My arms were shot. They were heavy and numb. I’d been practicing my swing for three hours straight. But I knew it was the only way I could improve.
The 18-hole conference tournament at the St. Paul, MN, Highland National Golf Course — the most important match of the whole high school season — had finally ended. It was supposed to be a time for players to shine — but it certainly hadn’t been for me. Multiple times throughout the match I swung the ball off course and missed simple putts and chips. I was just terrible, and it showed. From swing to contact, everything went wrong. I mustered up courage to keep my composure and hoped that each shot would be the one I longed for. I was desperate, but by staying focused on my passion for the game, I was able to keep myself in the right frame of mind.
When my group finished the round we rushed into the club house to tally our scorecards. I had accumulated 134 strokes through 18 holes, about double what my teammates had hit. I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t even close to their scores, even though I was conscious that they had been playing for years while I had only been playing for three months. But I also knew I stood no chance of ever being in the winner’s circle if I did not elevate my game.
After the season ended, I used the next year’s tournament as my motivation. Every day from June to August I disappeared to the driving range and chipping green. I consumed multiple hours crafting my game together. I would strike balls over and over until I could feel the pain in my shoulders. Even in the rain, if I could not get my shots to improve, I would stay until I got it right. I could not stop because I couldn’t lose to the other players. I had to work harder to be able to beat each of them.
During my second season of golf it appeared as if my hard work had finally paid off. It was starting to show. My swing was better than ever. The consistency in making good contact with the ball was off the charts. My coach was amazed at how much I had improved. I was amazed at myself. My mind erased any trace of last year’s tournament. It was set for a rematch at this year’s tournament. I felt I was ready to challenge the other players fairly now — and perhaps even place or win at the upcoming tournament.
What life lesson did I learn from all this? Just like golf, I was performing poorly in school. I had already given up on my grades— and likely my life. I didn’t care about what happened to me, I just wanted to have fun. I thought my life was just another one that didn’t matter in the world. Until golf appeared and I gained two attributes: the ability to work hard and maintain a positive mindset. When I felt like my homework was too hard and that I wouldn’t be able to achieve anything, I pushed myself to try harder—just like golf.
The ability to work hard and maintain a positive mindset are two important attributes in golf — and in life. They both had helped me overcome obstacles in ways I never believed were possible. As I look forward to college, I hope to apply these two characteristics to propel me further in life. I’m grateful to the important lesson that golf has taught me: That whatever I do, as long as I put my mind into it and work hard towards achieving it, I will succeed.