Wasn’t a good decision. A decision with no anticipation that why didn’t I accept his offer?—years, make that decades later I whisper to myself.
Year was 1970…into my second year as an associate pastor in Eugene, Oregon. Gary Wiren, he to me always Wiren and me from him, Miller, made two statements, actually unrelated. Wiren said it directly, but softly, perfect for his personality, “Miller, I’m coming by at 6 a.m. each work-week morning…want to show you Eugene.” That was an euphemism for, Miller, you need to lose weight; no one wants a too-large pastor. So, it became…Wiren and Miller, a somewhat out-of-sync jogging team. He was the smooth one…I? Don’t even imagine let alone ask. And. I learned that jogging brought more than learning about Eugene…it became a pattern, even in Colorado where at a mile-high breathing wasn’t the easiest.
Back to Wiren and his second offer, “Miller, I’d be pleased to show you how to golf.”
I declined. Not sure why. Really. Well, part of it might have been I had just purchased a 2-person drift boat—14 foot McKenzie boat, which means it had bows on both ends. But, also part of it might have been [sense the hedging from WAS?] my faulty belief that the harder I worked the better I was. Ministry took time. Lots of it.
At any rate, I declined.
Reason that decision is perhaps the most regretted of my life—ah, if only I could revisit it by turning back the clock–is, Wiren became a Master Teacher for the PGA, is in the PGA Hall of Fame and the PGA Teacher Hall of Fame. Whoa, right?
Yet, the relationship hasn’t been lost…with two examples to emphasize that Wiren never held it against me that I declined his teaching offer.
The first was when I served an interim ministry at an Austin suburban church. One of the members—I learned this when visiting—used to be a golf professional at a local golf club, but no longer could even play golf because of his amputated legs, a result of diabetes. Doug showed me his “golf room/library/den.” My goodness. All sorts of pictures…of him and Gary Player…of him and Arnold Palmer. Lots of signature pictures. More than impressive. No less than his beaming commentary.
Next week at church, and I believe this was not of my authorship but of God’s hint, I asked Doug, “What can I do for you?” He blinked, “You mean that?” Response was not hesitant, “Yep, if I can I will.”
He blinked, “Well, what I want more than anything in the world is to get Jack Nicklaus’ personal signature.”
I only nodded. Then said, very softly, “Let me see what I can do.”
Made the phone call to my once-almost-golf-teacher, “Wiren, you and Jack Nicklaus are buddies; I know that. Have a favor.”
Got Jack and Barbara Nicklaus’ address, wrote them about Doug, his request and a picture of him.
A month later the package in my mailbox was worth more than any money in the world, certainly worth more than gold. Was from Jack Nicklaus.
Diane and I called Doug to make sure we could visit.
Sat in his living room with the packet stuck behind my back, belted securely.
“Doug? You asked me something. I did my best…” at which point I reached for the packet, handed it to him.
We were all crying with our joy. Jack Nicklaus came through, For Doug, a fellow golfer.
But. Especially did Wiren come through.
Doug died a month later, his bucket list complete.
Fast forward to yesterday, Thanksgiving Day. An e-mail from Wiren, a blog response…affirming the need each day to have an attitude of gratitude. And then, “Miller, Keep fishing for men…but don’t forget to fish for fish. Happy Thanksgiving. Wiren.”
All on this day of thanks…but especially I give thanks for Wiren…and his wife, Ione…two of the most special friends in all the world. And know. The regret in declining the golf lessons never ever trumps the value of our friendship…boy oh boy, it sure doesn’t.