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It's Finally Time to Put Golfing, Skiing Out of Their Misery

I gave up golfing and skiing this past week, only 39 years after I last golfed and 45 years after I last skied.


Maybe I’m slow to catch on, but I gave both decisions much thought the past four decades.


In fact, I easily recall the last time I used that gear. I was home on leave from the Navy’s boot camp in March 1976 when I last strapped on my skis, and I was in between college semesters in May 1982 when I last swung my clubs.


I also recall when and where I gave up golfing without realizing it. My dad and I were on the 14th hole at an Oshkosh golf course. I had just stroked a lousy shot out of the rough, those long and thick patches of grass that snag lousy golfers like flypaper traps flies. As I trudged after my skulled ball I thought: “Y’know, I’d rather be fishing.”


Even so, when returning home from skiing and golfing those days, I didn't declare myself finished with either. I didn’t even feel discouraged about my unwavering mediocrity as a skier and golfer. I just found other things to do with free time from winter through summer, which usually meant fishing.


Meanwhile, my Maxfli golf clubs and Kastle skis from Austria collected dust in two different houses through the 1980s. I’ve forgotten where I stored them while living in Winneconne and then Omro, but after moving to Waupaca in 1992 we stored them in our basement several years. At some point they moved out to our garage before migrating into the garage rafters.


All the while I dismissed suggestions to sell or give them away.


“No. I might get the urge to go again someday,” I’d say, even though I don’t know anyone who would want my company on a golf course or ski hill.


It didn’t help, of course, that I discouraged such invitations when hanging out with people who golf and ski. “Fishing is for friends, golfing is for acquaintances,” I’d explain.


I laid it out like this: When co-workers or business associates go golfing, they can avoid each other much of the time. They meet on the first tee, hit into the nearest rough or sand trap, and don’t reunite until hacking their way onto the green. From there they miss two putts, curse in disgust, and mope off to the next tee. After repeating that process 17 times, they discuss their lousy games over a quick drink and go home.


But can you imagine those people fishing together in a boat or an ice-fishing shanty for four hours? Are you nuts? The confined, close quarters that anglers share require respect, tolerance and patience. In other words, a trusted friend or loved one.


Boats are especially challenging. There’s undue potential for boredom, irritation and even peril from witless guests who don’t know “bow” from “transom” or “spoon” from “crankbait.” The only recreation more perilous to relationships is canoeing with your spouse.


Besides, few things are more frustrating than golf and more dangerous than skiing if you’re of average or inferior ability. Unless you’re of a particularly kind and tolerant nature, your instinct is to cheat when possible, and blame others for each unforced error. And because you’re probably less charitable than a saint, you’ll soon lack excuses for each missed putt or drowned golf ball; and suffer painful sprains, breaks or bruises with each tumble of tangled skis.


In contrast, when fish don’t bite, experienced anglers offer myriad excuses and explanations that few challenge.


“East winds!”


“Cold front!”


“Darned DNR!”


“Full moon shut ’em right down.”


“Lightning last night drove ’em deep.”


“They like green, not orange.”


“They want leeches, not minnows.”


“They want rosy reds, not fatheads.”


“Water’s too dirty.”


“Water’s too clear.”


“The carp moved in.”


“Too many FIBs around!”


We could go on, but you get the point. If you suck at fishing, you have no obligation to admit ineptitude or accept blame. You shrug it off, put away the boat or ice auger, and try not to disturb the dust piling atop your golf bag and ski case on your way inside.


I know all this firsthand, of course. After moving to Eau Claire and into a smaller home in December, I started accepting the reality that our new garage could neither encourage nor accommodate further false hopes of my return to the links and slopes. And once my wife, Penny, noticed my resignation, she served eviction notices to my clubs and skis. She tossed the skis’ tattered case into the garbage, and dusted and wiped down the clubs and their bag.


I then posed for a final photo with my once-cherished toys, and loaded them into the pickup’s back seat.


About 20 minutes later Penny returned triumphantly from “Play It Again Sports” with news she had predicted: “I didn’t even take your stuff inside,” she said. “I just walked in and asked if they would buy skis and golf clubs from the Ford Administration. The guy said nobody buys anything that old.”


I was hurt, of course. “Man, you don’t have to be so gleeful.”


She then walked back outside, put a little green sticker labeled “$5” on the skis and a little orange sticker labeled “$10” on the clubs, and drove everything to our daughter’s house for a garage sale.


If the golf clubs don’t sell, their next stop is a charity store.


And if the skis don’t sell, I’ll repurpose them by removing their bindings and mounting them as runners for my old homemade portable ice-fishing shanty. I haven’t dragged it onto the ice since February 1995.


Hmm. If I don’t start using that ol’ shanty more often, it might be the next thing to leave. Or, more likely, get repurposed as fuel for a backyard campfire.


I hope it doesn’t come to that.

Patrick Durkin poses with his golf clubs and downhill skis before saying goodbye to them for good. — Patrick Durkin photo

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