Legendary Australian artist Ken Done once said he wanted to “paint like a five year old.”
It was the fluidity of movement he was after. The sheer uninhibited joy and freedom of movement. To put pastel to paper without judgement or guilt and to see that a tree could be a tree – even if it looked like a bush. You know?
I would like that, too. But in the pursuit of golf.
Imagine being able to take to the course without fear of consequence. Imagine playing like a kid, only you’re a grown up. How good would that be!
Funnily enough, I know such a kid. Kai is pretty much your bog-standard 12-year-old, with a golf game. Lots of game, as it turns out. So much so he managed to make his way to the A-Grade final of our club championships, effectively putting the sword to the pennant team and current club champion.
Kai’s playing off three. And whilst I doubt he attacks the game with the gay abandon of Ken Done’s dreamy five-year-old, I’m pretty sure there’s more than a few things he can teach an old dog.
We chatted in the back room of the pro shop at Long Reef. I sat on a box, he took the comfy chair. Where I was still, he was fluid. Feet tapping, hands flapping, eyebrows darting all over his face. He’s a kid, right? Openly fresh, fantastically exuberant and quite possibly keen to get to the putting green with his mates and younger brother.
“Do you like the game?”
“How do you like it?” I asked.
I know I like it almost irrationally. When I’m playing well, I can’t believe how lucky I am. When it’s going bad, I can’t wait to work out how to fix it so I can feel lucky again.
He smiled: “Like, I like it a lot.”
“Yeah, but hoooooow do you like it? Do you like it more than Fortnite?” That’s the biggest video game in the world.
Kai scoffed. “Yeah. Much more. I don’t even play Fortnite, anymore. I like it more than surfing or jumping my bike. I like golf more than anything.” There it is, I thought.
“And how do you play it?” I was getting excited.
“Well, I just hit the ball, you know?” He shrugged and kicked his feet about. Looked out the window, put his hands together as if gripping a golf club and had a little air swing. And I’m kind of nervous because I want him to tell me how he hits the ball. What does he think about? What’s going on in his head?
“I don’t think of anything. If I want to hit a little cut I aim a little left with the face a little open. A draw, a little right, right? I just pick a target and think what kind of shot I want to hit. Check my posture. And bam.”
That was it?
I pressed for more. But Kai shrugged again, turned the corners of his mouth down, shook his head and repositioned his hat. “Nah, that’s about all I do.” He did go on to say he was a “little nervous on the first hole of his first match, but then, who isn’t?”
Gee he’s a good kid.
It’s so simple. For him, it’s all about confidence. He believes he can hit his ball into the middle of the fairway. Then, to the middle of the green. And once he agrees on the line of his putt, he believes he the ball will go in the hole.
“I don’t even think about hitting a bad shot. As for gimmie’s, no one’s going to miss a putt of two and a half feet, so that’s what I give.”
TWO AND A HALF FEET! So, he believes in everyone else, as well!
Obviously, on the cusp of his teenage years and with a handicap of three he can hit a golf ball. Maybe the trick is, he doesn’t have to really think about hitting the ball, only that he loves doing it.
And there’s something else. I turned to go, and then turned back. “Hey Kai, if you and I were to play together …”
“Yeah, I’d play with you,” he smiled, gagging to get out to his mates.
“Yeah, great. But if you and I played together, and I was playing badly. Would you, you know. Would you feel sorry for me?”
There was a glint in his eye, and wry smile that belied his years. “Nup. I wouldn’t feel sorry for you at all.” I know he was thinking if I was playing badly he’d put his bloody foot on my neck and press harder.
Good kid, though. Good, fun kid.