“This is my kind of player, my kind of leader, my kind of person.”
It was a cool spring day, near perfect for late-season skiing but bearable for an excited golfing tandem walking to the first tee at the Portland Country Club. Shortly, I would again experience what many believe is one of golf’s greatest truths: you only need to play a round with someone to feel their personality and character.
The approach to the third hole at Portland Country opens to a view of Casco Bay offering a pleasing composite of well-known Maine islands and Portland’s Eastern Promenade. I commented to myself, watching Barry walk up the picturesque fairway, how much I liked his golf outfit.
It took only four holes for the outing to turn memorable. Walking on the seventh hole’s green fringe, alerted by a distressed shout, I glanced back in time to see my playing partner partially in the water, trying to pull his submerged clubs from the pond near the putting surface. It was a scene only a friend would call concerning and amusing at the same time. Probably a good thing I did not witness the accidental entry into the duck habitat. Oh, why did I make the sartorial observation? Knowing Barry was wet but all right, I prepared to walk back to the clubhouse, where warmth and towels were in supply.
No! We were not going back. To reach the eighth hole required a walk up a rise. Barry carried his clubs to the hill’s base, where he slipped his carry straps over his shoulders, bent at the waist, and started the ascent. It was obvious walking behind him that he had transported water in the golf bag, as each step up the grade it flowed out of the top and bottom of the lengthy backpack. It served as well designed outdoor shower, providing a steady stream covering Barry front and back. OK. Now we were going back to the club house.
No! It was on to the tee box. The next hole, I had to walk on the opposite side of the fairway due to the inability to suppress my smiling and chuckling. I remember observing how well he was handling the situation and how most would have just left for the comforts that were only a few hundred yards away. When we finished the very difficult ninth hole, I was certain we would be calling it a day.
No! On to the back nine.
If I were asked my definition of “presidential,” I would refer back to an incline on a golf course. I recall saying to myself as I walked behind a drenched college president, “This is my kind of player, my kind of leader, my kind of person.” He was real and resilient. He did not care about image and how it may look to others. The elements were not as tough as him. It is easy to understand why Bowdoin’s staff, many who have meaningful perspective after a lifetime of service to the College, love and admire this man. Those who know a little salt water and mud on a cold day are good for the soul. They are the loyal who trust their leader in large part because he is cut from the same fabric. It is a level of respect felt throughout our student body, faculty, staff and alumni.
The smiles widened after each hole, as more evidence of water damage surfaced. Cell phone ruined, clothes and personal belongings soaked, leaving that distinctive pond water odor. During the ride home, the laughter became greater, sustained by mutual play-by-play descriptions of the match. It was wonderful to share with Barry another of what writer Jim McCabe calls golf’s “priceless intangibles.”
Funny how not giving up and finishing what you started has its just rewards.
Men’s Hockey Coach, Associate Director for Athletics