over $200, totally fed up. The sound of his broken pitching wedge clanked on the pavement below the cart. At least one goal accomplished: pitching wedge successfully broken. 

When most people think of a midlife crisis, they imagine a shiny new convertible, an affair or a new career. For Tom, it was golf. He was a star golfer on his high school team, played competitively for a D1 college team, and always thought he could make something out of golf. But life got in the way. A career, wife and kids took over, and his game slipped away. He was now a bogey golfer barely breaking 90.

As age took its unkind toll on Tom’s physical prowess and emotional disposition, he reminisced about happier times with a single-digit handicap. This latest loss to Evan made him determined to get back there again. 

He got a call the next day. “Tom, after discussing it with the board, we were close to revoking your club membership due to previous complaints, but instead, we’ve decided to give you one more chance. No more tantrums!”

Tom’s wife Marie got a warning phone call too. She had noticed a difference in Tom ever since their youngest of three headed off to college a year earlier. The departure coincided with Tom’s 48th birthday, and the lines in his face seemed to grow deeper overnight. Marie was upset. She needed that membership as much as Tom did. Her weekly tennis outings with the girls weren’t to be missed. 

The ceiling fan squeaked above the wildly uncomfortable living room couch as Tom tried to find some sleep after their argument. He knew he needed to control his temper, but he couldn’t stand that smirk Evan had after winning. He needed a new plan.

“That will be $4,213.86,” the cashier said. “Will this be on credit?” It was due time for Tom to get a new setup (plus he needed a pitching wedge now). He left the shop with new irons, woods, a Scotty Cameron putter, and a shiny bag to match. 

That entire week Tom snuck off work early every day to hit the range and squeeze in some nine-hole rounds to work out his new gear. Everything was going great; he could feel an improvement. The following weekend, he finally took Evan down and won back his $200. 

“Shots all around!” Tom declared. Everyone at the bar looked up with delight. He spent the next three hours blowing the money he had won back and then stumbled home, lucky to live at the golf course. 

Marie was pissed. Tom had missed dinner and stunk like Jameson. Although he was a happy drunk, Marie hated when he drank. He talked way too much and became super loud. That night, she let Tom know all about how she felt. He was spending way too much time at the course, and golf was getting between them. They had rocky patches in the past, but this obsession was becoming divorce material. 

Tom barely noticed the lumpy couch or wobbling fan that night he was so drunk. 

Tom still found himself stuck in bogey golf, unable to improve much on his own, so he dropped another $250 on five lessons from the club pro. Surely that would help. After the lessons, Tom liked where things were headed. He signed up for 10 more, another $500. 

As his obsession grew, Marie’s patience ran thinner, she continued to tolerate his frequent absences, drinking, and money spent. But her patience expired when she pulled up to the garage, hit the remote, and almost ran over Tom while pulling into her spot. 

Tom was on a ladder with a Sawzall, cutting away at the rafters that prevented him from a full swing while practicing into the net he had set up. He was now compromising the structure of their home and had officially taken over the garage as his practice area.

Lying in the dark, staring at that whir-wobble-squeak ceiling fan once again, Tom hatched a new plan, taking things to another level. 

He was going to install a high-end simulator in the garage. Tom was hunched over the computer spending hours laboring over the various differences and benefits of each one. He wanted one that was realistic enough to really help his game. He finally settled on a newer model, the one most of the pros had. They were more expensive than he thought, but with a decent down payment and 12 monthly payments, the $9,000 total price tag seemed rational.  Tom clicked the “purchase” button with excitement.  He was like a little boy waiting for the package to arrive.

“Are you kidding me? $9,000? You know we have children in college, right?!” Marie screamed, which began a knock-down, drag-out battle about the crisis Tom was going through. 

“I feel like life is slipping away from me and I’m running out of time to really get my golf game back where it was. I’m not getting any younger, you know? Good golf makes me feel young!” Tom chirped back. Marie’s eyes shot open and then slowly closed to near slits.

“You have to choose, it’s either golf or family! Get your priorities straight, or we can sign the divorce papers right now.” She stood her ground as Tom’s head spun. 

“Well, we certainly don’t need to go down that road, that’s the last thing I want,” he pleaded, stalling, pondering how to play his next shot. This was like scrambling for par out of the sand. 

“I just can’t understand why it’s become so important lately. You need to stop living in the past, those days are behind you. Can’t you just enjoy golf? It’s just a game after all” Marie said.  

It hit Tom right then that he was indeed living in the past. He would never get back to where he was in his 20s. He wasn’t even enjoying golf anymore. He found himself disappointed after every round, even when he shot really well — it was never good enough. 

“You’re right. Let’s put this behind us. I’ll cut back on golf,” Tom resigned, perhaps his best par-save in years. 

Given an ultimatum and forced to compromise, Tom agreed to no more than two days a week at the course, no more spending money on golf, and spending more time at home. This was fine. Tom would do anything to save his marriage. 

His midlife crisis came and abruptly went. He could still chase his dream of a single handicap since the simulator stayed. (The manufacturer had a pretty iron-clad return policy, probably due to this same scenario.) 

“That’s it, Evan, I win again!” Tom stood tall on the 18th green. Evan reached for his wallet. Tom waved him off. “We’ll settle up next time. Let’s grab a beer.” 

Ever since Tom stepped back from his obsessive dreams of getting back to college glory, it helped his game immensely. He was more relaxed, enjoying his beloved game again. He regularly beat Evan, but he realized that it didn’t really matter either way. After all, they were friends; no need for bad blood over a game.  

He realized that, believe it or not, some things are more important than golf.

Mike Joslin

Originally from New York and now based in Honolulu — a golfer's paradise — Mike Joslin is an avid golfer and self-proclaimed Hack, just enjoying the game ... foot wedges, Mulligan, and all. Handicap: Currently averaging 4.2 mulligans per round.