By Dennis L. Morgan
ATKINSON — On the wind-swept plains of northern Nebraska, they competed here Saturday. Male and female athletes from Elgin Public-Pope John as well as an assortment of other schools in the region, turned out Saturday morning to play golf and to run and jump and throw in track and field.
Here we were, the last day of April, and golfers are wearing stocking caps and warm up suits as they lean into the wind carrying their golf clubs. Not more than a mile or two away, track athletes are wrapped in blankets, wearing gloves and anything else they can to generate body heat.
The Spring of 2011 won’t be remembered for warm temperatures and flowers blooming. No, the days of April will be remembered for clouds and wind, below normal temperatures and the lack of sunshine.
Now, if you are an athlete who enjoys golf and track, or you are a fan, a parent who faithfully follows your team, you must learn to battle the elements. Spring in Nebraska, particularly this part of the state, is not for the faint of heart. You must be willing to run 3200 meters wearing a track uniform which is literally next to nothing. Some will wear liners under their uniforms which are NSAA-approved apparel, others will go with the uniform and nothing else. I think its those uniform-only athletes who use some form of mind games to try and psych out their opponent. “I’m not cold…The weather won’t affect me…It’s all a state of mind” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. As always, talent prevails.
It’s been a long, long time since I’ve ran track so I can only speak from the view of a bystander. Standing around does not generate body heat. The only way to stay warm when the temps are cold and the wind is blowing is to wear winter clothes. You stand tall alone or you huddle with the masses on the bleachers, that’s how the fans stay warm when the sun isn’t shining and the arctic winds blow non-stop down the plains.
Then there’s golf. On Saturday, that was our first stop on the west side of Atkinson. A beautiful golf course, lush and green, covered with the next generation of American golfers. Some wear PING golf hats, others were wearing stocking caps of assorted colors. Unless you have a fondness for the old course at St. Andrews’s, I don’t know of anyone who likes to play golf when the wind is blowing and the cold makes your hands tingle.
But, these young golfers don’t have a choice on this day. When the schedule says you play, you play. Unless the course is covered in snow, underwater or rain is coming down in buckets with lightning overhead, you play.
You find a way to make your way around the course. With the wind blowing as hard as it was, on several holes the boys were teeing off into the wind. You learn to compensate by hitting the ball low.
Hitting a ball high into the wind is asking for it to end up anywhere but where you want it to go. Then, on other holes when the wind is at your back, you need to pick the right club to control distance. That’s the ‘thinking’ part of the game.
Golf is a game of feel. When your hands are cold, your ‘feel’ of the golf club leaves much to be desired. If, for some reason, you don’t hit the ball in the ‘sweet’ spot of the club, your hands will know it.
So, as one can imagine, I was impressed at how these golfers were handling the elements. They may have been cold, they may have not wanted to be ‘there’ at that time, but they were. Spring sports in Nebraska are as much a mental game as they are physical. If you let the conditions get to you, they will. If you embrace what the weatherman gives you, you have already beaten your opponent before the starting gun sounds or before the first golf ball is teed up.
Just a few more notes — President George W. Bush said we would get Osama Bin Laden, he just didn’t know when. More than nine years of hunting came to an end Sunday as Navy Seals found the Al-Qaeda mastermind and ended his life. I’m glad American soldiers found him instead of a bomb or a missile. The last thing he saw was an American soldier. God Bless America!