Hopefully one day I'll tee it up at Augusta. Being a pianist, I probably have a better chance than a lot of aspiring golfers because even though classical musicians usually aren't rich, our target audience members are often quite wealthy. In 2011, I went to a piano festival in the Hamptons. We lived there for one month, wining (minus the wine for Lindsey and I, the only Mormons at the festival, which everyone foundfascinating, and my hundreds of questions about which wines were best were only outnumbered by their thousands of questions regarding Mormonism) and dining with the ultra rich. For the concert programs, they requested biographies, and they wanted to include something out of the ordinary. In high school, I played on the golf team, and since I was at a 1A school, you could simply sign up and be on the golf team. My friend, Robert, was a master golfer, and would usually shoot in the 60's, and if he was having a really rough day, he would shoot in the 70's. I came in as the #2 player, shooting such stellar scores as 82 or 84 on a good day, with the #3 guy shooting in the 90's, and finally our #4 guy shooting in the low 100's. Needless to say, Robert carried us to our feeble second place finish at the State Championship (can you really call it a championship at that point?), with the top 4 players adding up their total scores. Thank heavens the other teams were just as horrible as we were. By some fluke, I made the All-State Golf Team (I was the second best player in a truly horrible division - what an honor!). At the All-State Golf Banquet, I was surrounded by scratch golfers, with my personal best round of the season being a dazzling 82. Iproudly accepted this award, realizing that it would probably be the only golf award I would ever receive. A few of my peer's parents caught wind of this, and threw a fit. "How did he make the All-State Golf Team!? My son is so much better." My mom and I would laugh at this - yes, as a matter of fact, your kid IS better! I just went to a school that was in the most pathetic division ever for golf!
So, back the Hamptons, I listed in my biography that I was on the All-State Golf Team. One night, we were at an extremely ritzy "Tennis and Bath" club, or something like that (just think of things rich people like, and that will probably be the right title), and we played a concert outside for them on a perfectly cut lawn, surrounded by perfectly cut hedges, set against a backdrop of the most perfectly clean and serene beach (white sands against bluish-black water). Afterwards, we enjoyed a banquet of all you could eat lobster, crab, salmon, prime rib, steak, and whatever else you could think of. A guy came up to me and said, "Are you the golfer?" Why, yes I am! I haven't played more than a few times in the last 6 years, and 6 years ago when I played a lot I sucked, but, yes, I am the golfer. We talked for awhile, and he asked me, "Do you want to come play at Shinnecock Hills with me next week? I'm a member there. It's the number 3 course in America, only under Augusta and one other course, and they're holding the U.S. Open there in a few years." I was ecstatic, and naively texted my friend Robert to ask him how the course was. "Are you crazy? I've never played there!" I think everyone enjoyed my 4-putts that day. By some crazy miracle, I eagled from about 90 yards out on a par 4, so it wasn't a complete waste.
And thus, from this experience, I have high hopes that one day, some rich donor will host a dinner that I'll perform at, with either a Master's champion in attendance that will love my playing SO much that he'll invite me to go tee it up with him, or a really nice old guy that will ask me to be his golf buddy for the day. Augusta is the Steinway and Sons of golf courses, unmatched by any others according to most people.
I talk about all of this because this summer, I've reignited my old passion for golf. Sure, my brothers and I have played a handful of times over the last few years, and shot really good scores if you don't count our numerous mulligans (we've probably lost more balls than we've found in the bushes, searching for spare golf balls frantically out of necessity rather than at our leisure), but this summer, I've actually devoted some time a few times each week to going to the driving range and putting greens and really practice. It's been awesome that my wife has joined me almost every time we've gone, and she's starting to get into it as well. I've shot some pretty decent scores, and my game is feeling as sharp as it did in high school.
A lot of times, as a musician, I can get into a rut. I think, "One more concerto, one more sonata, one more etude, one more nocturne." At the end of the day, who really cares how big my repertoire is? I love what I do, but sometimes, it can become a little stale. It's not that the music itself becomes monotonous or boring, but rather the process and routine can become mind-numbing if one is not careful. Ever since I started golfing this summer, I've been happier, not because I'm aspiring to be a pro golfer, but because I have a healthy and competitive distraction that challenges me in a completely different way. I see many correlations between golf and piano, the most obvious being that they are both extremely mentally demanding, require hours of work, and ultimately give you no guarantee of success. However, both have the sweetest and most amazing reward when executed well. The perfect expression and execution of a piece is very similar to sinking a birdie putt after a monster drive straight down the fairway, followed by a 5-feet-from-the-pin approach shot and an easy make for the -1.
I find that a lot of people say, "When I retire...." To be honest, I never want to retire. I love what I do so much that I'll never quit doing it. However, there are days when I question this, and on those days, all I need is something like golf to round things out in my mind, to give me a mental release elsewhere that piano just isn't doing for me. I find myself more rejuvenated than ever about music when I step off of the golf course having just played 9 or 18 holes, or just going to the driving range to practice and clear my head. I hate clichés, but I do have to say that I agree with the one that says, "Work hard, play hard." However, I would change it to be "Work hard, play harder." When you have this mentality, I think the roles can be reversed - work can become play, and play can become work. When work becomes play, you are SO happy doing what you're doing, and when play becomes work, you have a healthy and competitive challenge to make yourself grow and succeed in the things you love doing most.
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The musings of a (crazy) concert pianist
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