Mulligans, or second chances

Castlegar News columnist Gord Turner tees off on a commonly used term

There I was – offering, and he said “no.”  “I never take a mulligan,” he declared. Resolutely, he walked forward to his ball that had gone about 30 metres because of his mis-hit. He struck it from there, and so the game continued.

Non-golfers may wonder about the use of the term “mulligan.”  For many years, I played in a group that had mulligan allowances. Our group allowed one mulligan (or a second hit in place of a bad hit) per nine holes. That mulligan had to be in place of a bad tee shot. The idea was that we were playing a friendly game, and by giving a mulligan, the golfer would not feel his game was falling apart.

The term “mulligan” has several possible origins. The one mentioned most refers to a golfer from St. Lambert’s Golf Club in Montreal in the 1920s.

This fellow was named David Mulligan, and after one bad tee shot, he re-teed and hit again. He called it a “correction shot,” but his partners dubbed it the “mulligan shot.”

So I thought I would apply this “mulligan” term to life. Sometimes in schools or colleges, students have a terrible day and score badly on an exam. “Mulligans” or re-writes are occasionally given. Often, this practice allows certain students to get on with their lives, and they end up with excellent careers.

In the criminal justice system, mulligans are built into the entire process. If you are on trial, and everything turns out badly—just as if you hit a bad shot off the tee—you may appeal. You get a second chance, or mulligan.

In most grocery stores, you can have a mulligan. If you get home and one of the products is bad or not up to your standard, you can take it back. Most stores will give you a mulligan—in a sense, a second chance at the same item.

I think among friends and acquaintances, it would be useful to have a “mulligan” rule. For example, if one of my friends is inconsiderate or not very thoughtful, I will go away angry. For a few days, I tell myself I won’t have anything to do with that person again. Then I ask myself, “Is one incident worth losing a friend?”

So, as in a golf game, I find a way to say, “Take a mulligan, friend.”

If he or she has other worthwhile features as a friend, it’s important to see past the bad moment and offer a second chance.

Taking or giving a mulligan within family situations is important. We do it with our kids all the time while they’re growing up.  They are learning after all, so if a mulligan will undo a wrong or get them on the right track, we as parents give mulligans.

Sometimes the kids know they’ve done something improperly.  At that point, they often ask for a second chance.

It’s not a failure as a parent to give your kids a mulligan. You’re a failure as a parent if you’re always giving mulligans—if indeed, you can’t draw the line.

In golf, it’s the same way.  We would not want our friends to take a mulligan on every shot. We limit ourselves to one or two a game. In friendships and families, the same rule should apply. You can screw up as my friend once in a while, but not every time I’m with you.

Mulligans are there to make people feel a little better. They should not be