Different Strokes

by CarlD

Different Strokes: The Lives and Teachings of the Game’s Wisest Women by Mona Vold is a wonderful book I came across during the period when I was reading every golf instruction book on the shelves of the Library. My new school seemed to be dominated by its nationally-recognized Professional Golf Management program, and I wanted to have a feel for that alien world; then I started actually playing golf (it’s free here thanks to that program) and I was hooked.

Even better than Harvey Penick’s folksy notebooks, the women Vold portrays show how attentive devotion to a craft can produce wisdom and serenity. All of the sections are wonderful in their own ways, but I’ve been thinking about Phyllis G. Meekins’ in particular as I read some of the more pessimistic commentary on the current election.

Meekins, a Black woman from Philadelphia, born in 1922, is an LPGA professional and taught Work to Learn golf clinics for many years through her church. “Here everybody’s welcome as long as they learn to respect each other no matter what.” Her ethic is hard, based on effort and accountability:

People look at me and ask all the time, ‘How’d you do it?’ I tell them I learned through a lot of disasters. No didn’t stop me. I kept after it. I was truly interested, and if there was the slightest hint of an opening, I made it my business to walk through the door. I volunteered here, there. I tried and tried. I got on committees so I could learn more.

Golf, a country-club sport, has a history of racial exclusion and gender segregation. Black men in golf have been few, Black women fewer. Yet about her playing career, Meekins remembers:

It’s just like the men, once I finally got on the golf course, they walked around like they thought they owned it, but when you came down to it, they were respectful. Men, real men, love to see women play well.

She is so right.

Yes, there is still racism in the U.S.America and Whites still walk around like we think we own it. Yet, if 12.4% of the population of the U.S. is Black and 68% is non-Hispanic White, and Barack Obama polls around 50% support, that’s a lot of White folks supporting Obama; racist though we may be. Play well, Barack.

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