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Golf Saved My Life? Hardly. But I Entered Anyway

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I apologize for being away from my blog for the past few weeks. I have a deadline with my publisher for submitting the manuscript for my second book, and I'd say it'll be here before I know it, but I know full well that huge monster is putting a warm, stinky breath on my collar line right now. So, almost all writing I do is work related. It's also limited my golf, but that's another matter.

I guess I've been busy enough that I'm late in coming to the party of reading the "Golf Saved My Life" essays that have been printed in Golf Digest. Read them! You'll feel justified in your participation in the game, even if others continue to condescend.

I don't have a story that matches what these people have been through. But I do believe my enthusiasm for the game matches just about anyone else, and the best way I express that is to quietly write about it. I couldn't, then, let it pass without writing my own version of how golf saved my life -- or at least made it better. I don't count on Golf Digest printing it; I'm sure they have plenty to choose. So I thought if my essay was going to see the light of day I'd better put it out on the blog.

Here it is:

There’s not been a moment -- nothing even close -- where I thought my life was about to end and golf descended like a dove to bring me everlasting peace. That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges.

I'm facing one right now. My occupation has been severely impacted by contraction and massive job cuts, yet the line of work remains my passion. I can’t see myself doing anything else.

That old job is gone and there’s no going back, it looks like, so I’ve set up shop in my own home and I’ve barked my wares through a handful of business proposals -- I’ve even set up a Twitter account and struggled with blogging formats -- to get people to notice me. It's hard, but the real challenge is to get myself to stay focused while I sit in a quiet room with
a digital world fueled by social media, talk shows -- and Golf Channel -- just fingertips away. Pick your poison.

These days I’ve tweaked my work to research lives made obscure by the passage of time, and I’m trying to retell stories about them. So if I can trace other people’s history to see what took them to their moments of greatness, why can’t I go back through mine and find something that has directed me well for years?

It started innocuously. My wife challenged me to a bet over who could lose the highest percentage of weight. I heard about a free smart-phone application that aided weight loss by the setting of a goal, tracking calories by food intake and logging exercise. I lost 15 pounds, close to eight percent of my body weight, and won the bet (congrats to my wife for reaching her goal).

But I kept plugging away. People saw me limiting my portions of well-cooked food and asked why I would continue to bother with it, and I had to pause and think about that one myself as I passed on a second helping of ribs.

Eventually, I remembered how I wouldn’t wait for assignments at my old job, how I would structure my work week, and my production had my creative stamp on it. I remembered almost 30 years ago in college, when faced with a syllabus-busting list of the semester’s required reading, I sat down and added page counts and divided by the number of days left before final exams to figure out how much I should accomplish each late night.

It occurred to me that setting challenges for even the most mundane daily life transcended to my work. If I could create a culture of setting challenges and meeting them, daily, I could keep my passion and make it work in a new occupation. And now I have been noticed. My business proposals have been accepted. I’ve got a contract -- and a deadline.

I put it all together. I remembered why I kept bothering with watching my weight, with structuring my work week, with maintaining a reading schedule in the first place. Those are things that Bobby Jones called “Old Man Par.” I picked it up from golf.

It’s where I learned to work at something. I could see concrete improvement and cut enough strokes off my handicap index so I could play in the more competitive bracket at the next tournament. It’s where I kept working on my swing so I could hit a 3-metal off a tight lie from an elevated Texas Hill Country fairway and make the ball hang in the air before descending -- like a dove -- toward the target.

I found “Old Man Par” at the golf course. And I found he plays on the course of life, too.