So my husband Jose is a freelance photo editor for the United States Golf Association, a job he’s had, and loved, for three years. Typically, he works from our apartment, sitting in the hallway editing on a desktop computer but also heads west to Short Hills, NJ a few times a week to work out there at their headquarters as their archivist.
This time of year it’s all about the tournaments!
Here are some of my photos from the recent Curtis Cup, created by a pair of sisters; it’s a competition between two teams, made up of the best amateur American women and the best British/Irish women. It was so fun to see young women playing astoundingly — the youngest was 15 (!) and the oldest on the UK team 24.
The golfers all wore patriotic tattoos on their ankles and faces, and the spectators — aka the gallery — were a hoot, with lots of people draped in their country’s flag. Everyone applauds a great shot and there are some whistles, but it’s a genteel and fairly low-key crowd, which I appreciated.
Annoyingly — because it’s women and amateurs — the crowds weren’t huge, but that also made for a much more intimate experience.
Volunteers helped, holding aloft large signs saying quiet whenever the women were on the putting green, (the final stroke meant to drop the ball in the hole.) And it was quiet indeed!
That weird black thing with the wire is a microphone — to hear the sounds of putting and whatever the players are saying on the putting green
I’m starting to learn some of golf’s etiquette, lingo and lore — like the R & A (Royal and Ancient), the British equivalent of the USGA. I do know what a mulligan is and a hole-in-one but still can’t remember what a birdie is or a bogie or an eagle…
I came on Saturday afternoon and stayed only for a few hours, but loved the experience. It was held about a 30 minute drive east of where we live, in Westchester County, New York, at the Quaker Ridge Golf Club.
The Americans won the tournament overall.
This week we’re out on Long Island while Jose photo edits the U.S. Open, being held out there this year.
It’s fun to see my husband in his element. He loves this work and it’s a joy to see him so happy.
For some, it’s calculus or making a roux or hitting to the outfield or soothing a colicky baby.
It’s been years since I’d had to acquire some new and challenging knowledge. Once you leave the world of formal education, it’s onoing auto-didacticism (love that word!) or slow mental atrophy. I work alone at home, and have since 2006, so unless I make a conscious decision to take a class or attend a conference, no boss (for better or worse) will force me to learn some new skills.
This weekend, my husband and I are taking a workshop in…how to create a workshop. How American is that? I hope to offer one for writers next summer and he hopes to offer one for photographers. (Stay tuned for details!)
But while many of my peers are rushing to learn computer coding, I wanted something different, a new set of skills for my own pleasure.
Time to learn German? It looked really difficult! More practically, when, if ever, would I really use it? I live in New York and getting to Europe is so costly that I usually visit France, (where I already speak the language), England or Ireland.
Instead, I’m learning how to play golf.
Mostly because my husband loves it. Like me, he came to it later in life as neither of our families were into the sport when we were growing up. My father, still sailing and cycling in his mid-80s, still shakes his head at my taste for it.
We’re not wealthy and where we live a game of golf can cost up to $100 for a decent course, so it’s not something we can do every week.
But Jose is passionate about it and playing golf also combines the elements that make me happy: his company, being outdoors in a beautiful setting, exercise, socializing.
He gave me a set of older clubs, some great golf shoes and off we went to the driving range. (That’s where you buy a bucket of balls and spend an hour or so practicing your shots with every different club. Large round wooden targets that look a bit like archery targets saying 50, 100 and 200 yards, tell you how far your shots are reaching.)
It’s a very male place.
But on a cool summer’s morning it’s also a great start to the workday; we have a range only 10 minutes drive from our suburban home. Two days after hitting a bucket and a half my arms, chest and oblique muscles are sore!
We were very lucky, on a recent trip to Donegal, Ireland, to be invited out to a links course by the edge of the Atlantic. We played with two women in their 60s, who were terrific golfers and yet very patient with me, playing my fourth or fifth game ever.
The course was crazy! One hole required hitting straight over a cliff to the fairway on the other side. There were no carts on a course so hilly that we felt like sheep clambering up and down, carrying our clubs backpack style. (Links golf comes from the medieval work hlinc, meaning hilly.)
I found it hard to concentrate because the scenery was so stunning: deep blue water, a distant island, seagulls swooping so low we almost hit them. I felt salt spray on my cheeks as a strong wind blew in our faces.
I love that golf is a portable sport — almost anywhere green with some land will have a golf course, or several, and often much more affordably than where we live. We’ve now played in rural Ontario and midcoast Maine, in the crisp air of autumn and on a day so hot I gave up after the fourth hole.
I like how challenging the game is. It forces me to slow down and pay very close attention. It requires a stillness and a shutting out of all distraction. It rewards both power and fine motor control.
I enjoy it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t — I admit — keep going. But it’s also satisfying to be acquiring new skills later in my life. It’s so easy to stick to what I know and am good at.
