Golf, to the uninitiated, is a silly sport. Hitting a white ball around a field with clubs for 5 hours at a time, 6 if you get behind a slow foursome or an elephant hunt (a group with 5 or more golfers), is a waste of time to most people. Unless, of course, you have ever played the game and sunk a 40 foot putt, or hit the ball just right, sending it on its way 275 yards down the middle of the fairway. That one shot, standing alone in the middle of the fairway, 150 yards away (a football field and another half of a football field) you, a club, and that white ball. Then a swing, contact and the ball is off, flying towards the pin, landing on the green and nestling up to the pin — followed by elation and accomplishment.
People who watch golf do so for the very reason I described. It is a pressure-filled experience playing with buddies at a local course just for fun. Golf lovers can’t comprehend what it must be like playing in a Major Championship, with millions of dollars on the line, with millions of people watching. Winning a major is about cementing your place in golf history.
This last weekend the British Open was held and was won by a Northern Irish golfer named Darren Clarke. He was a natural fan favorite because he was from that part of the world and because he has overcome tremendous adversity to climb the golf mountain that winning the British Open is. Clarke almost gave up golf many times in the last 5 years. In a game where a bounce or a break can determine the winner, Clarke’s life was in constant turmoil.
The father of two young boys lost his wife to breast cancer years ago. The pain of that loss on him was almost too much for him to overcome. He didn’t want to invest the time and effort it took to practice and prepare to play golf. He didn’t need the pressure of standing alone in the middle of a fairway needing to hit a perfect shot to win.
Darren didn’t give up. He persevered. He practiced. He put his life back together and moved past the pain and turmoil. This last weekend we saw this man overcome adversity to climb the golf mountain and be the last man standing at the British Open!
People watch golf, not simply for the competition, but to see people battle. Golf is a great metaphor for the ups and downs that life brings. We all stand in the middle of life’s fairway, 150 yards away from the flag, needing to hit the perfect shot to win. We reach down into our intestinal fortitude, come up with a little something extra, swing and hit the problem in front of us flush, sending it towards our goal. We watch, with elation, as our problem lands on the green, nestling close to our target, and at that moment we realize it is all within our reach.
It’s those moments that make life worth living.