Here we are, 18 years on. I cast my mind back to our first day, albeit a fuzzy memory, but a day I remember looking at you quizzically, unbeknown to where you might take me. I remember questioning you on that day, but despite all that questioning, a single look at my dad gave me all the answers I needed to know about how swinging a club and trying to hit a little white ball would inevitably produce so much joy.
You see, I’d never have known a game could impact my life so much, taking me to the highest of highs but also the lowest of lows in a matter of minutes. Like many others, you’ve left me scratching my head for days, months and even years trying to figure you out. That answer has slowly dawned on me that it’s unlikely I’ll ever master you or figure you out and I guess that’s what keeps us coming back, the hope that maybe one day you might give in and let your guard down… See, you’re not like other sports really, you give me all the responsibility (something that is also an invaluable life lesson, but we’ll get to that later). There are no excuses, I’m not having to be reactive to anything like returning a serve, dribbling past a player or running faster than the person next to me, you just sit there, quietly, waiting patiently for me. Your outcomes are endless and that’s daunting yet also really exciting! With each shot, each swing, there is always an element of hope, that this time it’s going to be even better than the last one. You do share some similarities with other sports, in that every day is a new day, full of optimism and possibilities to see how good I can be, how far can I push the envelope of this great game, will today be my lowest ever score? Will today be my highest ever score? Will I meet a new best friend? Or will I end up playing with an absolute nutter, we just never know, I guess the one thing we can be consistent with is our attitude on how we approach that day.
You’ve allowed me to travel to some incredible parts of the world, places I never even knew existed on that overcast day 18 years ago with my dad, as I kneeled there trying to balance my ball on a tee between those two blue shaped cones. As I fast forward to now, where I’ve been able to meet people from all around the world who share the same desires and passions about golf as I do, they have their own experiences, ones they all want to share, the good, the bad and especially the ugly. Dreams to walk along the different grasses of exclusive clubs, that are so well manicured it feels wrong to even walk on let alone take a divot. Or some are happy just to keep playing the same course each day, one they get to call their home and one they’ve grown to love. Evidently, all the grasses look familiar after a while and despite chasing you around the world to play on a different course with different views, you as a game, stay consistent. Our goal as golfers is to be as good as we can be and reach a level of contentment, to smoke that drive straight down the middle of the fairway, caress that towering iron shot that never leaves the flagstick and to roll that putt right into the heart of the cup. That’s pure happiness, at least to me. But if it were that easy, people would bore of you quickly, they’d reach contentment too quickly and too easily and you wouldn’t be the continuous challenge that you are. They would find something else to stimulate them, something else that drives them mad and consumes their mind because as you know, it doesn’t matter who they are or how talented they may be, you always have the last word.
As I mentioned earlier, there are so many lessons you’ve taught me in our 18-year friendship, one that I’m lucky to have. These aren’t just lessons of how to play and improve my game, but lessons you’ve taught me that that I’ve tried to implement into my life. To be patient, to calculate risk, or when to let it all go and play the hail mary. To treat others with respect and as equals, because no matter their background they’re stood right next to you with exactly the same opportunity playing the same game. You’ve taught me how to deal with uncomfortable situations and how to harness them, turning them into comfortable ones. To be comfortable on my own for hours and hours at a time, trying to perfect you, testing that practice by increasing the pressure and allowing me to thrive on it. Working with others as a team. To keep pushing my limits and understand that I will have to deal with failing over and over again, but persistence will make me who I am and get me to where I want to be. But I’d say the most important lesson you’ve taught me over the years is that everything has a purpose, no matter how small, from a 6-inch putt to a 300-yard drive, it all has an impact and that echos in life too. So to do the little things, do them well and often, see them grow, becoming bigger and bigger and watch the story unfold.
I think back fondly on the many different days we’ve had. Days with friends and family, the warm sun on my back, music playing in the background and enjoying a friendly match that slowly grows into a highly competitive one. The days where the wind is blowing, it’s freezing cold and torrential rain, but you still tempt us out onto the links, knowing we’ll play because today might just be the day. Days where I’ve been the most nervous I’ve ever been, playing championships that I/we as a team ended up being triumphant in, having to give speeches and dealing with success but on the flip side also learning to deal with failure. More recently, days where every shot has made a difference in how much cash I take home, falling short on just one shot and losing a lot of money or making the 25-foot birdie putt on the last to win that extra bit making the drive home so much more worth it.
I know over the years our friendship has been rocky, I’ve sworn at you, a lot, and I’ve told you I’m never coming back to play again, but as you know, these are all empty promises. We always keep coming back. Even if it’s a prolonged absence, we’ll be back. I’ve recommended you to friends and family and they’ve all come to love the same rollercoaster experiences that I have. Which is truly great to see. I try to think of a life if I hadn’t been introduced to you back then and I really struggle. I struggle to think of what I would have done to fill that void. What would have occupied so much of my time, on and away from the course? To be honest, I’m not sure I want to know that answer and I’m really glad I don’t have to find out. Because without you, I wouldn’t have met the people I have, seen the wonderful places I’ve seen and had the life experiences that have moulded me into who I am today. To be a part of one of the largest families in the world who all share the same love for the game is pretty damn cool.
So thank you, thank you for opening so many doors and creating opportunities for me. I’m looking forward to hopefully many, many, more years of friendship with you, experiencing more ups and the downs, sunrises and sunsets, triumphs and failures, new friendships and rekindling old ones. Because as only you know, no matter how good or bad it gets, you always leave us with just a little glimmer of hope for the next day.
Until next time,