Monday, June 28, 2010


Vintage Tom & Larry, Kansas City, MO
Vintage Arnie, Kansas City, MO

I started playing golf while discovering I had absolutely no interest in pursuing a lifetime as a Mechanical Engineer. That left a lot of room for the time needed to develop a budding love for the game on the officers’ course at a nearby military reservation. The experience also taught me that if you walk into a situation acting as if you absolutely belong there beyond a shadow of a doubt, no one bothers to question or validate your presence or qualification! That worked for the two years it took to accumulate enough low grades and finally have a curious MP ask for our credentials. But by that time, I had hit enough golf shots to be hooked for life and also have a better understanding for the direction of my life. During the following years, golf has proved to be a great venue to develop many lifetime relationships, connect with business associates, meet lots of really talented professionals, throw off tons of life stress, enjoy many a walk on some of God’s most beautiful real estate, and realize that a good part of the attraction to the sport is the uncanny way golf imitates life. I took these priceless candid images of Arnold Palmer at Tom Watson's Children's Mercy Hospital Charity Classic where our company sponsored a winner's check. So, I jotted down some of my observations from my last fifty years of life and golf. I suspect I’m not alone in these musings either.
• Everyone enters the first tee with par.
• Everyone putts out on the eighteenth green and then must account for his round.
• Truth is more important than tradition.
• Be in control or be controlled
• Laying it up to play safe may sometimes be the rational move, but a faint heart will never soar.
• The euphoria of pulling off a low percentage shot is long remembered after all the miss hits.
• We must see the green over the sand and water, not the reverse.
• To achieve greatness, you must visualize it in advance.
• Focus on the positive results of a difficult shot. Do not entertain negative possibilities.
• To make a long breaking putt, you must hit it with conviction and visualize its path to the hole. Fail to plan and you’ll plan to fail. Our brain's Mission Control Center can take over once it has direction for the shot. Trust it.
• Practice with a purpose. Don’t just bang balls with a driver on the range. Take courses and volunteer for assignments that will help you achieve your long term goals--especially those which others consider too difficult.
• Never focus on a tree limb close to your desired path or you will hit it more often than not. Mission Control kicking in again.
• It absolutely helps to have a lot of different shots in your bag like a draw, a fade, a low stinger into the wind, etc. Most of us weekenders have those shots. We just don’t always know when they’ll come off the club face! Life can be just as full of surprises. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. That kind of luck takes a lot of the surprises out of life. No one likes surprises except at Christmas time.
• The probability of a perfect shot is inversely proportional to the number and importance of those observing it. That formula also works for business presentations.
• Golf isn’t fair and neither is life. Shots hit sprinkler heads, bounce the wrong way and roll off line from a spike mark. Many folks spend too many unhappy hours thinking they should be living a TV sitcom.
• Once you’ve put in the practice and gained experience, it then becomes most important to simply trust your swing. The same goes for life and placing our trust in our creator to get us through the hazards.
• A round of golf reveals more character than a lifetime of casual interaction.
• We can’t control all the bad breaks on the course, but we can control how we react to them.
• Blaming trees, rocks, clubs, and others instead of ourselves and our poor decisions will reveal a character that we and our playing partners do not like.
• A wise man seriously considers character flaws exposed on the course and works to fix them more than his swing flaws.
• Many times it is easier to tolerate someone’s slight swing flaw like a consistent fade than it is to try to change everything about their swing. We all have our little flaws in life.
• One of the challenging and satisfying things about golf is the wide variety of courses there are available to play all over this planet. We also need to celebrate all the differences in others.
• The significant interruptions in a round of golf, as well as those in life, are those that shape our character and define our life. No one plans to end up in a sand trap or deep in the rough and no one expects to fight cancer or deal with broken relationships, etc.
• If you do lose your cool, do not react to anything without first taking a dozen steps to cool down. If you are rapidly responding to an irritating e-mail, hit the “send later” key, not the “send” key.
• Just like going to bed after a particularly terrible bad day and committing to get up the next morning to try again, so it is to walk to the next tee with a new attitude of determination after carding a devastating score on the last hole.
• We shouldn’t pray to God to help us hit the perfect golf shot. Rather, we should pray for the kind of strong character that can handle the pressure.
