DURING THE YEARS when fantasy ruled my life and I was head pro at Hedonism Country Club, several members were among the nation's leading golfers. They led in coronaries, strokes, lung cancer, obesity and mental depression.
Many of the funerals I attended were for golfers who died at a high point in their lives - killed by the steep hill on the fifth hole.
The death rate at Hedonism Country Club was so high that I waived the guest fees for the Rescue Squad. I reasoned that they should be familiar with the fairways when I phoned to say: "Come scoop up a coronary on the 12th. And hurry, the corpse is holding up play."
I didn't last long at Hedonism. The chairman of theGluttony Committee fired me when I told him that lessons would never help his pitiful game until he lost about 60 pounds. I told other members the same.
The pleasures of golf, I argued can never fully enjoyed until the player enjoys full health. With six out of 10 of America's major diseases linked to diet, we don't need doctors to keep us well. We need ourselves.
It isn't only the local country club or public course that is crowded with the unfit. The tour itself is unhealthy. Bob Goalby told Sports Illustrated in 1970: "We (golfers) drink too much. We live too good. I don't consider myself an athlete because I'm not in good shape. Arnie Palmer's not in good shape. Bob Murphy sits on a walking cane between shots. Julius Boros could be one hell of a player, but he's 20 pounds overweight and he doesn't want to fight it."
Few indeed want to fight it. We have taken golf, which could be an opportunity for toning up our physical well-being, and used it as one more occasion to let ourselves to go seed.
Rather than capitalizing on golf as an opportunity to regain the health we may have squandered or to keep fit so that no squandering can occur, many try to reduce the physical aspects of their game and their life to an absolute minimum.
What can be done? Not much, unless at the beginning of the season, where we are now, a personal resolution is made to use the next few months of golfing as a time for acquiring so-called "positive addictions."
One easy formula is to avoid the wretched food served up at the halfway houses on most golf courses. Hot dogs, soft drinks, crackers, candy and other rot is the pollution that turns our intestines into sewer pipes.
One solution is to complain to management that it should offer fruit juices, fruit and vegetables. You will get nowhere with this approach. A surer solution is to bring your own nutritional food to the course.
I usually bring a banana - for potassium, which, as I told everyone at Hedonism CC. is needed for long drives. An orange is helpful, too, because a shot of vitamin C steadies nerves on short putts.
When my opponents junk up between nines I can count on their playing poorly on the back side. How can the head concentrate when the stomach is in turmoil?
A second effort in this health care program is to use the golf course as a running track. Golf itself does little to exercise the body, but the golf course can do plenty.
A run around the 18 holes of a 6,800-yard course is roughly four miles. That should take no more than 40 minutes at most - a 10-minute mile, which is little more than a shuffle. A few times a week of such a run, or perhaps daily, would enliven the lungs, strengthen the heart and bring on feelings of emotional elation that you are no longer a captive of your own laziness.
The most serious precaution about running on the golf course is the same as running anywhere: begin slowly.
Spend a week or two running one hole a day. Then try for two holes, and gradually build up. Soon it will become a daily pleasure, a 40-minute break that you won't be able to live without.
A minor precaution; If you do astound your friends by eating healthy foods and getting in a daily run of a few miles, don't panic if your swing temporarily falls apart. Those who shed 30 or 40 pounds suddenly see their power gone - weak drives, pepless irons.
If that happens, try weightlifting. What you lost in strength by dumping the flab from your middle and behind you can regain in muscle power. Ten minutes a day with only 20-pound hand weights is enough to build up your arm muscles.
Will lower scores result from healthy eating and a regimen of running? Who knows.
What you are sure to lower is weight, pulse, cholesterol. Accomplish the first, then you can begin to worry about trivial things like your score.