Medicine and Golf

It’s April and it’s time for the Masters.

The greatest golf tournament, not because it is the hardest or has the greatest field, but because it is the most magnificent venue in golf.  It also is the official start of spring.

I love golf.

At the annual HFHS golf outing with Dave Hill, President and Owner of Superior Ambulance; Rich Montefusco, Executive VP of Siemens Enterprise Communications; and Bob Riney, President & COO, HFHS.

No, not because it is the only game a 62-year-old CEO can continue to play at his late age. I love golf because it is my stress relief, my yoga.

There is something primordial about hitting a projectile and landing it where you intend. Of course, not always; sometimes, not frequently at all, but enough times to keep you coming back to hit the ball again.

Golf is also a great metaphor for life.

For example, the golf movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” starring Will Smith, Matt Damon and Charlize Theron, is roughly based on the Hindu sacred text the Bhagavad Gita, where the Warrior/Hero Arjuna refuses to fight.  It is a story about the challenges we all face to be true to ourselves.

Another example is the movie “Caddy Shack,” which is based on the lives of several of my friends at Red Run Golf Club.  It is a story about the challenges we all face when we are true to ourselves. (Frightening, in an odd way.)

I am often asked how medicine is like golf, or how it differs.

Here is my take on the similarities:

— There is no substitute for practice and repetition, in golf or in medicine.

— In both medicine and golf, a great teacher/mentor can get you better faster than new technology, although some technology can revolutionize the practice and the game.

— There are no mulligans in medicine. Not too many surgeons approach their surgical incisions with a thought of being able to do it again.

— Just like patients, all of the courses are different and even the same course changes from day to day.

— All golfers want the latest driver. All radiologists want the latest CT and MRI scanners.

— Often times, winners and losers are determined by handicaps and not by performance; the games are lost on the first tee.

— Showy drives do not determine your score as much as the more frequent and less dramatic short game and putting.  Showy clinical programs do not determine your success as an organization as much as excelling at day to day patient care activities.

— Rules are just as likely to help your game as they are to cause penalties.

— Special clothes are often required and define who you are, as well as what you do. If they didn’t, why do operating room personnel wear those bonnets outside of the OR?  And, as for those plaid shorts and pink polos…

— No one wants to carry their own clubs. Everyone wants a caddy.

As for the differences: Golf is not about life and death. Check that, maybe it is.

Even if you are not a golfer, enjoy spring and Earth’s renewal whether you are hitting the small white ball or not.

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