The Zak Zone

Golf: It seems like such a simple game in its concept, doesn't it?

You take a club — quite the primitive term — and hit a ball, as in many other sports.

First, you usually hit it as far as you can. They call that the drive.

Then comes the approach, which usually means hitting it pretty hard, but not as hard as you can.

Finally, you have to be very delicate and gentle, and putt the tiny little ball into the tiny little hole in the ground — a hole that's usually somewhere between two- and five-hundred yards from where you started.

All right, I guess it doesn't sound all that easy after all, but it doesn't look that difficult.

At least that's what I thought the first time I watched my grandpa and his friends play.

I was a caddie of sorts as I attempted to help carry Pap's golf bag — an effort that probably lasted about half- way through the first whole before I gave up and became a spectator — and although my grandfather and his friends weren't exactly pros, they looked it to me.

It looked so easy for them to hit the ball for what seemed like miles and miles, and I couldn't wait to give the game a shot myself.

Unfortunately, I was too young to golf at the course, and when we returned to the camp where we were staying, I realized I couldn't practice with Pap's clubs either: He was a lefty, and I'm not.

Soon, though, Pap came across a bunch of clubs and an old golf bag at different yard sales, and he organized a set for me.

Possessing the clubs and possessing the skills to use them turned out to be two very different things, though.

I spent hours chipping around our front yard, mak- ing divots in my new finely-trimmed fairway, much to the displeasure of my mom, who worked so hard to maintain the grass, but she was patient with me as I attempted to learn the trade.

Learning to use the old wood-faced drivers was a different story. Even though we had acres of fields be- hind our house, driving the balls back there often resulted in losing them, eventually resulting in me getting in trouble when it came time to cut the hay.

So, Pap would take me to the driving range to practice that skill.

It was at the driving range in Reynoldsville that I discovered the problem that has been a constant plague in my golf game: A wicked slice.

We tried everything to fix my slice. Pap suggested that I might change my grip, so I tried that, but it ended up making the slice even worse.

Someone at the range noted that I might be swinging too hard, so I tried to correct that, as well, but no matter what we tried, the slice was still there — in fact, it's still there today.

But driving is still my favorite part of the game, and likewise, going to the driving range is still one of my favorite things to do, even though I don't play golf much anymore.

When I've had a rough day, I'll take one of those old, wood-faced clubs — the same ones Pap bought me at those yard sales — and head for the range to escape from it all. But for me, that's all golf is: An escape.

For others, it's fun; for myself, it's frustrating to actually try to compete.

My career scorecard shows just one birdie and no pars. The birdie was a lucky punch shot on a downhill par-three that ended up mere inches from a hole-in-one — a moment Pap was proud to hear about when I called him after the round to tell him.

I was on the golf team in ninth grade, but I never competed in an actual meet. In fact, I never came within 10 strokes of qualifying for an actual meet, and I was just fine with that.

Like I said, golf is fun for me when it's just for fun, but when it's about competition, my lack of skill makes it a frustrating game.

That's exactly why I have so much respect for those who can play the game well.

My grandpa could play the game well. His buddies could play the game well. But none of them passed that on to me.

The town of Punxsutawney has been blessed with some excellent golfers, and the hours and hours of practice they've put into the game have been paying off lately.

Former Punxsy resident Easton Renwick is currently a freshman on the Coastal Carolina college golf team.

The Chucks' golf team just won its first district title since 2004, and the Lady Chucks are currently undefeated heading into their final two matches of the season.

Golf isn't my cup of tea, which is why I respect what these young men and women are doing. It is a game of concentration, skill and sometimes even a little bit of luck, and I want to take this opportunity to congratulate them and wish them the best as they go forward.