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Competition for Everyone

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Jerry Maatman, a prominent Chicago lawyer who also happens to be one of the finest amateur golfers in Illinois, is kind enough every month or so to send me a copy of the magazine of the Chicago District Golf Association. Maatman is an officer of the CDGA, which is known as one of the best metropolitan golf associations in the country.
 
The January/February issue has the annual list of CDGA tournaments. The accompanying message from association president Steve Becker is entitled, Elevate Your Game ' Compete!
 
Heres the paragraph that warmed my golf heart:
 
Speaking of flighted events, the CDGA has added several tournaments during the last few years that accommodate flights, or divisions separated by Handicap Index.
 
Hallelujah.
 
Take a practice range survey and youll find that a lot of golfers, regardless of ability, want to compete in some more formal setting than the weekly Nassau. They want scoreboards, and officials, and a field, and the feeling of striving. They want to measure themselves against other golfers, and maybe, just maybe, trot out that little acceptance speech they have had filed in their minds since they learned how to daydream.
 
That can only be good for the game. Hogan said tournament golf is as different from a casual round as tennis is from ice hockey. At his level, it certainly was. But its all relative, and the enervating feeling Hogan mentioned is available to us mortals. Competition can knot the gut, to be sure, but I find that the knots bear the same relationship to real distress that athletic soreness bears to real pain. Badge of honor stuff, as you polish your clubs the night before and have trouble sleeping in anticipation of playing to win.
 
Any time you get people aspiring to something, its good for business. Gotta have a fresh dozen for the club championship, and maybe its time to go for that new putteryou get the idea.
 
Not all local and state golf associations have come on board with this idea, alas. Their brochures read like an ad for an exclusionary Manhattan co-op; dont bother if your Handicap Index is above 6.3.
 
Others have seen the light. I used to get the Florida State Golf Association annual, and it read like the circulars mentioned a paragraph ago. But the associations website, www.fsga.org, now lists a number of tournaments with roomier handicap limits, or none at all.
 
Same with the CDGA list, and its more than enough to get your competitive juices flowing. To wit: The Chrysler CDGA Team Championship (Stone Creek GC, Urbana, Il., May 8) is open to 2-person teams as long as their Handicap Indices are within 4.4 of each other. The CDGA Public Links is open to any amateur who is not affiliated with a club.
 
Ah, the joy of flighting.
 
The more people we get to compete, the more people will want to play. Mediocre and poor golfers often testify that playing with more skilled golfers makes them play better. Its the challenge, the endless human desire to measure oneself.
 
And tournament entrants, win or lose, often say they have a ball.
 
And isnt that what its all about? In an era where golf is wrestling with ' and trying to cast off ' its exclusionary past, it should be.