• We can never master the game of golf and we can never achieve perfection in this life, even though we should always strive to that lofty goal.
• There’s no point in getting our club head covers all tangled up trying to shoot below par when we never take the time to practice purposely to be capable of it. The same goes for success in life.
• Dedicated commitment is needed to perform at the highest levels. And we generally have more important priorities in life than golf.
• Accepting our position of a weekend golfer makes for a much more enjoyable round. Accepting the odds of being president can make life more enjoyable also.
• We may not ever attain perfection, but we are capable of keeping the ball between the tall grasses on either side of the fairway. We generally get into trouble when we stray waaay off the fairways of life.
• Golf can tear your heart out when you find yourself beginning to take it waaaay too seriously. Especially if you consider it much more serious than life and death and treat it or anything else in life as your god. You can always find your heart where you spend a lot of your time. Be careful.
• Every now and then it’s good to take a risky shot like attempting to thread the needle between two pine trees. Just the anticipation and possibility of making this shot gets the heart jump started, starts the adrenalin flowing, and makes you more alive.
• Sometimes you just need to commit and “go for it”. You can lay up when you’re no longer on the green side of the fairway grass.
• When faced with a difficult shot, draw upon your learned knowledge and practiced skills to define the moment. Don’t let the moment define you.
• To successfully maneuver around the course, stay in the moment and take each shot as it comes. Don’t fret about missed shots and don’t worry about possible hazards ahead. Learn from the past, plan for the future and live in the moment, for that's where life unfolds.
• Sometimes when your ball is laying up against a tree that is directly between you and the green, you just have to mutter that golf spelled backwards is flog. Then take your medicine and pitch out to the fairway. We need to choose our battles in life well, grasshoppers.
• Cheating is bad Karma. Admit it, when you ever so slightly move your ball to a better lie, the lingering guilt creeps into the balance of your round to affect it in a negative way.
• We are constantly sending out positive and negative energy that is returned to us. Rising tides raise all ships, so it’s good to always encourage your golfing buddies on good shots, as it inspires you as well.
• A little random luck is always welcome and appreciated, both on the course and off. Just remember, the best kind of luck is when preparation meets opportunity. And the three keys to preparation are practice, practice and practice.
• To experience the very highs of a high risk shot well played, we also have to risk hitting the Death Valley lows of a shot hit into the hazard. That seems to be part of the balance of the universe.
• Hazards abound on the course and it is our challenge to navigate around them. Those hazards were placed there by the course creator to test our game and grow our character. They don’t have to be there, but it makes the game more interesting. See a parallel?
• Once we have enough experience at golf, we can then begin to trust our instincts and play with confidence.
• We may win some and lose some, but we suit up for all of them. Quitting is never an option to walk off the course because things aren’t going well.
• Patience will finally see a putt drop after sliding by the hole on the last six holes. Our “instant gratification” culture doesn’t teach patience very well.
• Sometimes a miss hit shot will miraculously bound back into the fairway, when perhaps it wasn’t a miracle at all.
• Sometimes the devil will guide an improbable shot to its unrealistic destination just to tempt us back again for more grief.
• Sometimes a very poorly struck shot will actually end up on the green through no good reason at all, certainly not due to our involvement. When that happens, say a short “thank you”, and move on down the fairway.
• Putting is as simple as knowing the correct speed and direction for the ball. A steady pace to the finish line while maintaining a healthy direction for our life also serves us well.
• Golf is the game for a lifetime that must be adjusted with each trip around the sun, as growing old gracefully and adjusting to the challenges of life. Learn the difference between happiness and joy.
• Long after all the players forget today’s scores, they’ll remember the beautiful surroundings, good company and handful of good shots. Don’t spoil the ride with negative thoughts and actions.
• If the game of golf were easy, we’d never find it challenging enough to come back again and again. A little drama in life keeps it interesting. We all find “easy” quickly boring and abandon it. Se la vie!
• When our round is finished, it’s great to move on to a comfortable club house at the nineteenth hole with good company. When we’ve breathed our last, it’s good to know that we have a heavenly home where all our loved ones reside, the fairways are pristine and no hazards exist.

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