Some time ago I stopped playing golf. I stopped enjoying the game. Golf was no longer a sport, it was existential. What’s worse, golf began to live within certain parameters. If I wasn’t playing particularly well, I wasn’t playing golf. If I wasn’t playing with certain clubs, if I didn’t have a certain swing, if I couldn’t hit the ball a long enough distance, then I wasn’t playing real golf. It’s like I was trying to gain membership to some sort of club I had invented that never existed, whose members I picked out, who never knew they were in this club, and who never gave any sort of impression that I too wasn’t a member. But in my head I wasn’t. I was on the fringe. I knew the history, I knew all the members, but I couldn’t ever get past the front gate and the harder I tried the more I got rejected. I began to resent the game, because I watched members of this club squander their membership, never appreciating what they had, and it made me bitter. I questioned my position in life, the hand I had been dealt, why golf seemed so much harder for me. Why could people I played with play so carelessly and play so well and I could only struggle? It wasn’t fair, because I knew they didn’t want it as badly as I did. They weren’t the ones trying to become certified by the PGA, so why did they get to shoot in the 70s and not me? I couldn’t understand it, and so I turned my anger and my insecurities on the only two things I could vaguely understand, golf and myself. Each round became a first step with a leg that has just been removed from a cast. Tentative, insecure, full of optimism but having no idea what the outcome will be. Time after time I began the round knowing I was better than what my results produced, and ended the round confirming the pessimist that shouted detractions at me each time I failed to produce to my fullest potential. My self worth was rooted in a score, in a stereotype, and if I couldn’t meet that stereotype then I was nothing, I brought nothing to the world and I had no right to hold my head up, for I had achieved nothing.
Not any more. Now, thanks to several factors both internal and external of my game I’ve developed a new found appreciation for not only what I bring to the sport but for what I bring to myself and the world. I no longer live and die by my accomplishments on the course, I realize my existence doesn’t culminate with perfecting the sort of player I feel I should be. Failures on the course have distinctly identifiable causes, which make them remediable, rather than proof of my being forsaken by The Almighty. I’ve stopped resenting my place in the industry, and come to once again enjoy the sport and what it has to offer. Unsurprisingly, I have enjoyed much more success because of this. I’m playing better than I can remember, smiling after every shot, and thankful each and every day that not only do I get to do this, but that God would choose me to want to do this for a living. Golf has become a vocation again, something I would gladly do for free but because people will pay me for it I’m just that much happier. Stepping up to the ball doesn’t evoke the sort of feelings one might feel as they put their last dollar into a Vegas slot machine, hopeful, fearful, unsure, certain that the outcome relies not on their efforts but of a higher being who they don’t know if they find them favorable or not. Instead stepping up to the ball is like returning to a favorite vacation spot. Quiet, eager, familiar, unsure of what the day may hold but knowing you are totally in control of how you perceive and react to it and thus you are confidently optimistic that there is only fortune and positivity ahead of you. I’m so happy I started playing golf again, because I can’t get enough of it.