Eight of Pentacles with Five of Swords

Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans
Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

Right now the US Open is being held in my backyard. Just a mere nine miles from my house four golfers are about to have a ball smacking showdown over a purse of $1.8 million.

For all of you golf non-aficionados, let me explain a bit about what makes this course and this Open noteworthy: Chambers Bay Golf Course is the youngest course to host a US Open. It is modeled after the Scottish styled links, with less of that lush baby pampering pristine magazine cover golf courses that are standard to our American sensibilities. It’s comprised of fine fescue grass, a grass that does well here in the perpetual blanket of gray and dampness indicative of Pacific Northwest Puget Sound weather. It’s a grass with super thin tight blades that you’ll find in many lawns around here, preferred by type-A landscapers who like their lawns to resemble an active Marine colonel’s haircut. The result in golf is a tight, frictionless, unforgiving turf that offers more bounce and less spin for golfers.

Bear with me… there will be a little more golf talk before going into the Tarot meat…

So here is what we’ve had to contend with from the golf pros competing in this year’s US Open. There have been grouses and complaints about how this course is not up to par for hosting an Open. Yep, I took liberties with that joke. I can hear the eyes rolling like an overshot putt on a double-cut green. Anyway, the pros have remarked on how awful and unreasonable and inelegant and nonsensical this course is for this level of play. With some slight exceptions, the coincidental correlation has been in the scores. The degree of grievance from each pro seems to be directly proportional to the number of strokes they ended up with in each round. Read: the worse they did, the more vocal their criticism of the links.

So here’s the point in all this golf talk and how it correlates rather interestingly to the two cards I drew at random: In order to master any endeavor, one has to practice. One has to apply themselves to a task with so much repetition that it becomes second nature. Think of Mr. Miyagi employing the car waxing technique when training young Danny Laruso in The Karate Kid. Increasing a skill is all about developing technique into an automated response, about making what was once intensely challenging into a fluid and natural exercise.

Once we’ve reached that state of expertise, at what point do we say we cannot possibly get any better? For the best of the best, there is no such thing and there should be no such thing. They know the state of perfection is perpetually out of reach, it’s a brass ring that is really the proverbial carrot-on-a-string. Yet it must be pursued. Once the expert finds themselves on autopilot in employing their demonstrable skillset, they should yearn to find out what can snap them out of their zen of expertise. What better to do that than to face a challenge that rattles them profoundly, that throws the caltrops of the unexpected in their path?

If we find ourselves complaining about not being able to set our cruise control and effortlessly glide through a new challenge of which we believe ourselves to be excellently excellent in meeting, we should instead be thankful. We should have tremendous gratitude to receive the opportunity to challenge ourselves beyond our rote masterdom. We should recognize that if we are being offered a glorious reward for our achievement, we ought to demonstrate that we are able to figure out how to traverse the unanticipated field of barbwire and broken lightbulbs beyond our lauded masterful talents and skills. If we are the best, we have to prove it by meeting the dragon we’ve never met face-to-face.

So to the pros at Chambers Bay (as well as each of us) that are blaming a challenging course for their poor results, I remind them in my best John Houseman mid-Atlantic accent; whoever wins today will have made their money the old fashion way… they will have earned it.