To Keep Or Not to Keep
Which golf trophies and tchotchkes do you throw away?
Illustration by Ryan Olbrysh
Doesn’t matter if you’re any good. Hang around golf long enough and you’re bound to collect an amount of memorabilia: plates, picture frames, bag tags that could double as branding irons, vases, paperweights, a surprisingly heavy and well-crafted runner-up trophy from the sixth flight of a shamble, net-division, afternoon wave.
Our family recently moved, and in packing I confronted a box of golf trophies that had remained unopened in our attic since our prior move. As I had encouraged everyone to be ruthless in purging (we have four young children, and I had coldheartedly stood over each to enforce the halving of their beloved piles of ratty stuffed animals, dolls and plastic trucks) it would’ve been hypocritical to not take a hard look at my own trinkets.
Now, my wife is aware and accepts the throbbing crush I have for Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying consultant whose best-selling books espouse “keeping only objects that spark joy” to free oneself from a life of aggravating clutter. When it comes to interior design, I do love the modern aesthetic of bare surfaces. So why was chucking this dusty hoard such a struggle for me?
Value is relative. My little accomplishments might impress some, though, of course, for thousands of better golfers they would register as hardly anything. For me, the most difficult thing to throw away was four identical pewter cups from the Ekwanok Country Club caddie tournament. My summer memories there looping with good friends and learning to play better are some of the sweetest I have. But, as my wife has hinted, what sort of pathetic loser hangs on to awards from high school?
In certain Division III college tournaments, the top 18 finishers receive a flag of the corresponding hole number of their place. Since mine were all on the back nine, discarding these mementos of mediocrity wasn’t so hard.
One object that gave me pause was a tarnished ashtray with the Royal and Ancient logo. You would believe it was a century old, but in fact it was from a corporate outing for a recent Open. Sorting handicaps wasn’t a priority for the organizers. Though it’s a cool keepsake from an historic venue, our foursome’s “low gross” was a non-victory if there ever was one. Plus, I don’t smoke.
I tossed my diploma, too, still in its original tube. I’d had two decades to hang it on a wall. Some friends encouraged me to keep this stuff—what’s one more box in an attic? However, for a family of six moving to a home of untested storage capacity, it’s not nothing. More important, one of the great wisdoms I’m trying to remember is the impermanence of all things. The experience is what mattered and continues to matter, not the souvenir.
Reinforcing the infantility of keeping this stuff was my son, Bo, who’s 4 and has watched many cartoons in which winning shiny trophies is a recurrent narrative. No word other than “awestruck” can describe his reaction to the contents of my box. I’ll confess to some pride as Bo quizzed me on their origins. He played with them for weeks before I finally made the dump run. Bo also thinks I’m the strongest man in the world.
What is maturity but openness to paradox. One thing I will never throw away belonged to my grandfather. He ran track at the University of Arizona in the 1930s, and this gold medal the size of a quarter has his name, event and result etched finely on the back. Likewise, my USGA medals and belt clips I’ll keep forever. Some unsolicited advice for event organizers: if you want your awards to endure, the smaller the better.
Unless, of course, it’s for a championship so important the winner will kiss the prize and hold it above his head before a teeming crowd. In this issue, staff writer Evin Priest enters the world of Champion Golfer of the Year Cam Smith by following not the man but the claret jug. Our cover star, Collin Morikawa, has also won the game’s oldest trophy but keeps his in a closet. To hear Morikawa explain it, he won’t display any of his trophies until he’s done winning them.
It’s all relative—which is also what the dump attendant told me, in so many words, when he directed me to the bins for glass and metal.