National Golf Day: This is how I fell in love with the sport of golf

Jul 20, 2015; St. Andrews, Fife, SCT; A rainbow appears over The Old Course after the final round of the 144th Open Championship at St. Andrews - Old Course. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 20, 2015; St. Andrews, Fife, SCT; A rainbow appears over The Old Course after the final round of the 144th Open Championship at St. Andrews - Old Course. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports /

National Golf Day is a time for golf stories, and any of us who picked up this great game have a love letter we can write to it

Growing up in the Chicago area, sports have always been an important part of my life. However, it was process for me to begin liking more sports.

My first love was basketball, and it eventually expanded into my passion for other sports, including golf. I didn’t know much about the sport, except knowing that you had to aim for a hole.

The only famous golfers I knew were Tiger Woods and a very young Michelle Wie. It wasn’t until the age of 13 that I really began showing an interest in golf.

My mom scheduled my first golf lessons at Randall Oaks Golf Club which is still my home course. Some days before the lesson, I remember firing up a demo for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 on my PlayStation 3.

In the demo, you played three holes at Arnold Palmer’s TPC Boston, where you used Tiger as the golfer. After hitting some shots in the game, and putting the ball into the hole, and hearing the little “cluck”, I was really starting to get hooked.

That was just in a video game demo, but the impact it had on me was immense. Then, I went to the lesson some days later, but had to get canceled unfortunately.

Although playing the video game got me excited to hit balls for real, I wasn’t 100% reeled in quite yet. So, since the lesson was cancelled, my instructor gave me a token to get some range balls.

The experience at the range that officially hooked me into the sea of golf forever

Something about the sound of the golf balls dispensing from the machine and into the bucket was awesome. Then, I made my way over the driving range (which has been beautifully redesigned since).

I teed up my first golf ball on the rubber tee of the range mat. The ball was chilling so innocently, as I was eager to hit my first shot. I grabbed the driver (of course!) that my instructor let me use, and began setting up. I still didn’t know how to hold the club properly, so I went with the baseball grip.

I stared at the ball, looked out to the range, and back to the ball. I brought the club back, heel up and all, similar to John Daly. Then I swung forward as hard as I can while wearing a pair of Converse gym shoes. The ball went flying through the air on my very first golf swing, sadly, way right. Nonetheless, I was excited.

I was officially hooked on golf for life.

It was one of the coolest feelings ever, and I will never forget that. I continued to hit some more balls (yes, still using driver). I was hitting airborne, but still knocking them right and left and everywhere else, but I didn’t care, I was loving the feeling.

The little par-3 course at Randall Oaks was my first time on a layout, and I still love to this day

My love for the game grew and I received my first set of golf clubs on Christmas, a set of Top Flites. It was one of the best moments of my life, seeing those shiny irons, beautiful driver and sleek putter. I couldn’t wait to get out there again.

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I had the chance to experience putting for the first time, and was just as awesome. Seeing the ball roll on the slope of the green, and hearing it drop in the cup was just as sweet as the the sound of the ball cracking against the driver.

I played my first round of golf on Randall’s par-3 course, dubbed the “Acorn Course.”  It’s a three-holer that you can rotate. The length gets longer as you play each hole, which adds to the fun and variety of the course. It was and still is fun to play the Acorn at Randall. My favorite memory was when I hit a shot past the green, and was left with a blind pitch from the rough.

I hit the pitch, ran up the hill, and saw the ball roll into the hole – my first hole out!

The Acorn course is whereI started to build my love for par-3 courses. Playing it all the time made me appreciate the accuracy that goes into hitting a pure shot.

Golf in the streets was my calling soon after. I started hitting golf balls at the elementary school in my old neighborhood. There, I’d use the playground as my own little driving range, since there was a lot of land to work with. I would get up there at every opportunity, using a lob wedge or a 7-iron most of the time. Even when it was snowing and 20 degrees outside, I’d still go out there and hit soft, yellow  Almost Golf balls, safe and easy to spot in the suburban Chicago snow.

