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Gubernatorial golf brings a tear to the eye

WHEN Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin recently and prominently tried his hand at golf, he knocked a drive down the middle of the fairway and reacted with relief and joy. He laughed and gave a little bow of satisfaction.

I could relate.

Then he drove two straight balls right into a creek. Splash! Splash!

He first slumped over in frustration and then waved his arms in disgust.

I could relate to that, too.

I actually had to replay a video with snippets of the governor's game because in my memory, he had reacted to the second ball's splashdown like the Tasmanian devil of cartoon fame, spinning in waves of anger.

I would've understood that also.

Golf. It's more frustrating than getting your legislation killed.

The governor was playing a practice round at The Greenbrier Classic, West Virginia's premiere professional sporting event.

Tomblin made his reputation in West Virginia politics by being careful with the state's cash, cutting political deals, and patiently steering bills toward passage.

But in this case, he was in a highly visible foursome, joining Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Greenbrier Sporting Club real estate chief Jim Klemish on a team partnered with Master's winner Bubba Watson.

Oh, and a small crowd including reporters and photographers tagged along.

Awkward.

You can imagine how Tomblin's predecessor, Joe Manchin — the former West Virginia University quarterback, general athletic enthusiast and all-out spotlight lover — would have thrived in this environment.

Joe would have sailed around the course, probably knocking in birdies and adoring the crowd.

West Virginia governors prior to that never had this "opportunity."

How would Gaston Caperton, Cecil Underwood or clogging Bob Wise have fared in an exhibition round at The Greenbrier Classic, which didn't debut until 2010?

Please. Play through.

Now Arch Moore?

He'd do fine — as long as he filled out his own scorecard.

As for Tomblin: "I prefer to fish," the governor joked.

I'm no golfer either. I don't have the time, the money or the patience — although I do enjoy myself when I get out on the course once each decade.

I went golfing with my brother-in-law this summer when we were on vacation with our families. The place we were staying had some beautiful courses. Some were alongside the ocean, and all were populated by alligators.

He wanted to go, and I was agreeable. I figured I could blame the gators for all my lost balls.

I rented some clubs, bought a pack of 20 Pinnacle balls, and we set out.

Like the governor, I was wildly inconsistent.

I focused on just making contact. And sometimes I did. Sometimes my ball flew, not far but straight.

And plenty of other times I chopped the top off the ball. Or whacked up a hunk of dirt and grass. Or the ball would fly straight at first, then take an abrupt right-hand turn into the trees.

By the 18th hole, I had lost all 20 balls.

No nest of ball-hungry alligators would make that statistic palatable.

We had fun, though, and a young lady on a diesel-powered vehicle roamed the course, delivering beverages to thirsty duffers. So that was a morale-boost.

But, like Tomblin must have felt, I was relieved at the end of the 18th hole.

Golf's a game of character — especially when you're not very good.

I thought the governor showed he's a good sport.

McElhinny is the Daily Mail's editor and publisher. Contact him at 304-348-5124 or bradmc@dailymail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BradMcElhinny.


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