When I started playing golf, I didn’t get it. It was boring and I couldn’t comprehend the allure of the game. I was 6 or 7 and I was down in Florida visiting my grandpa, or as I called him, “Pop Pop”. He was a great golfer and lived on a golf course. What do you do with your child and grandchild in Florida other than take them to Disney world? I guess taking me to the driving range was the answer they came up with. For most of my life I would only play or practice when I was visiting. Sometimes I would go to the range with my dad; I’d finish my 50 balls in less than 3 minutes without caring where the ball was actually hit. I would then spend the rest of the time sitting on a bench behind the range just watching; watching these men swing and swing and swing, and curse and curse and curse, showing every bit of emotion with every horrible shot. I didn’t get it. I just couldn’t understand it. Why is this fun?
I played every sport you could think of unless you are thinking of things like cricket or curling. My number one sport was baseball. Golf was never a thought in my mind. We had a rule in my house and that was no golf during baseball season. This rule was not hard to follow, it was my rule. The swings for both sports may seem similar, however something about swinging a golf club during baseball season turned my baseball swing into a mess. I played baseball up until my freshman year of college and stopped because I thought I had to.
You know when people tell you, “You won’t understand till you’re older?” Do you know that one? It was true for me in golf. I eventually got it, and maybe the only reason I got it is because I needed it. I was desperately trying to fill the void that not playing baseball had left. Golf was just right there at my fingertips. Most of you know my back-story – If you check back on my recent posts you can reread it, but I will hit the bullet points necessary for this post:
- I turned pro a couple months after my Dad got his diagnoses.
- I turned pro far before I was ready but something made me do it.
- I played on and off professionally for 3 years.
- A couple months before my Dad died I made the decision to finally go all in when he was gone. No work, just golf tournaments.
In August I finally started my golf journey. The first tournament was rough, terrible in fact. I missed the cut. The second tournament was better, but not good by any means and resulted in another missed cut. This was pretty much the trend throughout the 3 months to follow. At times I wouldn’t want to play for days. My confidence was shot and the money was running out, but every time I stepped on that first tee of a tournament I knew that it was where I was supposed to be. I finally got a new coach and started re-working my swing. It was great, the changes we had made were paying off and I was set to get back out there and compete.
Here is the deal with golf — you need backing to play. You need sponsors or investors because it is expensive and essentially you are a gamble. You are betting on yourself to be better than everyone else. It’s a risky investment. I had a team of people that were on this hunt for me. I had 2 contracts before. One was an apparel deal with Oakley and the other was a club deal with Adams Golf. Neither one of those contracts was renewed after August. Nevertheless, I was feeling good. My swing was feeling good and my game was getting back to its original form. I was approached about playing in Asia on the One Asia Tour. I didn’t hesitate, I just wanted to play golf and if I got to see parts of the world while doing so, then I was taking it. I had sponsors in-line for this. It was all happening. All I had to do was head out to California and play in a Q-School (Qualifying event) and I was golden.
I flew out to LA, leaving behind a cold and snowy DC. I arrived 5 days prior to the tournament to get acclimated to the West Coast. Then it was tournament time and I was ready. I showed up to my tee time on the first day and my caddie was nowhere to be found. I carried my bag up and down this mountain-of-a golf course for the first nine holes. Luckily I had carried my bag a ton of times before and I did a good job of staying focused and not letting it get to me. My caddie eventually showed up on the tenth hole and turned out to be one hell of a guy.
After 4 days and 4 rounds, I didn’t perform to my ability. I was by myself across the country for 9 days and the only time I truly felt alone was standing on the 18th green on the final day, knowing that I may have screwed this up. I stood there and wondered, “What was wrong with me?”
To answer your question – my putter went cold. I hit the ball well, but I couldn’t read a green or judge a speed to save my life, and that’s exactly what I thought was on the line; my life. That might be a tad dramatic, but it kind of was. I had invested all that I had in this. I trained and trained for the race and a quarter mile into it I pulled up lame.
I returned home and waited for the people in the know to tell me when I was leaving for the One Asia tour. I got an email from my agent informing me that all sponsorships were now gone citing my poor performance. My feeling was unexplainable. I wasn’t sad; I felt that this is what I deserved for performing so poorly. Here I was sitting in my room, in a house that I could no longer afford, reading this email thinking that I was a complete failure. When it’s cold and snowing it only makes your sense of nothing-less more apparent. Sitting in a house all day, better yet sitting in one you can’t afford to live in anymore, makes you feel like you have nothing left.
After not picking up a club for a couple weeks and looking for answers on what to do, I went out to meet some of my friends at a bar. Amongst all the joking, I was asked when I was leaving. I told them what happened at Q-School. One of my friends said something to me that I will never forget. He said “just promise me you won’t give up. You’re the only one of us with a dream. Look at us, we don’t have dreams. Just don’t give up.” In between the drunkenness and the joking, here was the kid who made milk come out of my nose in the 1st grade asking me not to quit. Having him say that meant more to me than I think he will ever know. I’m flat broke, doing odd jobs for money, planning on moving home and then he hits me with this. It was truly just one of those “ah ha!” moments.
I’m honest about my failures. When you’ve been to summer school twice you kind of have to fess up to the fact that you’ve screwed up. But the difference here was that I thought my failure was making the choice to travel down this uncertain path. No, that wasn’t the failure. That actually wasn’t a failure at all. Nothing about this has been a failure; it’s been exactly what it’s needed to be – a road with bumps, curves and street signs throwing me off my GPS’ preferred route.
It’s been missing 3 footers for par.
It’s been making 50 footers for eagle.
It’s been to the edge of broke, traveling on my last dime trying to figure out where the next check will come from.
It’s knowing that there are a ton of guys who would trade with you, even if just for a day.
It’s been that feeling of sickness on that first tee when you step up to hit your drive.
It’s been being reassured that behind all the beer and mixed drinks that your friends actually do care.
It’s been driving 5 hours home after every missed cut wanting to break down because you’ve put so much in.
It’s been flying across the country only to get recognized on the first tee. “Hey you’re from DC, right?”
It’s remembering something that you’ve known all along; that your mom will support you no matter how many cuts you miss and how many stupid things you say.
It’s been wishing he was here to tell you it’s “ok, relax” while giving you that big hug.
But most of all…
It’s been that one perfect swing. That one perfect shot that feels so good it reminds you the joy in the game you love to play. And that… makes you come back for more.
So I have this to say to all of you who have supported me throughout all of this.
I’m not going to give up. This is something that I will continue to chase as long as the chase can last.
Thank you for everything.