Attempting to Improve on Perfection

and it is in the hole!


"Do you know what I thinking about right now?"

David Kavalere had no earthly idea what his friend Billy was thinking. They had become best friends at three, grown up across the street from each other, attended the same classes, always had lunch together and thanks to the similarities in their last names in specific and academic interests in general, sat next to each other in almost every class for the last nine years. David had heard that same question at least three times a day but out of the potential ten thousand opportunities to answer correctly, he had only answered correctly five times. Each time the question came up, David looked forward to the challenge of determining the actual thought but he knew each time it was going to be a shot in the dark.

"Do you want me to guess?"

"It's up to you."

"I am guessing you are thinking about lunch."

"Oooh. So close. However, I was thinking about golf."

"You don't play golf."

"Not yet, I don't."

"And I don't play golf."

"Not yet, you don't."

"We don't even know anyone who plays golf."

"Do you know what I am going to say now?"

David said, "Not yet?"

"Congratulations for having the correct answer but it missed slightly due to your choice of not emphasizing the word 'yet.' And, I think that is number six for you."

"I believe you are right."

"So, as I said a minute ago, "do you know what I thinking about right now?"

"I believe you said 'golf' and I believe that last question is almost rhetorical."

"Oooh, again with the word 'rhetorical.' But true, so let me restate: do you want to know why I am thinking about golf?"

David generally knew how this game was played: no matter what he said, he was going to hear about the subject anyway. Sometimes he played around with his friend but this time, the question and answer game actually caused him to be slightly curious. However, he gathered himself and said, "Yes, please tell me why you are thinking about golf."

His friend, Billy Kalow, smiled and said, "Now we are getting somewhere. At lunch, I will lay out my theories on improving on the game. But now, it is time to learn."

They both smirked and faced the front of the room. This is how all the adventures began; Billy providing the inspiration and initial energy and David's ability to bring everything together without bruising or impeding the beginning spark. They never spoke of their successful collaborative efforts before because there was no real need to do so. Things worked out because they worked out and further introspection was only adding risk to something which needed none. Whether it be a solution in search of a problem or an unspoken decision to not make a good thing better, the boys waited for lunch to see what was on the horizon.

Lunch time arrived and the two boys found themselves at their usual table, facing each other. They had many other friends surrounding them but they had also perfected the art of direct conversation no matter the environment. As the cacophony of the lunch room covered them in a sound blanket, David finally decided it was time to learn about Billy's new epiphany.

"Okay, so what's the deal?"

"The deal is to improve on perfection. I was thinking of different things which are considered perfect and trying to make them better."

"Noble cause. But whom are you making these 'things' better?"

"For me."

"Why?"

"Because I don't want to waste time convincing other people about the perfection. I only want to impress me and on a smaller, far-more secondary level, you."

"Okay, so if this idea of yours does have merit for others, it will rely on a self-generated groundswell to take hold."

We will need a significant and prolonged groundswell of enthusiasm before this idea sees any kind of foothold. I was hoping just to goof around with something and if we have some fun, we have what I need. A wide scale adaptation of collective embracing of the idea is basically collective icing on the collective cake."

"I appreciate you shooting a bit lower this time."

Billy had attempting similar ventures in the past: a new game of darts using only three darts for three players, several card games with ever-changing sets of rules including a new fifth suit (rubber) and an ongoing and persistent pre-occupation in disproving Joule's foundation of the First Law Of Thermodynamics of energy is neither created or destroyed. Every several weeks, Billy would visit a variety of science teachers with proposed proof and leave frustrated with their denial of his claim. Not discouraged, he would think about their arguments and try again (and again and again) to find the fatal flaw. Billy saw many things which were underutilized and contended that it had the potential to create more. Whether it be creating more coffee from the coffee pot to recycling supposedly spent resources to work again, Billy felt by creating something out of technically nothing, old Mr. Joule would have to eat his words. To date, he had been unsuccessful in swaying anyone but decided to continue to try.

