I swung my first club back in the late-80's, sometime around 1989. I was 20 years old at the time. I grew up in Southeast Kentucky and basketball was basically the only sport I played growing up. There were no high school golf programs, the only course was over an hour away from my house and even at that it was a 9-holer. Although I'd watched it on tv from time to time - there wasn't a desire to take up the game back when I was younger.
I spent over a year hitting balls at the range between 1989-1990 with a set of Square Two irons, basically PING EYE2 clones that I bought for $75 from a local golf store. Also had a Spalding Molitor laminated 5wood (steel shaft) that was in the bag. My putter was likewise a Spalding... It was green with a milled face finish. I went to the range a few times per week back then, making a vow that I wouldn't ever venture onto a course for an official round before learning to hit the ball in the air with some means of control, and learning the basic etiquette of the game. I didn't want to embarrass myself or make others playing with me feel uncomfortable just starting out.
Then sometime around the early 90's - I finally got out for my first round and absolutely loved it. Found a friend to play with on a weekly basis and eventually started learning how to score several months later. It didn't take long for me to figure out that my short game and putting were really deficient and I spent the next year or so spending less time on the driving range and more time practicing at the local muni putting green. I absolutely loved working on my putting and chipping. I would spend 90+ minutes dropping balls and chipping around the green from various lies and trying to make 1-putts. To this very day, I still very much prefer spending most of my practice time pitching, chipping and putting.
I became "competitive" sometime in the mid-90's, thanks to my buddy. He was more naturally gifted at swinging the club than I was, but my short game and putting kept our weekly matches close. He won most of the time, but I was able to eek out a win here and there. And when I did prevail - the feeling of contentment was off the charts.
Played my first tournament roughly 5 years after first touching a club. Although I played poorly overall that first tournament, I hit enough good shots to keep at it, despite being nervous as hell. The more I played in tournaments in the coming years - the more comfortable I became, and although I didn't win many of them - I realized that I had potential if I'd just keep at it and continue trying to improve.
Won my only club championship back in 2008 or 2009 (can't remember). Took me roughly 20 years to reach what was undoubtedly the pinnacle of my golf experience. I was a 2 handicap at the time.
So next fall will mark the 30-year anniversary of the beginning of my golf experience. I'm not nearly the player I used to be, don't have the time to invest these days like I did years ago. And quite honestly - I simply don't have the desire to put as much time into it like I used to.
But I still enjoy playing. I still enjoy the challenge. I still hit a shot from time to time that takes me back to a time when that shot used to be expected a lot more than it has become the exception these days.
It's a great game. It's taught me a lot about myself and about life in general. It's introduced me to some lifelong friends and provided a wonderful 4-hour distraction over the years when I've much needed to take a break from the worries of life.
What's your story? When did you start playing and how long have you stayed with it? And why have you stuck with it all this time?