After our three weeks in Ireland, listening to my friend’s voice calling out the official station stops on Dublin’s tramline, the Luas, (she speaks fuent Irish and did the voice-over), I’m debating trying to learn even a bit of Irish.
My great-grandfather was the schoolteacher in the tiny Donegal town of Rathmullan, and we recently revisited his one-room schoolhouse there. I have roots in that world.
But Irish? Now that’s deeply impractical; only two percent of Irish people even speak it anymore, in three areas known as the Gaeltacht.
one of the best reasons for large journalistic organizations to hire staff with a broad range of life experience and expertise, and to treat those perspectives as if they’re valuable and deserve deference, is so someone’s present to step in when a piece fails, to educate the writer in question, and to save subjects of pieces from journalistic malpractice, and publications from damaging themselves…
It’s hard to consider better evidence of the value of having staff with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives–and of the willingness to go outside your own staff when they reach the limits of their wisdom. Doing this takes humility, and it takes curiosity, an acknowledgement that your own knowledge is not the sum of the world, and a voracious hunger to understand more of it. These are the basic qualities of good journalism. It’s remarkable that so many news organizations fail to apply them to considering the mix of their own staff and contributors.
I was once assigned to write a feature story on a high profile, nationally known professional athlete who kept getting into trouble. What was wrong with this guy? I talked to former coaches and anyone in his hometown who knew him back when the athlete was in high school.
Through that reporting, I learned a shocking family secret.
The athlete’s mother had attempted suicide back around the time he was becoming a local star with a big future. Not only that, but it was the athlete who had actually found his mother following the attempt.
The information may have shed some light on why this athlete had been so troubled. It also turned what was going to be a good feature into a great story.
But before I published it I wanted to find out something about this woman who was not a public figure and was about to have her personal agony exposed. That was a problem because I was not able to interview her. The athlete was refusing all media requests at the time, too.
So I tracked down the brother of the athlete and I asked him the one question I needed an answer to before writing this story:
Would revealing his mother’s secret cause so much anguish that she might consider suicide again?
Maybe, he said. And he implored me not to write it.
I thought about what greater public good would come from revealing the truth. Would it help others? Would it prevent a crime? Would it save lives? Was there any redeeming Fourth Estate journalistic purpose at all? We’re not talking Pentagon Papers here.
No. It would only make me look good for scooping the competition and drawing readers. And it would have been a hell of an ego boost.
I never wrote it. I have kept that secret to this day.
Like Viv, I’ve had a long career in journalism. Like Viv, I’ve also heard a few shocking secrets, and had sources plead with me to keep them in the closet. I did. No question about it. I never discussed it with an editor or coworker or colleague or friend. I knew what to do (how would I feel if it were me?) and behaved accordingly.
There’s another element to this story that pissed me off, and, yes, because it’s people like me and Viv — veterans of decades of smart, thoughtful, accurate journalism — have been shoved for good out of beloved newsroom jobs. We’re considered old and expensive; 24,000 journalists were fired in 2008 alone.
Another reason we created Grantland: to find young writers we liked, bring them into the fold, make them better, maybe even see if we could become the place they remembered someday when someone asked them, “So what was your big break?” That matters to us. Just about every writer we have is under 40 years old. Many of them are under 30. I am our third-oldest writer, as crazy as that sounds. For us, 31-year-old Caleb Hannan had (and has) a chance to be one of those writers. That’s why it hurts so much that we failed him.
There’s a really smart reason that some journalism organizations still keep and value those with decades in the trenches — who have made mistakes, learned from them and now teach others not to do the same damn thing.
It’s called institutional knowledge.
No matter how whip-smart or ambitious a 31-year-old might be, or a brilliant 23-year-old, they haven’t been around the block a few times. They’ve barely found the block — the place every ambitious writer reaches — where difficult, challenging, complicated stories demand a lot of smart, tough thinking from people who already done a lot of that.
Without smart, tough, wise editors — willing to think broadly, deeply, inclusively and incisively — we’re all screwed.
How refreshing — a golf story that isn’t about infidelity.
This week, Lorena Ochoa, 28, a rarity as a Hispanic woman in the elite world of professional golf, (dominated of late by Korean women), is retiring to focus on her husband and starting a family. She is the number one player in women’s golf.
“I do want to be remembered for the things outside the golf course,” she said. “I’m going to work really hard, and this is the compromise I have to myself, a responsibility to give back in order to help others to make a change in their life. I’m going to work on that. That is my goal.”
As she has shown, she is very good at achieving the goals she sets. As for the game, to be sure, Ochoa lost the desire to travel the hard road of professional golf. She was candid in saying she had lost the drive required to remain No. 1, a position she occupied for the past three years.
“Once you reach your goals, it’s really hard to find that motivation,” Ochoa said. “You need to be brave to see that. Just to really listen to your heart and your feelings and be able to see that and make a decision.”