National Golf Day: One Great Shot Fueled My Passion

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /

On National Golf Day, I’m remembering how pulling off a feat many golfers go a lifetime without led to my passion for the game

My National Golf Day story starts when I was a kid. Like so many impressionable youngsters, I followed my friends. For some, that path can lead to trouble. In this case at age 12, it took me to the golf course.

I was the traditional youth athlete dabbling in football, baseball and basketball who never gave a second thought to a supposed “boring” sport like golf. At the prodding of some friends and with a a set of borrowed clubs, I decided to give it a shot.

Saying I was an elite athlete as a youngster would be a great leap, but I wasn’t exactly bad either. Most sports came easy enough, especially thanks to an early growth spurt.

Not golf.

Each swing of the club felt like pulling teeth. Toward the end of the nine-hole round I was drained from lugging a bag nearly half my size. I hit no more than two or three shots I was proud to claim.

But, in a twisted way, being awful at something was kind of refreshing. It was humbling. A few good shots here and there, though, gave me hope to carry on. Making shots in basketball gave me satisfaction, but not in the same way.

Not long after that day at a par-30 course, my friends and I “upgraded” to a par-32. Still duffing it (like I do today), I summoned a 5-iron from my bag to reach a 130-yard par-3. I’m not proud of that necessity, but what happened next is a moment I’ll never forget.

Many great players go their entire lives without an ace. I had one within months of picking up the game. Sure, I didn’t even carry the whole 130 yards as the ball rolled ungracefully from the fringe into the cup.

It was about as pretty as my scorecard for the day (that I still have) that reads a score of 62 over nine holes!

It’s one of many memories I’ll cherish forever, but one that puts into perspective what golf can offer.

It’s a sport of nuance. In a black-and-white, binary world golf offers a unique set of circumstances with each shot that offers the opportunity to be attacked in countless ways.

Dribbling in that ace was probably my only way I was going to pull it off. A tour pro playing that same shot could conjure up a half-dozen ways to try to spin one in.

A true test of brain and brawn

It’s the blend of tact and athleticism that makes golf so fun to watch.

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To watch those at the top of their field pick apart a golf course is phenomenal. I envy how a 145-pounder like Justin Thomas can become one of the PGA TOUR’s top-10 long drivers and lumbering Phil Mickelson has one of the best sets of hands around the greens.

The emotional side of the professional game is even more impressive to me. Individual athletes in team sports certainly face scrutiny, but in crunch time they have a teammate to pass to, another hitter in the lineup to lean on, etc.

In golf, it’s you and your caddie against the world playing a game where failing to win 95 percent of the time is worthy of a Hall of Fame career.

To hit a clutch shot while standing out on an island in front of thousands watching up close and personal and on television is phenomenal. Hell, I’m nervous to hit a shot if the marshal is driving by or the group behind catches up.

Such precision seen in golf is not often seen elsewhere. Lacking dunks or hard-hitting tackles, some fans miss out on the spectacle.

Replicating that precision even just once or twice in a round can give joy to any golfer. It’s a sport one can play from birth ’til grave. Perfection is unattainable, but one luminous moment can propel you to a lifetime passion like I found.

Next: Why I Play Golf

What is it about golf that keeps you coming back to the game? Join in our National Golf Day conversation and share your thoughts about the game of a lifetime in our comments section.