When I was 8 years old my family moved across town in Kansas City and found a lovely house that sat above the first hole of an executive (shortened) 9 hole golf course. Like most kids that age, I was playing soccer, baseball, basketball, and tennis. Later I even tried football. I was doing way too much but my parents were just trying to test out what I enjoyed and fit me best. My grandparents that year bought me my first set of golf clubs to try out this new sport. Thankfully we had a tremendous local junior golf program and I began that journey.
I was truly hooked at 11 when I played my first golf tournament outside of that course. It was the United Commercial Travelers Junior Golf Tournament qualifier for the state of Missouri. It was a mere 9 hole qualifier and the night before the area received a lot of rain, which discouraged many players from even showing up. The field ended up being about a dozen golfers qualifying to go to the national tournament in Victoria, British Columbia. I can’t even remember what I scored that day but it was enough to earn the victory and get a free trip to Canada for the tournament. My dad accompanied me on that memorable trip.
I remember thinking, “Wow, all golf tournaments must be like this. Winning is pretty awesome.”
I remember not playing very well in Canada but what it did do was hook me into the game and so I began giving up other sports one by one. The person who taught me golf told me I had to either quit baseball or golf, my swing would be mess unless I did so. My summers became filled with traveling around Missouri and Kansas, playing in golf tournaments and spending endless hours practicing on the driving range and putting green. Golf to me was perfect for my personality at the time.
Me versus the course.
Me versus the others.
It thought it was perfect.
When high school came along I played on the school team. For the first time in my life I was part of a team. A golf team? It is an individual sport, right? If you have seen The Ryder Cup or The President’s Cup you usually witness a spirit among those players that is unlike any other time in their individual tournaments. You will see high fives and cheers for each other in individual matches to succeed as well as select formats of two-man best ball and alternate shot. In team golf there are still individual awards for lowest score but the most important prize goes to the team that wins.
I was hooked.
Throughout high school and eventually in college golf I was a moderate success on an individual basis. There are 5-6 players that play in tournaments and I was usually the #3-#5 player. I don’t recall any major wins individually but I do remember every big win our team made. Even on a day I had a double-eagle in a high school tournament, what was more prominent is that our team, the Webster Groves High School “Statesmen” won that tournament and eventually went on to the state championship tournament. I was elected Captain of the team so it was my duty and pleasure to celebrate that feat. It felt amazing.
Life can be an individual journey. It is your life to live. But you can’t live it alone and you surely cannot succeed without others. Even professional golfers have a team of people with them to motivate, teach, and even just listen to them. Most of us in our jobs today work on an individual basis. That mentality is wrong. Look at any successful person in life and you’ll discover their teams.
I love the teams I’m a part of today: My team at work, my church St. Bartholomew, my men’s group, my close friends from Young Life, friends in Kansas City, St. Louis, Evansville, and Nashville, and I would be lost as can be without my family.
My last hole in my college golf was memorable for the most inglorious reason. I duck-hooked my drive into a lake and ended up with double-bogey. I remember being mad at myself because I felt like I let the team down.
I was blessed to graduate a semester early and later the team won a big tournament that spring. That is what I remember most. I’ll take the Ryder Cup competition any day.
Tell me about your teams.