How do you want to be remembered?

  • Published
  • By Col. Lawrence Gray
  • 39th Air Base Wing vice commander
As I sat and watched the Professional Golfer's Association Championship this weekend, I realized I like golf. I like golf because it is a sport that is both physically and mentally demanding.

It's not a game that requires brute strength and endurance. It requires a more nuanced athleticism. Golf requires good hand-eye coordination, balance and a proper sense of timing and tempo.

It's also mentally challenging because the golfer must concentrate on the many components of the swing about 65-72 times-per-round, blocking out all else happening around him in order to properly contact the ball with the club face. A momentary lapse in focus can ruin an otherwise good round. In fact, the game is more demanding of the mind than the body.

Golf is also a great game because it's one of the few sports where professional athletes are compensated in direct proportion to how they perform on the field of play. Most big-time athletes sign contracts that reflect how well they have performed in the past, with the expectation they will continue at the same level of performance. A pro golfer's share of the purse each week is based on how many birdies vice bogies made over a four-day period.

Mostly I like golf because it's a simple game with simple rules: knock the ball out of bounds and it will cost you two strokes; hit the ball in the water, that will be another stroke. Other than that, the golfer must play the ball where it lies.

There are no referees to judge your game or to account for your final score. It's up to the player to add each and every stroke. Simply put, golf is a game of integrity.

Some players choose not to count all their strokes, some choose to replay a ball if they don't like the result of a previous shot, and still others will only "card" their higher scores to maximize their handicap. At local golf clubs, everyone knows who these players are. These types of players not only impugn their integrity, but also that of the game.

There are many parallels between the game of golf and our responsibilities as Airmen. Our jobs require us to be in good physical condition. Although we need not be world-class athletes, the environments which we operate require us to be in good physical shape.

Additionally, we must stay focused mentally on the task at hand. Stay focused on accomplishing your job, checklist item by checklist item, and the job will be completed in a timely and thorough fashion. Trying to take a shortcut because we want to get off work early to start the weekend or to make that softball game often jeopardizes the mission.

The parallel between the Air Force and golf that I like the most is the integrity factor.

Just like golfers, Airmen don't always have someone looking over our shoulder judging the manner in which we carry ourselves or perform our job. We police ourselves and watch over our wingmen and are expected to do the right thing ... we owe it to the American people to do so!

In 1925, during the U.S. Open, Bobby Jones accidently moved his ball as it lie in the rough while addressing it for his next shot. No one saw the ball move except for Jones, to include the U.S. Golf Association Officials assigned to that hole or any of the spectators around the area. However, Jones knew he broke a rule and therefore assessed himself a one-stroke penalty.

At the end of the final round, Jones was tied for the lead and ultimately lost the championship in a 36-hole playoff. That penalty stroke cost him the national championship.

In the annals of golf, Bobby Jones is an immortal. Although he is among the greatest American golfers of all-time, he is best remembered for the manner in which he carried himself on-and-off the golf course.

How do you want to be remembered after your time in the service?