Sullivan: Return of golf reminds us what we're missing

Jerry Sullivan

It’s already May, and most of the area golf courses are now open, albeit with understandable concessions due to the coronavirus. Whatever the circumstances, it’s a welcome relief. Even at a safe social distance, the most casual duffer is happy for a competitive outlet.

Last week, I played 18 at Glen Oak on its belated opening day. Tim Fries had the course in great shape, although I would have been thrilled to play if there had been three inches of standing water and World War I-style trenches across the fairways.

No money changed hands. You paid online when you made a tee time. There was no food or drink for sale, no cart girls or ball washers on the course. The cups were upside down, so players wouldn’t have to handle the flag or retrieve balls from the hole. If you hit the upturned cup, your putt was automatically good, even if you struck it so hard it might have normally gone clear off the green.

Once things return to normal, I’ll appreciate the simple joy of hearing a putt plunk into the cup, or turning the crank on a ball washer and watching a shiny white Calloway pop into my hand before I stride hopefully to the tee box.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the little things we miss during a lockdown, those simple life rituals we take for granted. Pumping gas. Going to the movies. Eating in a restaurant. It’s one of the oldest cliches, but we do tend to appreciate the simple things in life when they’re taken away.

No one knows when the sports world will be back to normal. There’s talk of games and golf tournaments without fans, but there’s so much uncertainty and fear of a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall. But sports fans can only hope, and wait.

I can’t wait for real baseball box scores. For a baseball lover, each tells a story. No two are alike, like snowflakes.

I can’t wait to hear the national anthems again, even the ones that are oversung. I miss ‘O Canada.’

I can’t wait for the next time I see a major-league outfielder lay out in the gap to make a catch on SportsCenter.

I can’t wait for the first day of Bills training camp, whenever that happens, and the first time Josh Allen heaves a long pass for newcomer Stefon Diggs.

I can’t wait to hear the sound of a Stanley Cup playoff game. It’s just different, and it's been too long since we heard it here in Buffalo. And of course, a Cup playoff game in overtime.

I can’t wait to hear fans shouting “Dee-fense, dee-fense” in the final minutes of a close NBA playoff game. Who shouts for defense if there are no fans? Will they pipe it in?

I can’t wait to watch Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson on the TNT set for NBA games. I miss those guys. I also miss Doris Burke and Hubie Brown and Jeff Van Gundy. The Jordan documentary is great, but I need real games.

I can’t wait for the next golf major. The men’s PGA Championship is now slated for Aug. 6-9 in San Francisco. Again, how will it feel if they have no fans? Who rises to greet the leader when he walks up the 18th fairway on the triumphant Sunday?

I can’t wait for college football. UB is supposed to play at Kansas State on Sept. 5. It’ll be fun, watching Jaret Patterson set more rushing records. But will college football be the same by then, if they even play? Will the major programs be able to host games with 100,000 people in the stands?

I can’t wait to hear Michael Kay declare “See ya!” after a home run by Aaron Judge, or to hear John Sterling exclaim “Gleyber Day” after a Torres bomb. Hey, when you’re desperate for baseball, even the hokiest rituals seem precious.

Imagine, after so much waiting, how it'll feel the last few minutes before the kickoff of a Bills game; or the last fretful moments before the start of the Kentucky Derby, which would have been Saturday but was moved to Sept. 5; or the start of the Olympic 100-meter dash next summer.

I’m reminded that much of sports involves waiting, the rising anticipation that precedes a game or tournament or season. We’re accustomed to waiting, but we know there’s a reward at the end, a competition that could wind up being historic.

So we wait for the return to the sporting world that we take so much for granted. Whether it’s a major international event or a tee ball game at Shoshone in North Buffalo, we can barely wait for the world to go back to the normal.

At least we’re golfing again. At some point soon, I hope we’re back to traditional cups, cart girls and gatherings at the 19th hole. One of these days, the Brighton Men’s Club will be back, and the first round is on me.

Jerry Sullivan is a sports columnist with over 30 years experience in Western New York. Follow him on Twitter @ByJerrySullivan or respond via email at scoreboard@gnnewspaper.com.

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