"So what do you got?"

"I got a new game."

David's face slumped. A new game for Billy guaranteed hours of humiliation and trust issues for him. Billy had convinced him to attempt countless hybrids of activity before and while the novelty of the game was, at best, interesting; the collision of unique activities usually meant low-level injuries and frustration with the dynamic nature of the rulebook. His face returned from the slump and David reluctantly said, "Tell me about it. Are you introducing the suit of rubber to this theory?"

"It is simple really: I think I have a better way to play golf. And no, I am not introducing new rules...basically a game within a game."

"And how would the game be improved thanks to your new insights?"

"Well, let me show you."

Billy pulled out a small notebook with stick-men sketches and random notes near each sketch. As David thumbed through the book, it was clear that Billy had made some effort to focus his usually unfocusable attention span into something tangible. Each page had a consistency; sketch, notes, questions plus location and time/date detail. It appeared that Billy had observed numerous golf matches at several of the local courses to gain an overview of his research. Some of the notes implied each golfer's skill but all of them were deeply insightful regarding each golfer's mental state. Billy's questions evolved more towards their level of enjoyment and overall motivation for participating in the game. By the end of the notebook, Billy was expounding enthusiastic theories about the need to improve the experience by reducing or eliminating the frustration.

David finally put down the book and felt Billy's stare burning a dramatic hole through his glasses. "So, what do you think of my idea now, smartass?" asked Billy.

"Not to be too difficult, but the concept of 'your idea' remains a bit elusive. What are you trying to say?"

"What I am trying to say is that golf can be a lot more enjoyable if you take away a majority of the things that make it frustrating."

"Do you mean making holes fifty yards long with little paths directly to the hole?"

"No, that is just another version of mini golf. What I am proposing is to maintain the challenge but reduce the frustration. I have read about damaging equipment, heart attacks, vandalism and other related reactive explosions by duffers when faced with their limited skill. Golf should be a game which makes you feel better; not just long periods of teeth-grinding exasperations with a few moments of hope when a well-struck shot finds a hole. That level of self-induced masochism troubles me."

Billy had received a thesaurus as a very young man and prided himself on his word smithing.

"While, I believe it troubles a lot of people," said David, "However, the golf manufacturer probably likes replacing equipment or at least, encouraging the hacks to continually upgrade in hopes the new club or new alloy will finally give them some talent. And each year or each purchase brings further failure while hearing about some technical breakthrough which may finally make them a scratch golfer."

"While that smells of desperation, it also is a cruel and beautiful strategy."

"I bet there are scores of executives from golf manufacturers which view it as just paying the bills. Their decency was shredded during the introduction of the first graphite driver in the mid-1970's."

"Okay, I agree. Now, tell me who you would improve the game?"

Billy spread out a large sheet of paper on a lunch table and began the presentation facing David and reading upside down. David could see the paper had been broken down into four sections ("Kquadrants™" said Billy who always made a point of adding his own trademarks and the capital letter "K" to anything which was remotely close to his current conversation point) including "areas of high interest," "traditional or charming aspects," "things which drive people nuts," and "other things to hit."

"It appears you have put some thought behind your Kquadrants™."

"Thank you and you are correct. I have put several hours of thought into my new strategy."

Billy Kalow was legendary for putting in several hours at many strategies and equally legendary of abandoning many of them once they hit an financial, moral or physical obstacle of some consequence. David was impressed with the output so far but remained cautious and continued asking questions. By this time, Billy has secured the four corners of the sheet paper with milk cartons and was preparing his remarks when a few other boys drew closer to listen. Most of them had been pulled into a caper or two so their interest also demonstrated their likely acquiescence in his new scheme but it appeared Billy had done some brain-thinking™. (Copyright Billy Kalow).

