Golf Saved My Life

My dad brought home a set of golf clubs.

I had just come home two weeks before. My life was in shambles. I had never felt lower in my whole life. My life had suddenly imploded on me, and I hadn’t seen it coming at all. Instead, it felt like I suddenly had suddenly gotten side-swiped on a highway, and now I was crawling out of a wreck.

I hadn’t played golf in about 10 years. It had been even longer since I had a formal lesson. And I hadn’t even asked for these clubs. But my dad simply bought them for me, saying it’d be nice to get out and play.

The first few weeks we went out, I was terrible. I’m not sure how many golf balls I lost to the woods, out of bounds, into creeks, dying like lame ducks into hazards. And every time, my dad would smile, toss me another ball, telling me to try again. I’d slice a shot way right onto a dry, root-y patch, trees obstructing every possible angle for forward progress, and he’d tell me to pick it up and play from where his ball was, invariably in the middle of the fairway.

He never once got angry about how many golf balls I lost. He’d just smile a huge grin, say “Goodbye!” and wave as the ball exited stage right.

And somehow, almost by magic, at some point, I stopped thinking so much, started swinging again, and started finding my rhythm. My putting stopped being embarrassing, and I started to chip without chunking the ball fifteen-feet short of the green.

But really, I think that magic didn’t happen during the rounds themselves. It’d be during the drives out to the golf course, which would always be about an hour away. It’d be the meals we’d eat afterwards, sitting around some soup or tacos or fried chicken.

And my dad would tell me he believed in me. He supported me. He’d tell me stories of how God straightened his path even when he didn’t know what he was doing, and that God would do the same for me.

He’d tell me things I had never heard before. He’d tell me how he proposed to my mom on the second date, because he “just knew.” He’d tell me about how he was going to go to engineering or law school out of high school, and how my grandma gave him “liberty” to make his own decision, but then he accidentally filed too late to change to business school and had to wait a year. He’d tell me about how, when he told my uncle (who had been almost like a father to my dad) that I was going to be a pastor, my uncle simply said, “Good decision.”

And slowly, I stopped doubting what I knew was always in my bones. I started trusting my swing. I started trusting myself. I started to feel like an actual human again.

Golf is a game passed from fathers to sons. It’s the only way you get someone to appreciate the stillness and good temperament and prudent decision-making required to really enjoy it. It’s the only way you actually instill the mindset for successful golf, where you gain the ability to forget your last bad shot and assume the next one is going to be perfect, without trying to use it to make up for your previous bad shot. And somehow, at 30, it was getting passed to me in a way I never would have asked for, and yet it was exactly what I needed.

Golf saved my life.

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