Saturday, September 7, 2013

Learning Golf

"…and He chose the twelve, that He might be with them…-Mark 3:14 Growing up in the Staples' family meant growing up with sports. My dad was a wrestler in his younger days and my three older brothers all excelled in football and track. We didn't play baseball, golf or basketball. Growing up in Texas, the focus was football. As the youngest and wanting to be a little different, I took up soccer as well. My dad came to watch the soccer games but I don't think he ever quite figured it all out. He told me once, "I don't understand the rules but I sure like watching you play." That was all the encouragement I needed. So, when my kids were in their school years, they played sports as well. Elizabeth played volleyball and was a pole vaulter and hurdler in track. I was clueless about both events but loved watching her compete. Eric also was involved in sports. He ran cross-country and track and played basketball and golf. I loved watching him play as well. As the kids have grown, they're not involved in most of those sports anymore. It would be kind of strange for Elizabeth and I to go pole-vaulting together. But the one sport that continues is golf. The problem was I am not a golfer. So, one afternoon years ago, I called a friend of mine who was the pro at a local golf club. I ask him, "Jeff, my son is into golf and good at it. I am not a golfer. Can you help me learn how to golf?" He said, "Yes." So we set an appointment for the next week. So the next week, I showed up with my sub par set of golf clubs ready to learn. I explained to Jeff, "I just want to be able to play a few holes with Eric without totally embarrassing myself." He said, "We'll get it done. "Remember," he said, "that golf is more mental than physical." I nodded yes, but had no clue what he meant. And the lessons began. I learned several important lessons from Jeff, about golf but mostly about life. 1. "Relax." From the first time I stepped up to the tee and hit the ball, Jeff urged me, "Relax Joey. Hold the club lightly. Breathe and enjoy the game." I had never really done that before in athletics. Relaxing in soccer would have landed me on the bench. Maybe. Or, would playing hard, intense and relaxed have been more fun? Jeff's point was a good one. Doing anything with a "chilled out" yet intentional attitude makes it more fun and usually more effective. 2. "Don't swing so hard." Jeff commented after my first drive, "Joey, you are not playing racquetball- swing softly." He educated me on the physics involved in the distance of the drive not being directly proportional to how hard the swing. He analyzed every part of my swing. He slowed it all down and it began to work. My late mentor, Richard Beach, used to say, "Play smarter, not harder." When we live our lives with focus, we get more accomplished. 3. "The distance doesn't matter." Jeff reminded me that if I swing the club correctly, the ball will go straight and farther. "Just focus on the swing," Jeff said. "Let the distance take care of itself." And of course, he was right. The "results" of life are up to the Lord, while my responsibility is to follow God and do what is right. My four lessons with Jeff lasted about a month and I learned quite a bit. No, I never went on the pro tour or anything, but I was able to at least play a few holes with Eric. I did learn a lot about golf, but never really mastered the game. But of course, that was never my intent. My intent was to love my son by doing what he liked to do. What do those you love like to do? Does your wife enjoy bike riding? Does your husband enjoy gardening? Do your kids like to play tennis? Do what they like to do. If you have to take lessons, take the time. It will be worth it. You just might learn some important lessons along the way… And show them you love them as well. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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