I used to rib a friend of mine about his golf habit.

How hard can it be to hit a little stationary ball?

It’s not baseball, after all. No one’s throwing it at you, trying to make you miss.

There’s no bunch of guys chasing you, like football. Or standing in front of you, arms waving, as you dribble and look for your shot.

It’s just you and the ball and a pretty field that’s manicured to remove nature’s imperfections. You can even use a tee sometimes to prop up the ball.

Of course, I knew better. But I’m a guy who doesn’t follow sports casually. My mood can literally brighten or darken depending on last night’s baseball results. When Maryland college basketball games air on television, my family leaves the room.

Which explains why I actually enjoyed the thought of being completely oblivious to a game like golf. I didn’t need any more stress in my life.

Still, a couple years back I took a lesson, thinking it felt like something a business editor should do.

As it turned out, I wasn’t awful, but nothing came of the lesson. In addition to being a sports fan, I’m cheap. I just couldn’t justify spending all that money on clubs and greens fees and whatnot.

But the itch didn’t go away, so I took another lesson and then bought a set of cheap clubs. Over vacation, I played a round of nine holes. Then followed up with another; then 18. The other weekend, I actually made my first par.

I plunked plenty of balls into water hazards and sent several out of bounds. But just when frustration was starting to set in I would strike a shot so true it would make me hunger for more.

There’s a business lesson in all this. The other day I heard a discussion of what makes a champion. It’s not the trophies that drive most people. It’s the near misses that make us want to get better.