Golf is the best sport for having fun and learning crucial life skills. Period. That’s it. That’s my article…What? You want me to explain myself? OK. I will give it my best shot!!!
I started playing golf at age 15 in sunny San Diego, where I played 2 years of junior golf. From there I moved to Claremont McKenna College where I was the team captain all four years, league individual champion two years and first team all-league four years. Later in life I would become the CFO of Cobra golf in 1979 and most recently have been the assistant coach for Holy Names Academy.
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The very fabric of the game of golf teaches golfers about themselves and about life. To help guide players on their lifelong journey, The First Tee uses its Nine Core Values to highlight what those lessons can be. Here are a few short stories that exemplify life learning through our beloved game.
A couple of seasons ago, I was hanging around with some coaches at the end of a dual golf match between high school teams. A player on my team came up to the coaches at the end of the round and asked for a ruling. During the round, a player from the other team had hit her ball under a tree. To hit the next shot, the opposing player had a teammate hold a branch back so she had room to take a full swing at the ball (unfortunately, this is against the rules). My team member (the player asking for the ruling) had the foresight to announce to her opponent (the player hitting the ball) that she would ask for a ruling upon completion of play. Note: the player hitting the shot did not have a clue about the rule, and there was no intent to gain an advantage. The girl asking for the ruling was a First Tee participant!!! She used courtesy in announcing her intent to ask for a ruling. She was confident in her handling of the situation and used good judgment. She showed respect to her opponent and demonstrated sportsmanship. And, she was correct in her knowledge of the rule.
Key point: the player in the story was prepared. More importantly: the skills she exhibited are those she will use for all aspects of her life going forward. To all of the current First Tee participants please, do not overlook the power of the Nine Core Values and the impact they have on your current and future life.
Many years ago, I was playing in the finals of a match play tournament. I was 2 up after 23 of 36 holes in the match. My drive was down the middle and my opponent’s drive was in the right rough. When we came together at the green he announced that his ball had moved when he addressed it. As a result of the penalty stroke I won the hole and eventually the match. I will never forget the integrity, honesty and sportsmanship it took for him to announce a penalty on himself. As I got to know him better in following years, I learned that he ran his business in that same highly principled and honest manner.
Key point: do you think there is a connection between how a person acts on the golf course and in real life? Yes!!!
One more story. During qualifying for the USGA Junior Amateur, I stood on the 18th tee and thought I was out of contention. I hooked my tee shot out of bounds and ended up taking a triple bogey. Turns out, if I had made a par, I would have been one of the qualifiers. I was distraught and devastated. In walking to the parking lot after the trophy ceremony, where a number of my fellow competitors greeted and consoled me (I wasn’t the only one who almost qualified). Everyone of those players that consoled me demonstrated Respect, Courtesy, and Sportsmanship. The nice gestures made me feel good at a time where I was really down.
Key point: After this, I learned perseverance. I continued to work on my game and ended up having some good tournaments later on. I never again stopped trying my best before a round was over.
Golf, good or bad, is about learning how to plan your way around the course. The First Tee is about learning to golf and learning how to plan your way through life, incorporating the Nine Core Values into your actions along the way. At my seemingly ancient age of almost 68, I would like to say to all First Tee Participants, please take the Nine Core Values to heart and incorporate them all into your actions – starting right now. Before you know it you will be 68 and writing articles telling people how to lead their lives…