I spend a lot of times at driving ranges including at the First Tee. I feel ranges don’t get the credit they deserve but places like TopGolf build the passion for them.

During my junior year of high school, I had a chance to join the First Tee of Rockford, IL. It was fun getting a chance to take a deeper dive into learning what golf was truly all about.

My last round there was playing with my coach at Randall Oaks, which was ironic because we normally had lessons out in Rockford. But she wanted to play a full 18 holes with me at my home course while teaching me lessons. It was an unforgettable experience, despite my poor play.

During my high school time I would also hit shots at the Boulder Range which became close to my heart for its simple nature. The range featured numerous spots to aim for (including a truck). It was a humble place to enjoy the sport of golf and to work on your game.

Another range I started to take a major liking to was TopGolf, which has blown up like nitro, and it’s great to see. I remember when the one in WoodDale, IL was still fresh. They had just opened up their beautiful mini-golf course so they had a special at the range to celebrate. That’s when I experienced the future of golf right before my eyes, and being a teen at the time, I enjoyed it very much.

Hosting a golf radio show in college and interviewing a legend made me hungry to study golf course design more

After high school, I attended the Illinois Center for Broadcasting (now, the Illinois Media School) for college. We have a sports radio station there, and on that station I had the chance to talk about the sport that I grew to love; golf.

The show was the Windy City Golf Connection, and was hosted on Tuesday nights. My goal was to bring a different swagger on the air. It was fun to be behind the hot microphone as a confused 18 year old still trying to learn the media business. But, it was the guests who helped made the experience more enjoyable, and made me sound less stupid.

A highlight that I will never forget, and made me love golf course design more, was interviewing the great Pete Dye on the show. To this day, it sounds crazy to say, that he took the time to talk to a silly, random college student.

One of the amazing things about golf is that it takes you on a journey. There are so many incredible golf courses just waiting to be explored and played.

A place like St. Andrews is like something out of a book filled with royalty and magic. With the Swilcan Bridge, Hamilton Hall and the R&A clubhouse in the background, it’s one of the most majestic places in the world.

Golf courses are incredible, and when they’re open for the public, it eliminates the snootiness that can kill the game at times.

Although Augusta National, Cypress Point and Pine Valley are amazing and dreamy locations, there’s nothing like a perfect public course. Not only is St. Andrews open to everyone, but courses like Pebble Beach also are open for the world to enjoy.

It’s these type of courses that help give us the experiences of a lifetime. No matter how you play, to be able to whack golf balls around courses like those is surreal.

In all honesty, I never keep score when I play golf. I don’t look for a great score at the end of the round. What I look for is one great shot and will be etched in my brain for years to come. Just like the recovery hole out I hit at Randall. Those great shots that will have keep you smiling from ear to ear.

The sport of golf is not just a a leisure activity, it’s something that can soothe the mind.

Golf courses and driving ranges are the essence of what makes golf so great. No two locations are the same, and each one presents different challenges.

The game parallels life. Sometimes you never know what the day will bring you. In golf, you don’t know what slopes and bunker placements you’re going to be dealing with. But, it makes us happy, knowing that golf is a fun and scenic adventure.

It keeps our minds off of other things going on in the world. It allows us the opportunity to make solid contact with the golf ball, one of the sweetest feelings ever. Anyone can play game although mastering it is a challenge. Golf is so well balanced, yet so unpredictable.

The combination of sport, serenity, drama, action and beauty, all come in to play with golf. It’s unlike any sport we have ever seen, and that’s why it has been around for over 500 years.

The beautiful golf courses all have stories to tell. The shafts of the clubs shine like a twinkling star in the night sky.

Hitting your shots pure, and hitting those putts are works of art. Seeing the ball roll on the greens as the sun shines is still one of the best things in sports.

Then, hearing the ball drop into the cup. There’s nothing more satisfying in the world.

That’s why I love golf.

Next: Life Lessons from Jordan Spieth

Why do you love golf? Celebrate National Golf Day by telling us your story in the comments section, or you hit me up on Twitter @ChiGolfRadio