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Sunday, June 30, 2013

What Walking a PGA Tournament Taught Me About Not Looking Back

I spent today with my honey and my nine-year-old, Ty, at the AT&T National Championship. We watched professional golfers tee off with what can only be described as a smack and a whistle. We saw them rescue golf balls from pine straw and high grass and put them on the green. We stood with hundreds who moaned at missed putts and clapped at birdies. To walk a golf course during a PGA tournament is to witness moments where decades of hard work and sacrifice result in a winner by three simple golf strokes. Over the course of four days. Four days. Hundreds of strokes. And one winner by three.

I've watched many tournament Sundays on TV with Jamie. It's a ritual in our home on Sunday afternoon--to watch the final parings and see the highlights from the day. Then watch as the winner is given his trophy (and purse). There's both a peace and excitement to it.

Today, in D.C., we watched a group tee-off. We clapped after the "ping" of their drivers and shared their joy or disappointment in where their balls landed. But as they left the tee and began walking down the fairway, I noticed the kid. He couldn't have been more than fifteen. Dressed in the volunteer's purple-striped shirt of the day, he carried an old-school placard with the three players listed. And their cumulative scores. The thing that struck me most was the difference between the scores. Two of the players were below par while the other one was above par. Seven strokes divided them.

As I watched this young man trail behind the golfers holding this placard, my first thought found the tradition cruel. The golfer who lead the tournament was a full ten strokes ahead of the two players who were walking the course with this young golfer. Seventeen strokes ahead of him. I also noticed that with each stroke, the golfers took notepads out of their pockets and recorded their scores. And their yardages. In fact, to win the tournament, you must report an accurate score. Yet, here this young man was literally trailed the entire course by his failure to score as well as the two men he was paired with.

This caused me to ask the question: how can we look forward, treat each new day (golf hole) as a new beginning, if someone is walking behind us with a scorecard that shows the world how we don't measure up? Not even to the few surrounding us? How humiliating to be constantly reminded of our failures.

Then, as I watched the men in this grouping, I realized that none of them looked at the placard. None of them looked back to see what they already knew had occurred. Instead, each of them took out their notebooks after every single shot. Each of them looked forward toward the green--and the hole--and never looked back at the kid with the placard.

Neither should we look back at the kid. Neither should we focus on the placard and our past performance. We must just look at our notepad and see how far we have to the pin. And work on that.

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