Earlier this year, my Grandpa Lafe passed away. He was, still is, one of my heroes. He was a proud WWII veteran and a member of the “greatest generation.” Sadly, every day, we lose more members of his generation. Besides being witty, a great speaker and gifted with his hands, my Grandpa was a great teacher of “how to live life” and be a blessing to others.
Although I didn't learn golf directly from him, I do believe I got it from his father, Lafe Sr. When I was 21, I remember playing nine holes with him when he was 96 years young. As I think of it now, it's even more amazing. He played two times a week until the last year of his life...yes, you read that right!
While that's amazing, it's just as special that he and I could spend time together that afternoon in St. George, Utah learning the game together. I had only learned the game six years before. In that brief period of time, I learned many valuable life skills as a young man. Every day, those lessons and skills benefit me as a husband, a father and as a working adult. Here are just a few examples of the lessons I learned from the game AND from the “more learned-learners” I had the privilege to play with (and learn from):
· Maturity: Bad bounces happen, in life and on the golf course, after both good shots and bad...it's how you respond to the bounces that determine your level of success.
· Patience: Like maturity, I learned (and I'm still learning it,) you can't force a great shot, a birdie or a lower score. I learned this from a wise senior player, “You can't make birdie with your tee shot, but you can make a double bogey or worse if you try to force it.”
· Acceptance: Golf is a great game for young people, and the young at heart. It taught me to accept the consequences of a poor shot or a poorly considered shot. “It's history friend, don't dwell on it, because you can't change it...it's time to move on, and think about how you're going to recover or at least minimize the damage.”
· Perspective: I have never been the best player in my “little world.” Golf taught me that there are always plenty of people I am more skilled than, as well as more who are better than me. I was also fortunate enough to have mentors who made sure I knew my self-worth was not tied to my most recent golf score, but instead to the way I handled the success, the mediocrity or the poor performance. They taught me to value my “score” in these life skills at a higher value than the scratches made by a golf pencil on a scorecard next to my name or by a calligrapher on a scoreboard.
I could go on at length about persistence, consistency and other character attributes. I owe so much to this great game and the valuable life lessons it taught me as a junior golfer. In this game, I found deep, wonderful mentoring relationships with amazing people with names like Lafe Sr., Earl, Ron and Owen in my years as a teen. On the way to the golf course virtually every Saturday morning, my best friend Earl (I also call him Dad,) taught me how to drive, how to root for competitor you want to beat, how to choose a life partner and how to do pretty much everything else.
Today, I am working hard to be a “more learned-learner” like those mentioned above for my own children and other young people I'm privileged to be on the course with. If you'd like the young people in your life to learn some or all of these lessons, I suggest you look for a quality junior golf program, such as PGA Junior League Golf or PGA Sports Academy, at a facility near you. Don't hesitate to talk to the PGA or LPGA Professional about what you're looking for, including character and life skill development...and don't hesitate to join them in the journey like my Dad did with me. Our priceless relationship today is certainly a result of the choice he made to “jump in” with me.