The 2007 Ivar Wistrom Invitational

by Arvid Adell

“No one could have done it by hisself”

In the ’60s, God created the New York Mets. Not very well, however. Early in their history, the “hapless” (sports writers always referred to this team as “hapless”) Mets set a Major League record for the most losses ever in a season. After the final game, Manager Casey Stengal summoned all the players to a team meeting in the clubhouse. Seeking to console them, Casey uttered those memorable words, “Look at it this way, men. It was a team effort. No one could have done it by hisself!”

Pictured here is the antithesis of the Mets. You are looking at the foursome who completely annihilated the competition to win the Third Annual Wistrom Invitational—by a landslide. As befits the modesty of these champions, the post-tournament banquet was held at the Garrison, Minnesota McDonalds with the incomparably beautiful Lake Mille Lac in the background as a kind of gallery. Three of these players, myself the exception, are the perennial winners of this event and there are murmurings about a possible dynasty in the making. Whatever, we are in perfect concert with spokesman Stengal, “None of us could not have done it by hisself.”

Although we were the ones wielding the “weapons of war” (to quote the famous scribe, Willie Beep Beep Pearson [Pietisten XX:1, p. 15]), the inspiration for our success came from three highly respected super luminaries, largely unknown to the golf’s aficionados. Regardless, they provided the conceptual foundation and edification that defined us a priori as literally unbeatable. “Surrounded by such a prestigious crowd of advocates, we conquered the course set before us.”

The first of these “beyond hisself” contributors was the 11th Century monk, Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury. His ontological argument by which he proved the existence of God as “the greatest of all possible beings” paralleled our proof, even before a single shot was fired, that we were “the greatest of all possible teams” at this year’s Wistrom Invitational. Here’s how this worked for Anselm and for us. Anselm defined God as the greatest being you could think of. If that definition of God is accurate—and even Anselm’s cultural despisers assented—then this being must exist not only as an idea, but in reality as well. Otherwise you could think of something greater—that is, a being who existed both as an idea and as a real being. Better to have a huge sum of money in both your mind and in your bank than in the former only, right? It is at this point that Anselm’s scholasticism resonated with the Wistrom champions. At the Cuyuna Country Club on that grey July Thursday morning, no doubt there were dozens of former North Parkers, skilled in the golfing arts, who were possible competitors in this event by virtue of the fact that they worked for Ivar. Perhaps many of them had the idea of engaging the defending champions in a “take no prisoners” contest. However, only the Soderstrom, Sturdy, Johnson, Adell group showed. Standing on the first tee, like Anselm’s Deity, we recognized that we were “the greatest of all possible foursomes” for the necessary and sufficient reason that we were the only combatants who were there in both thought and in reality. Anselm’s irrefutable logic gave us a confidence bordering on hubris!

Our second benefactor was an eighteenth century philosopher who, like us, had a strong pietist upbringing. Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, made a categorical distinction between the “phenomena” (things as they appear) and the “noumena” (things as they really are). Appearance is superficial and misleading. Reality is the imperceptible truth—sort of an erudite version of that dictum “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” The Wistrom Invitational champions found great encouragement in this Kantian dichotomy. Our self-esteem, so essential for those seeking to experience the “thrill of victory rather than the agony of defeat,” was somewhat suspect and severely challenged as we hobbled to the first tee. Collectively, we totaled only two years shy of 280. Nor was the medical report particularly comforting: two very recent total knee replacements, one artificial hip, a back that had required faith healing on the West Coast a short week before the tournament, and varying degrees of corpulence. Our “phenomena” was not exactly intimidating. We did not offer the presentation of a Ryder Cup entry. As the gallery perceived us, there was some whispering to the effect: “Deep down, they are very shallow!” Wrong, phenomenologists! Our “noumena” was as deep as a John Updike novel and our game was as solid as a rock. Thanks to Kant’s uplifting insight, we had apodictic certainty that victory was ours. Or, as the author of Hebrews so eloquently expressed it, “by faith they are certain of things unseen.”

The last of our three mentors was probably the most significant. The Apostle Paul continually reminds the faithful that we are children of grace and not of the Law. Our sentiments exactly and we did not hesitate in applying the gift of grace to our game. In the lexicon of golf, we referred to this appropriation as the deconstruction and reconstruction of Sam Snead. Perhaps you remember the debate between Ted Williams, arguably the greatest of all baseball players, and Sam Snead, certainly a golfing icon. The issue of the dispute was the question as to which sport is more difficult to master. Williams maintained that hitting a baseball was light-years more demanding than striking a golf ball. After all, the ball is pitched at nearly 100 miles an hour, rises, falls, curves, and sometimes flutters during its journey from the mound to the plate. Even if a batter is fortunate enough to make contact, there are nine adversaries anxious to make his efforts superfluous. With a supercilious smile, Williams reminded Snead that in golf the ball just sits there, immobile, an easy target for anyone with even a modicum of athletic ability to smash. Allegedly, Sam’s only rebuttal was, “You forget, Ted, unlike baseball, in golf you have to play your foul balls.” That’s where our apostolic reconstruction of Snead and golf came to the rescue. We graciously accepted the Apostle’s hegemony of grace over the Law with the felicitous consequence that in golf, as well as in baseball, no one is required to “play his foul balls.” Often, our hand was in our pockets snatching a “replay” even before our initial effort had finished its wayward flight into ignominy.

In retrospect, we are absolutely convinced that Casey Senegal’s remarks to his “hapless” Mets were “dead, solid perfect. “No one can do much in baseball—or in life for that matter—by hisself.” Thus, we offer our tribute to our extended team of Anselm, Kant, and Paul, but even more so to the man in whose memory the event was established, the Chief Engineer of North Park, the incomparable and unforgettable Ivar Wistrom.

Arvid Ardell is a retired Professor of Philosophy at Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois.

See all articles by Arvid Adell