Mixing golf and romance

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Love and golf are often linked. Yeah, I’ve heard all those stories of guys who are always out playing golf with the guys, leaving their forlorn and neglected wives or girlfriends at home.
More often, the game of golf can be the cement that holds a marriage together. It has for mine.
When my husband, Gene, and I met at Syracuse University, he had been playing golf since he was 8 and had a single digit handicap. As I got to know him and his Phi Kappa Psi brothers, I became the beer runner for their fraternity golf matches. Basically, I became a golf groupie.
I loved watching the guys play golf and soon, Gene and his roommate, Sam, were trying to teach me the game. I liked it.
We got married right after graduating, and although he bought me a starter set of clubs, there was no time or money for golf.  
One day, when I was in my early 30s, Gene made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. We had joined a club by then and Gene casually mentioned I should learn to play the game.
“What? Learn to golf? You must be kidding. We’ve got four kids: you’re working 70-hour work weeks, plus you travel periodically. We entertain clients and your friends from work on the weekends. I don’t have time for golf.”  
“Well,” Gene said, with a grin on his face. “We’ve got a little extra money now. Maybe we could get a woman in to watch the kids every Tuesday. That’s ladies day at the club. You could learn to play golf and then we could play together on weekends or vacations. Maybe someday, our kids will play, too.”
Hmmm, I thought. Stay home with four screaming kids or learn to play golf. I could hang out with other adult women, have lunch, make new friends…
It was a no-brainer. I would learn to play golf.  
And so it started. The women at the club were warm and welcoming. Within a few months, I had new friends and a happy husband. And, I was in love with the game.
Since then, golf has been an integral part of our lives. We took the kids out on Sunday afternoons as soon as they could hold a club. We sent them to golf camp in the summer. We vacationed in Myrtle Beach, S.C. I played charity golf and member guest days with his clients. We developed a whole circle of golfing friends.  
Three of our daughters played on the boys’ golf team in high school (there was no girls’ team, so they played from the men’s tees). One of them, Karen, won the New Jersey state junior championship and played on the DePauw University women’s golf team for two years. Another daughter, Kim, won the women’s club champion at the club twice.   
We bought a vacation condominium in Brunswick County and, when Gene retired, we built a home and moved here permanently.
Golf has been good to us. We’ve taken several drive-golf-drive-trips across the United States. Each year we schedule several couples’ golf trips with our friends.
I’ve seen the same thing happen with other people. They say business people love to get potential clients or employees on the golf course just to see what they are really like. Obviously, if someone rants and raves when he hits a bad shot; when he blames the weather, the course conditions, his new clubs or bad luck on a poor score, you know this anger and whining will continue at his job or in your business relationship.
The same goes for falling in love.  
One of my daughters, Cora, married a PGA pro and they are happily married and living in Richmond, Va. He’s a nice-looking, happy-go-lucky sort of guy who makes my daughter laugh when times get tough. Their son plays high school golf.  
All of our sons-in-law play golf, and when we get together, golf is part of the fun.
But my story is not unique. Lots of men and women get to know each other through golf, and dozens of marriages are cemented and sound because of it.
Alcina Davis learned to play golf because “my husband played and I didn’t want to be a golf widow.” She learned to play golf, enjoyed it tremendously and now Alcina has been the ladies’ champion at Brunswick Plantation for the last five out of six years.
Suzie Hurley, the 2012 women’s champ at Cape Fear, learned to play golf when she and her husband moved to the North Carolina coast.
“If we were going to live here, I needed to learn to play golf. My husband taught me.”
Obviously, he did a good job.
Laura Botto won the ladies’ championship at Lockwood Folly in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Last year she and her husband celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. She met him on a golf course when she hit her drive into his fairway.
Karen McCloskey is the 2012 ladies’ club champion at Ocean Ridge Plantation. Her husband taught her how to play golf. When their kids were little, he often took them out to play nine holes with him on Sunday afternoons, just to get them out of the house. She and Ed have been married for 30 years and, according to her, “We still get along.”
Another Karen, Karen Northrup of Thistle Golf Club, started playing golf one day when she and her husband were vacationing in Myrtle Beach. He always played golf while she went to the pool. One day, he suggested they go to the Cane Patch Par 3 and play golf. She did and so began an instant love affair with the game.
“I loved it immediately and I’ve been playing ever since,” she said.
Ann and Bill Bailey of Lockwood have been married for 51 years and they’ve been playing golf together all that time. As a young woman, Ann was a ranked amateur with LPGA Tour aspirations. She’s won more than 40 championships at six clubs and she played in the USGA Women’s Amateur four times. Ann was ladies’ champion at Lockwood Folly in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2010.
I spoke with Ann and asked what her secret was for staying married that long.
“Bill endeared himself to me early on,” she said. “I had grown up playing golf with my father and my brothers. I was a better golfer than Bill for most of those years, but he never minded me playing with him and his buddies. He didn’t even care when they teased him because I shot better scores than he did.
“Today, things have changed, and he has to give me strokes when we play. Golf has kept us together all these years; it has enriched our lives through the friends we made.”   

Golf Gab groaner
Sally and Mike were sitting at a table at her high school reunion. Sally kept staring at a drunken many swigging drink after drink at a nearby table.
“Do you know him?” Mike asked.
“Sadly, I do,” answered Sally. “He’s my old boyfriend. I hear he took to drinking right after we split up so many years ago, and I hear he hasn’t been sober since then.”
“My goodness,” said Mike. “Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?”    

Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for The Beacon. Reach her at elanbon@atmc.net. Follow her at facebook.com/elsa.bonstein.