Billy smiled with the larger audience and stood in front of them all and allowed for a momentary and dramatic pause and he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a card. Billy began to read; "The basic premise of my plan is to create a new game with golf as its respectful foundation. I emphasize my actions are purely for entertainment purposes only and do not imply or infer any criticism for golf in any way or manner."

He put the card back into his pocket and said, "As you all can see, golf provides compelling competition, an important history with charm, long walks and the opportunity to hit things with sticks."

"Sweet" muttered one of the boys.

"I wish to improve on this game by allowing you to use any ball you wish and propel it in any way you wish provided it is powered only by your own physical skills. You can't use a slingshot, a potato gun or any type of non-human energy. Also, after exhaustive studies, I am still considering exempting the tennis racket as well because the strings do a vast majority of work but at this time, I have not yet decided. Other than that, you can use any ball and get it to the cup any way you wish."

David said, "When do we do this?"

"I will meet any and all challengers at the Publinks Saturday morning at 8 am. We will start at the 11th hole."

The Publinks was already closed for the year and everyone knew the 11th hole was remote, unseen and positioned for exactly this type of experiment and they could play a majority of the course by picking and choosing the right holes in the right order. The boys collectively nodded and quickly finished their lunch. Billy rolled up his poster and headed for class with the rest of the potential founding fathers but everyone was fairly quiet as Saturday was coming fast and no one, including and especially David, had an idea strong enough to brag about. Usually in these situations, David always would suspect Billy had already come up with an idea but this time was different. He believed the reason for the creative equality was Billy had come up with the whole idea of replacing golf off the top of his head. He had some ideas about golf but as the group leaned in and demanded more information, Billy's brain went into hyperdrive to deliver this challenge. Billy's demeanor remained quiet for the rest of the day which convinced David this was going to be a level playing field.

Exactly at 8am on Saturday morning. Billy walked onto the tee box and was pleased with the group of three fellow scientists waiting for him. Billy and two of the three had tennis rackets while David was toting a squash racket as well as a standard tennis racket, a bat and in apparent violation of his early instructions, a large slingshot. While it appeared David was going to try a few things versus compromise his new sport, Billy was happy to see his urge to experiment and welcomed all the pioneers with a wave of his hand.

"Are you ready to make history?" said Billy as he prepared himself to strike the first ball.

"I think you are over-dramatizing this a bit," said David. "However, it think it is time to play so let's light this candle and see what happens."

"Keep the slingshot until later, okay?"

"No problem."

All four boys struck fairly legitimate balls, all landing about one hundred yards into the fairway. The distance was roughly equivalent to their normal length with a golf club but the accuracy was much greater. While they assembled for their second shots, they had no idea if they were having fun but being scientists, they decided to press on for the love of the game. At the end of first hole, their scores were similar to the ones experienced with traditional golf clubs but no one had experienced a lost ball (or two) on the hole so collectively everyone deemed the experiment an initial success. By the end of their round (holes 11-17 and holes 4-9), the group sat down to discuss what they had learned, what they had liked and areas for improvement.

"I thought it would be more fun using something like a racket" said Billy. "It was fun but so is watching your ball go screaming into the woods."

"I agree. I like I didn't lose any balls but finding new balls from the ponds and weeds is kind of fun as well," said Gerald "Fuzzy" Vernon. "Keeping the same ball for a whole round was boring."

David didn't say anything as the other joined in but once it was quiet, he looked up and said, "Why exactly can't we use slingshots?"

Billy said, "It isn't a hard and fast rule; it is more of a guideline."

Fuzzy said, "And do we have to use golf balls? Can't I use anything I wish?"

Billy said, "Again, these are guidelines but we are scientists attempting to improve on perfection so feel free to try anything you wish and let's see what happens."

The group shrugged and agreed to think about their new experience and come back next week, same bat time, and try to make the round evolve from interesting to exciting. No one had any ideas at the time but the challenges of distance and accuracy needed to be reconciled with some elements of ballistical over-compensation but they had an entire week to work on it and new ideas were just around the corner.

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