Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Suffering Inherent in the Game of Golf

Golf is a tough game.  Anyone who has to post a score in public understands this fact.  It is one of the few places that doesn't hand out participation ribbons to kids.  Poor play results in high scores.  Great play results in low scores.  There is no fluking a golf score.

This week, a player played beautiful golf for 52 holes of a 54 hole event.  On the 53rd hole, the wheels came off and the player made a big number which resulted in losing the event.  By this time of the event, people watching were talking about the beauty of the play and the inevitability of the win.  A friend called me to lament that player's pain and suffering.  My answer to her seemed cold when I said, "that's golf."

The golf course played tough for the entire 54 holes and many other great players in the field had made big numbers previously.  Their mistakes didn't happen as close to the end, but had the same effect; the mistakes kept them from winning.  Where the mistake is made really doesn't matter, but what does matter is the player's reaction and action going forward.  After the round, a player's responsibility is to look at what happened and why.  What was lacking, what could have been avoided, what can be done next time?  The goal is to be better the next time you reach the 53rd hole.  How can you bring resolve and readiness into it instead of bad memories?  The answer is to face up to what happened without emotion.  That might take a bit of time, but at some point, that is the next step.  How you respond to suffering is determined by your values.  Your values are like muscles for life.  They power you and keep you strong no matter what happens.  Developing your values is more important than developing your tee shots.  Strong values will hold you up when your tee shot goes astray and you have to score from the deep rough.

If at every step of your golf career or life you can step back from suffering and lean on what's important to you, you'll be okay.  It might be faith or family.  It might simply be resilience or the ability to learn.  You create and tell your story through your actions and reactions and the basis of your story comes from what you value.  Life doesn't end with disappointment or failure.  It goes on.  Golf as a reflection of life is the same.

The values we teach our players can't be based on comparisons, trophies won or image.  We have to dig deep and build a foundation based on respect for the process and the game, the ability to be at peace as a person, the knowledge that our preparation was enough, the camaraderie and friendships that we build and the ways that competition challenges us and our values so we can continue to grow.  The thing about golf is you never really "have it".  That's how golf reflects life the most to me.  Every day, you simply do your best and at the end lay your head on your pillow to get up and do it again.  As coaches and parents, we have to let our players know that their best is enough and that the effort put forth was well worth it.  If we do, there will be a time to shine.

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