A Lesson For the Ages
The balls were going hither and yon and to and fro. As the latest pellet launched was a line drive with an eight iron that every shortstop would easily catch, I heard from behind a kind voice say, “Can I borrow your club?” Instinctually, I transferred the club to my right hand and handed it to the gentleman. Only in turning did I realize Mr. Eddie Merrins, PGA Golf Professional at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, where he now serves as the Emeritus Professional, was standing there.
Known as the “Little Pro” I watched him at the tender age of 83 swing effortlessly as the balls flew so gracefully straight and high as I could only imagine accomplishing on a rare occasion where luck preceded skill.
Just two days before I had the honor of traveling in a car with him from a hotel in Seoul, Korea to Haeseley Nine Bridges for an event sponsored by CJ Corporation for Golf Magazine. We were attending the “The World Club Championship” in which the finest players from 22 of the Top 100 Golf Magazine courses from 12 countries would compete in a few days hence at Nine Bridges, Jeju Island.
Being in the car with Mr. Merrins was such a pleasure as the experience was like being taken on a private tour of the history of the game. From Sarazen developing the wedge to Jimmy Demaret’s massive forearms to Cory Pavin’s tenacity, each story was told with a quiet even level voice as though he was a broadcaster in a tower over the 18th green as the winning putt was about to be struck.
On this day in Jeju after hitting the balls, Mr. Merrins turned and said, “Let me see you hit it.” Yikes! I quickly reached for my driver realizing with that club I would have the least chance of embarrassing myself before one of the game’s legendary teachers, a teacher who was inducted into the Teachers Hall of Fame in 2010. For the next 30 minutes I was schooled on “swinging the handle” and pounding the top of my club over three balls as I heard that I must swing from Chicago through Kansas City to Denver. After just a couple of wayward shots, I began propelling the missiles straight and long as I have often dreamed.
But this day was to be like no other, and the lessons I would be taught were like none since my parents raised me decades ago that have applicability to all within the business of golf.
As I approached the first tee at Nine Bridges, there standing were Mr. Merrins and Sunho Lee, the Founding Patron of the World Club Championship and son of Jay H. Lee, who established the event with David V Smith, President, Golf Projects International, Los Angeles in 2002. Sunho, a graduate of Columbia University, now working with CJ is an impressive young man and lends much to his family and the game of golf. They were my playing partners for the round of golf. If one wants to find why the future of golf is bright, play one round with Sunho Lee. His joy and enthusiasm for the game at 24 years of age is encouraging.
For every shot Sunho and I hit, Mr. Merrins was standing by us asking each time, “What did you feel when you swung the club?” On the third hole, Mr. Merrins said, “Drop the club, assume a five iron stance and fold your arms. You need to learn how to rock the baby.”
A constant refrain as the round progressed and my drivers found the center of the fairway and my iron approaches drifted weakly to the right was Mr. Merrins calmly saying, “You are late with your arms, roll your forearms as you swing the handle from Chicago through Kansas City to Denver.” The patience, the caring, the attention was amazing.
When the round was over, I was overcome with emotion having a legend of the game help me. I wrote an email to my wife that said, “I can’t explain in words what I just felt and with you not being a golfer, if I could, I don’t know that you would understand.”
What Mr. Merrins had shared about the game of golf can be obtained here: http://eddiemerrins.com/.
Beyond the valuable guidance I received that day, I realized that I had just experienced one of the seminal moments of my life.
I was very privileged to spend time with “Golf’s Finest Gentlemen.” Mr. Merrins’ quiet charm, profound love for the game of golf and his deep caring about others provides a lesson that can’t be written, can’t be told, but must be experienced for when you love your profession, you need no hobbies and your ability to serve others with a discreet reserve and dignity becomes a calling worth pursuing.