On June 19th, 2011 Rory McIlroy won the US Open in golf. I am married to a golfer and my adult son, Joey, has given up sky diving and taken up golf. (Thank You, Lord!) Considering Sandy and I have been married for almost 45 years, I have learned a lot about the sport. I have never considered myself a golfer but I have played golf for over forty years, ever since I married. Sandy is an amazing golfer. Truly, his game is superb and it’s such fun to watch him play.
I use to resent his dedication to this past time. When I had three young children, the time away from the family required by golf and desired by my husband was onerous for me. But, now with the children grown and on their own, I can see the sport in a different light. Actually, over the last few summers, I might even occasionally refer to myself as a “golfer.”
Many years ago I read James Dobson’s, Final Rounds. It completely changed the way I saw the sport. It truly was a life changing read. It helped too that my children were older and I had a little more free time. But, when I read the memories that he and his dad had collected together, I better understood the appeal of the game. Golf wasn’t just “a good walk spoiled” as Mark Twain said; it was about so much more. It was about relationships and adventures and shared experiences. I took it to heart and started focusing on those aspects and not how many times I was hitting (or swinging) at that little ball. Yes, something changed. I started having more fun and truly valuing the time I spent with Sandy and now with my son. Sometimes my daughter-in-law, Belen, joins us on the course as Joey’s chauffeur. It can be a delightful day and I really have learned to value the experience.
Part of our shared interest lies in occasionally watching the major tournaments with my family. The US Open is one of them. The 2011 US Open was especially exciting. Rory McIlroy (22 years) won. He’s from Northern Island. Not only did he win but he broke all sorts of records. He shot 65-66-68-68. He was as much as 17 under par at one point. He went into the tournament winning by 8 strokes. These are unheard of accomplishments.
That’s all wonderful and exciting but for me it was the story behind his win that touched my heart. His father was there; it was his Father’s Day present. The story that emerged was of a family of very hard working people. His dad had worked as a janitor and when his son showed an interest in golf, he became the bar tender at the golf club so that they could afford his lessons. When he accepted his award, he didn’t’ leave out his “mum” either. He said it was because of their hard work and sacrifice that he was there today.
The media spent a great deal of time talking about this young man’s loss at the 2010 Masters in Augusta. They kept talking about how he was winning by 4 strokes when the final round began, and then he “fell apart.” Everyone was amazed that he had pulled himself together so quickly and was doing so well. Some thought he might never recover from such a devastating loss. It was one of the questions presented to him several minutes after accepting the US Open trophy. The announcer asked him to speak about losing the Masters and what that had been like. Ready? “The Masters was a very valuable experience for me. I learned a few things about myself and my game.”
One day I went to play golf with the “big girls.” These are the ladies who play golf often and for the most part, quite well. I was way outside of my comfort zone.
Golf, yoga, and tennis are the three main physical activities in which I’ve participated. I think there’s so much to learn about myself and sometimes others from watching the behavior that is exhibited during the event, the match. Concentration, perseverance, balance, forgiveness, humor, humility and graciousness are required of the civil player and many times, more than one aspect at a time is required.The psychology of 18 holes of golf is again a microcosm of our lives. How do we interact with others? Are we kind, considerate, deferential, polite, encouraging? And, how do we treat ourselves? Do we berate ourselves when we hit a bad shot? Are we annoyed when someone else does better? Can we focus regardless of what else is going on? What are we thinking about; is it lunch or dinner, or are we present to the experience? Do we notice not only the condition of the course but the topography, the fresh air and the beautiful vistas?
Whatever we are doing on the golf course, we are repeating in our daily lives. Our behavior both towards others, ourselves and the experience reflects our behavior through our lives.
Yes, it’s the same in many sports. If you watch carefully, you’ll see all your faults surface but keep watching, be aware and you’ll be able to notice your strengths too. Perhaps, it will be as simple as being able to share time with your loved ones, your buddies, a kind partner and when asked how you played, even if the game didn’t go as you had hoped, even though you didn’t feel you played your best game, you answer, “Wow! I had a great time!”
Rory McIlroy was much wiser than his 22 years. It takes some of us a lifetime to discover that every life experience leads to wisdom and knowledge. It’s all up to us how we perceive it and whether or not we value every single one of them, both the accomplishments and the disappointments. Like Rory, it can lead us to championship skills, the skills of leading a rewarding, fulfilling life.
And, just in case you’re curious, I played ok on that outing with the “big girls.” I would even say, on that day, I was really and truly a “golfer.”