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The True Meaning of Golf

Written by Bobby Lopez


Posted on February 25 2014

The True Meaning of Golf

In continuation of our last post where I was preparing to play golf with my old golf team teammate from High School Max Castro, I ended up learning a lesson well overdue.  No it wasn’t about my golf swing, course management or even that I needed to change the shafts in my golf clubs again, it was lesson on the true meaning of golf.

The last time I saw Max was 1967.  I guess that makes this officially 47 years and by the picture it shows!  Max was a very good high school golfer and went on to be an All American at the University of Miami.  University of Miami no longer has a golf team due to the Title 9 requirements and please don’t get me started on that!

I remember the days of playing golf with Max and his Dad who was a great gentleman and taught Max and I as well as Max’s little brother Rick a lot of lessons that still hold true 47 years later. That’s where we get the true meaning of golf.

Max Castro All American

My wife Renita, Max’s wife Marsha, Max and Fatso having dinner at Carrabbas

Max said it all when he said, “how would think that a couple of Cuban kids that grew up on public golf courses in Miami would be playing golf where we are today.”  Max is a member at a very exclusive private country club in Tampa called Palma Ceia.  It is the golf course where Gene Sarazen invented the sand wedge.  Built in 1916, Palma Ceia has deep golf traditions and the number of great players that have played there is staggering.

Max said, “my Dad told me that when he was young, if he and his pals walked in front of Palma Ceia C. C. the cops would pick them up and cart them back to Ybor City!”  Ybor city is the Cuban section of town.  Max is actually not a Cuban.  His Dad was born in Tampa and his Grandfather was from Asturias Spain.

Anyway back to golf, you know how I prepared to play with Max on Saturday from the last Blog post.  Well Saturday I got to the golf course about 10:00 AM for a 1 PM starting time.  Of course I knew that I hadn’t played any golf since about September and with the weather this winter, I hadn’t hit many balls at the range either.  I was like a kid cramming for a final exam over night.  Plus I put on some weight over the winter working on the computer all day looking at the snow outside so I have some serious work to do on that when I get back to Richmond.

The one and only set back at Palma Ceia was there was no driving range.  Then Max came along and like usual, Max was the king of the house and walked around the club house like he owned it. He had a shag bag and we drove out to a hole where we could hit some drivers to warm up. I also have to thank the new pro Joe Hodge, Director of Golf at Palma Ceia for his kind courtesies. 

As well as I hit the ball the night before at the Chi Chi Rodriguez driving range near my sister in laws house, I was confident that everything would be OK.  Not the case.  Let this be a lesson to all golfers, even if you’re a pro with too many years experience you can’t just put together a golf game in one day and play your best.  In some ways I’m glad I didn’t play my best.  It was that round of golf that taught me the true meaning of golf. 

It was the wonderful opportunity to share time with a good friend, playing a game that you both enjoy and has been a significant part of our lives.  Share a cold one together, jokes all over the golf course that continued to the course deck with Max’s regular gang of players.  In earlier times I would have been miserable about my play that day and made everybody else miserable in the process.  The competition of golf meant more to me than the camaraderie.That’s how is was on tour.  Dog eat dog and you’re grinding with everything you’ve got to make the cut and a get a pay check.  Plus in the old days it wasn’t that much money.

The golf course was beautiful and actually a difficult golf course to play for the first time.  Sure I hit some really good shots and made some good up and downs but the next day my hip hurt so bad I thought I couldn’t get out of bed.  I was pushing my right hip to give it that extra pop and it did the opposite.  My lower body was way ahead and caused me to bleed some shots off the the right which I don’t remember ever doing, (I’m sure I have but not in this century). It killed my distance too because my swing was out of sync.

The greens were small, (remember this course was built in 1916 and updated by Donald Ross) and where I hit a really perfect punch shot that landed two feet short of the stick, the ball ends up behind the green almost in the water.

Well here’s the true meaning of golf.  I made the decision, (once I knew that I was in serious trouble from playing my career round) that I was not going to do anything to spoil my visit with Max, the beautiful golf course he invited me to play or to his golfing buddies who were a lot of fun and fine gentlemen.

Of course part of all this is our ages now!  Like Max said, he could hit it around the corner on the first hole at Biltmore and reach the green in two (par 5) with an iron and that was with the old ball and steel shafts and wooden club heads.  “Now I can’t even reach the green in two with all the technology and a three wood!”  It doesn’t matter.  Our minds think we’re still young and we can still measure up to the way we played in our early 20’s with limber backs and quick hips.

Maybe those days are gone but I can still see the twinkle in Max’s eyes when he did hit a good shot and I’ll never forget how Max said, “man that was really sweet” when I hit a seven iron up by the hole that I caught dead solid perfect..  That’s the true meaning of golf, thank you Max.  Thank you very very much.