At the recent PGA Championship—one of golf’s four major championships—Tom Watson came within two strokes of making the cut to play to two final days. He did this less than a month shy of his 65th birthday.
Watson, who was the top ranked player in the world for 5 consecutive years in the late 70s and early 80s, won 8 majors, including the British Open five times. He nearly won it a sixth time two months short of his 60th birthday, leading the field by one stroke as he went to the 72nd hole, then losing by a stroke in a playoff to Stewart Cink.
That a player well into middle age can still compete on even terms with players four decades his junior testifies to the fact that golf is still primarily a game of skill—though Watson’s drives today fall nearly 100 yards shy of those of Rory McIlroy, the 25 year old from Northern Ireland who has so thoroughly dominated world golf this summer. Watson compensates with accuracy on approaches and finesse around the greens.
Interviewed on the NPR news show All Things Considered a day after the PGA Championship (the only major that eluded him), Watson said the following:
“The beautiful thing about golf is that you take a ball that’s 1.68 inches in diameter and you hit it with a club which is ill-designed to project a golf ball, and you can make that ball travel 200 yards and end up 6 inches from the flagstick.”
And as many golfers know, the other beautiful thing about golf is that amateurs and even duffers can regularly—and not unrealistically–dream of hitting such a shot. Even well into middle age.
While it’s inconceivable such persons might hit a baseball over the wall in a professional ballpark, or dunk a basketball, or kick a 40-yard field goal—they can and do entertain the possibility of hitting a golf shot that would make a touring pro smile. What an uplifting sense of possibility.
The even greater beauty of swimming is that a swimmer of any age can achieve fluent form as good as that of the current world record holder.
And not just once in a while, but stroke after stroke after stroke.
For illustration here’s a screen shot from youtube of Sun Yang breathing during his 1500m world record swim last year.
And one of a certain 63 year old TI coach and swimmer from video shot last week.