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More than a game…

It didn’t seem coincidental that I had thought about a husband and wife I’d known who were affiliated with Averett University when I happened to see her in a nearby grocery store. Although it had been years since I’d seen the couple, we were connected by the all-too-sudden passing of a dear friend of both of us who had taught at Averett.

Almost immediately, I mentioned him and his wife, two wonderful people I cherished as friends. She spoke kindly of them and asked how she was doing. I wasn’t sure since my friends had been like family to me. His loss still caused moments of grief when memories of our decades-long friendship came to light.

Lately, that has happened without warning. Today was no exception when I watched a golf tournament on national TV. I wanted to watch the tournament because of one of the participants, a man named Michael Block, a forty-six-year-old golf pro who was a true enigma. It seems that he teaches much more golf than he plays. Or practices.

Nonetheless, according to a brief article (PGA Championship’s Cinderella story receives sponsor exemption) by the staff at the PGA Tour, Miachael Black is:

…2022 PGA of America PGA Professional Player of the Year. His T15 finish was the best PGA Championship finish by a PGA of America professional in nearly four decades and the third-highest in this tournament’s history.

So many of us would-be golfers were able to identify with the personable and unpretentious Block. What he achieved touched me deeply, seemed to re-charge the hope that, someday, even I might have a good round of golf. That feeling was heightened when, to the amazement of the network commentators and me, he had a hole-in-one.

Cheers and applause followed Michael Block until his very last putt, a putt he made that caused everyone in the stands to rise and cheer. Thrilled by his success against all odds, I cried. The moment was that inspiring.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised when he appeared in an interview just after the tournament had ended. When asked how he felt after making the final and crucial putt and being cheered by throngs of Michael Block fans in Rochester, NY, site of the tournament, he cried too as if he’d been given a gift he would never forget.

As I watched him, I cried again. And I thought of my golfing buddy who was like a brother to me. For decades, we played golf whenever we could, walking eighteen holes each time as we talked about our families and our hopes and dreams. After a while, we stopped keeping score; we had so little to gain from the number of our strokes.

Instead, we played for the love of the game and the companionship it brought. Everything else, even things like a hole-in-one seemed a bonus. Golf was just part of the life we enjoyed. Thanks to Michael Block, today those golden memories turned to heartfelt tears.