A month ago, I watched the start and the finish of the Masters.
Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit the ceremonial first drives on a Thursday morning and on Sunday evening, Adam Scott beat Angel Cabrera in a playoff.
At some point during the weekend, it occurred to me that in a month, I’d be the same age — 46 — that Nicklaus was when he won his last Masters in 1986.
I was a month away from 19 when that happened and, understandably, 46 seemed ancient. But it didn’t occur to me then that it would be a stretch for perhaps the greatest golfer in history to win a major.
This was Jack Nicklaus, after all. That shows what I knew about golf and professional athletes back then.
Now that I’m 46, I understand far better what an accomplishment it was for Nicklaus to beat the best players in the world, most of then about half his age. They had none of the aches, pains and yips — just ask Tom Watson — a player closer to 50 than 40 deals with every day.
They also had none of the distractions Nicklaus and his contemporaries were dealing with by then — managing an empire, building golf courses around the world and dealing with the notoriety that comes with waking up every day as a living legend.
For one shining weekend, Nicklaus blocked it all out and won the most prestigious tournament in golf. Now that I’m 46, I’m content to do battle with the lawn once a week or so.
Sometimes, the lawn wins.
I never thought I’d say it, but my competitive sports days are over. As recently as three years ago, I played softball doubleheaders on summer Sundays and usually got through them without embarrassing myself too much. There was one epic, face-first wipeout between first and second base, but most of the people who saw it happen no longer bring it up. And for that, I am grateful.
I recognized then that I was simply delaying the inevitable as long as I could.
Now, just three years later, I’ve embraced my old(er) age. I’d rather go fishing.
There, I said it. It took 46 years, but I’ve become my father — just without the coffee and cigarettes.
Reeling in a bass against a fading sunset or the rising sun became my new passion. I really didn’t know what I was missing. Fishing, as far as I was concerned, offered the perfect combination of excitement and relaxation.
Until, of course, the day I went to my favorite lake and spent a couple hours casting and reeling and woke up the next day with a sore shoulder.
I’m pretty sure I managed to do something in that short time that I’d never done in 35 years of competitive sports. I’m pretty sure I tore my rotator cuff ... while fishing.
It’s a self-diagnosis, but what else could it be? Ever since that fateful fishing trip, my right arm has been as useless as Derek Anderson’s.
Wait. At least he could throw interceptions with a lot of zip on them. I can’t throw a ball hard enough to blacken Vic Rubenstein’s eye. The same goes for most similar athletic endeavors. The last time I picked up a basketball, I was relegated to left-handed layups. Tennis is out, too.
I realize I’m 46 and there isn’t likely to be a need for me to complete a 4-6-3 double play, throw a 25-yard fade route to the corner of the end zone or hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but I’d still like to think I could do those things if I had to.
After all, I’m not 46 years old. I’m 46 years young. Or I used to think that way.
I might just have to break down and have shoulder surgery, because right now the only semi-athletic thing I can do is run. And the closest I’ve come to actually do that is buying a book on running.
At least if I get my shoulder fixed, I can read about running while I fish.