I’m a golfer. I confess. It’s worse than that. I love golf. It’s worse than that. I love golf, and I was once a better golfer than I am now.
I love walking a golf course, making perfect contact, and competing (mainly with myself).
But I also hate this game. Golf is non-linear in a way few things are. You hit a perfect shot and then you are completely miserable on the next three.
I have toyed at times with giving up the game. You don’t get a score for hiking. But when I grab a club and spot the next challenge (opportunity?), I can feel the pull of the game that makes me think I will play it for as long as and whenever I can.
This week posed the biggest crisis in that confidence I’ve ever had with the game.
It was a two-day women’s league championship at my golf club. You play two rounds, a total of 36 holes. The lowest score after 36 holes wins. There are no “mulligans,” “breakfast balls,” or “gimmes.”
Your goal? Don’t have a “blow-up hole,” a hole where you get a stratospheric score that nullifies any chance of you competing at all.
Day one was going fine. Nothing dazzling, but two days of fine can usually compete. Then I got to the 11th hole. Think of the worst Tik Tok or old school movie about a golf fail you can. That was me. Every plague that I could have brought on myself occurred, including a biting fly. After going back and forth over the green two times, I had hit 10 shots on a par five and was still nowhere near the hole.
At this point, I looked at my two playing partners/opponents and said “I’m just going to take myself out of the tournament and pick this ball up.” There were tears behind my sunglasses. I was holding up groups behind us. I was holding up my group.
One of my playing partners, Gaye, heard this and immediately said:
“No, Sue. You are NOT going to quit. Absolutely not. You don’t quit. What are you lying there? 11? Just go over there and keep going.”
She was adamant. She’s a retired teacher. It’s probably not the first time she’s been adamant. But honestly, people aren’t often that adamant with me. There wasn’t a breath of doubt in her, not a shred of optionality or conciliation. While I don’t know her well, I think we have a few personality traits in common. We’re both quick and direct. She is also a gifted mid-handicap golfer, something we do not have in common. Players blow their balls by her on the tee, but she has the best short game of anyone I play with.
Somehow she knew exactly what I needed to hear.
I slumped over to my ball. Finally got it into the hole for a 13. I haven’t had a 13 on a golf hole in 20 years. But I finished the hole, and I finished day one of the tournament. I finished day one “DFL”. That’s Dead F-in Last.
And I actually showed up for day two.
There was precious little at stake on the second day. There was no prize for most improved, but it was I. I played light. I remembered I loved the game. It was fun.
If you follow my blogs, you know that I can be that coach. My style is loving, and I push. I show my love by pushing. It was incredible to be on the other side of that gift. It was a good reminder that sometimes coaching is about asking questions and helping someone find more choice in their situation and sometimes it’s about seeing something so obvious and finding a loving willingness to say it out loud.
I have been blessed by having myriad coaches around me my entire life. It’s not accidental. I find them. I listen closely to what they say (and I also watch closely what they do).
Sometimes I coach without an (explicit) invitation. Sometimes I coach as an imperative. And thanks to Gaye, I didn’t quit that first day. Had I picked up my ball, I might have quit for good. But she gave me the reminder that I’m not a person that quits out of failure. #grateful.
(If you are the kind of person that shows your leadership through coaching, you may be a great fit for our Coaching Certification for Leaders. We have two slots left for the January program. Apply here. Golfers welcome.)