As my friends grow older - we're all in our 80s now - the sportsmen among us like to compare aging to the back nine of golf. Instead of confronting the obvious but unspoken end of game event, they suggest ways to make the back nine of life productive and worthwhile. Although life may move at a slower pace, a birdie on one of the last nine holes may be more satisfying than one made earlier. But we oldsters aren't on the senior tour, with a comfortable clubhouse after the last green. What's missing from their golf analogy is any reference to the terminal point of the game. Alas, all that worthwhile productivity is stymied at That Final Hole.
In the end, we all fail to make the Final Cut. For those who want to stay in the game a few more years, even though the fairways get longer and are all uphill, here are some tips:
* AVOID MATCH PLAY, where the winner is determined by the number of holes the leader has won. If you are ten down with eight to go the game is over, ending much too soon. In life, don't take on the really sharp guys since the game can end too quickly that way. Competing with those who are far superior may cause stress and shorten life by a stroke. This may discourage you from being an over-achiever but if you are just an over-attempter it's not worth the risk.
* ENGAGE IN TEAM PLAY. To steer clear of the sand trap of a solitary life, most of us need a playing partner. Team play minimizes the negatives of head-to-head competition and makes landing in the rough less unpleasant. The downside is when your partner leaves the game before you.
* PLAY FOR A TIE. The timing of the opening of that final hole can, in some cases, be delayed. I taught my kids to play for a tie. They didn't think much of that, but my argument was that it took a really good player to end with a tie, as you deliberately try to make nearly impossible shots in croquet, tennis or, yes, golf. If you make them the loser feels that you were really lucky. If you miss, the weaker competitor has a good chance to win.
How does that fit the end-of-life game? Those who want to extend life as long as possible see a tie as the way to do it. If you tie there is an Extra Hole. Ties, in golf and other games, require a playoff. In golf it's that Extra Hole. That can be interpreted as an unexpected extension of life, some extra years, that wouldn't have been there except for the tie. With luck, that extra hole may stretch into two or more additional ones. As long as the players keep tying, the game, life, goes on. The trick is to figure out how to achieve a tie at life's end.
However, all those extra holes eventually end - in sudden death. Not just for the loser, but for the winner as well. In a life playoff there is no winner. Both competitors get their own holes. Some may be more ornately adorned but the final results are the same, whether it came on the tenth hole or in overtime.
Regardless of score or wealth, whether in golf or life, it all ends at that final hole. No one will fault you if you intentionally three-putt that last green. Take all the putts you want. You may have lost all the other holes, but this one is yours.