I’ve played more rounds of golf than I can even remember, but there is one moment on the golf course that I’ll never forget.
I was 13 years old, playing in a junior golf tournament, and while standing over my putt after setting my putter down, my ball slightly moved. I stepped away from the ball and stood there for a second, contemplating what I should do. I knew the rules at the time: if you grounded your putter and the ball moved from its original position, you got a stroke penalty, and you needed to place the ball back in its original position.
The rule felt unfair, but those rules were set in place for a reason. I looked at my competitors, and with a sigh of reluctance I told them, “My ball moved. I think I need to get a stroke penalty.” Of course, I didn’t want to add a stroke to my score; I was competitive and wanted to win. But when my dad started to teach me how to play, he always reminded me that golf revealed one’s character. How you acted on the course would reveal who you were off it.
I didn’t want to be known as a cheater, and I knew that if I won without calling a penalty on myself, the win would have lost its luster.
I did, in fact, win that tournament and walked away from the course feeling proud of myself. No one could question my integrity or how I won.
This is just one of many moments where golf taught me life skills that became ingrained as part of my identity.
Sure, golf also provided me amazing opportunities that resulted in playing at the University of Washington on a full-ride scholarship, traveling the world while playing professionally, making great friends, and playing a sport I love for a living. It also opened doors for me that would have been more difficult otherwise and helped create a life post-golf career that I love.
However, had I not played, I likely still would have gone to college, I still would have traveled, and I still would have pursued another career I loved. But I would not have learned the real lessons playing golf taught me.
I learned the value in failing and learning from those mistakes. I learned how to be kind to myself when I struggled. I learned how to lose and how to celebrate the success of others. I learned how to be kind to myself when I made mistakes. I learned that my mistakes were not indicative of my value. I learned how to respect the grounds I walk on whether it was replacing divots or raking bunkers. I learned that hard work and dedication to a craft is really the only way to improve. I learned how to be patient, whether it was someone who played slow in my group or being patient with seeing results from my hard work. Most importantly for me, I learned how to let go and enjoy the moment, taking in the good with the bad. It taught me patience, it taught me how to be a fierce but kind competitor, and it instilled confidence in me that I was able to carry into other parts of my life.
Some of these lessons came to me later than others, but it was through playing golf where I was able to harness what I learned and apply those tenants to other parts of my life.
The truth is, not every young golfer or athlete is going to compete at the highest level, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in learning how to play.
Golf helped shape who I am, and my hope is that every young girl who plays a sport has the opportunity to learn these same lessons. Not only will these lessons help her become a stronger version of herself, it will lead her down a path of success no matter what road she decides to take, and give her tools to lead others.
So if you have a young girl in your life whose life you want to change, introduce her to golf, make it fun, and make the sport not just about how good she can be at it but rather show her what she can learn from it.