Almost six years ago I played my last professional event in Alabama. When the last putt dropped, I didn’t know how my relationship with golf would change, and how my love for the game would evolve.
Six months passed until I picked up a club again, and I teed it up at Lincoln Park Golf Course in Oklahoma City. This course held special memories for me. I played there often in high school, and even won the 6A State Championship my junior year there. I don’t remember what I shot because for the first time in years I didn’t keep score. I hit some good shots, not so good shots, and shots where I questioned if I had ever played professionally before.
The expectations I placed on myself were nonexistent. How could I expect to play well? I hadn’t held a club in months, let alone watched any tournaments. Regardless, the day was perfect. I stepped off the course feeling excited to play again, and the joy that the game brought me as a kid was sparked again.
Since then, I’ve played numerous rounds leaving the course with the exact same feeling of love for the game. I even coached for a short while, and during my lessons, particularly with kids, I reminded them over and over again that golf is just a game: a beautiful and quirky game that can never be perfected.
Before this revelation, I used to curse (still do, but more in jest), throw clubs, slam clubs, and mentally beat myself up for not being perfect. I was mentally exhausted every time I walked off the course. Even if I played well, I would find it difficult to enjoy the best parts of the day.
The ironic thing about my mentality on the course was any time I played a pro-am, and the amateurs – mostly high handicappers- in the group would get angry, I would wonder why they spent so much money to get pissed off. But the irony was, I decided to play a game for a living that also made me feel upset.
And often, I would tell them when they got angry on the golf course that they weren’t good enough to get mad. But in reality, neither was I.
Golf is a sport not meant to toy with our emotions if we take it at face value. Sure it’s complex. Sure it’s difficult. And yes, it is maddening. But if you look at the foundation of the game, at its core golf is simple and it’s all about moving forward. Each shot is meant to go to a final destination. You swing, hit, find the ball, and hit it again. And unlike other sports that require so many other players involved to help reach that final goal, it’s just you. That’s it.
It’s a game that can make you feel incredibly vulnerable to peers, as it’s the only sport that really makes your opponents stand still to watch you try to do something incredibly challenging.
It’s also a sport that if you take away all of the fancy perks of a clubhouse, and the trappings of the scenery that sometimes surround a course, it’s just you, a golf ball, and a club, and the grass beneath you.
In my opinion, it’s the most beautiful and pure sport there is.
It took not playing professionally to see that I was wrong with my approach to the game the entire time I played, except when I was a kid.
So often I would walk barefoot and play a round of golf at my little muni in Gallup, NM. There were times when I would play two balls, and imagine that the second ball was Se Ri Pak or Annika Sorenstam, and I’d play against them, and I would always win.
I played golf the way it is supposed to be played before I knew how good I could be at the sport. It was meant to be fun, joyful, and silly. As I got older, I didn’t know that I could also be competitive, while laughing at my mistakes.
Now, when I step onto the course, all I can do is laugh. My comedy of errors between four-putts, shanks, chunks, and hooks, literally make me think, “Wow, I must be a nut to think this is fun.”
Most golfers are a little nutty, especially the ones that come back again, and again, and again.
As my grandma who introduced the game to the family once said, “You always seem to remember the bad shots. But me? I only hit one good one, so it’s easier for me to remember the good ones.”
So that’s what I do now . . . I take joy and remember the good ones.