I will never forget the feeling I got after I hit a 220 yard drive straight down a fairway on a perfect sunny day. Only few things in this world top that feeling for me; that first bite of ice cream on a hot summer day or the feeling of sand between my toes on the Jersey shore. I didn't grow up playing golf, but once I picked up my clubs I fell head over heels for the sport.
I was introduced to golf at a young age since my dad has been playing since he was a teenager, however I did not pick up my first set of clubs until the spring of my freshman year of high school. One random weekend I asked my dad if I could try golf. My dad took me to the range and teed up a ball and handed me an iron. At the time the difference between clubs meant nothing to me; all I knew was that the driver was the big one that hit the ball the farthest. I couldn't understand why a 7-iron would hit the ball further than a 9-iron would or why a sand wedge would cause the ball to go higher in the air but only travels short distance. Needless to say that first time I picked up a club was not all that great. Golf is by no means a game where you can just grab a driver for the first time and crush the ball and it will land exactly where you want it to. I can guarantee you that the first drive I hit was a whiff and I more than likely topped my second shot.
I grew up playing a whole hodge podge of different sports; volleyball, softball, gymnastics, basketball, swimming and field hockey. But until the spring of 2013, golf never crossed my mind. It seemed like such a slow pace game with not too much action and neither of these things enticed me to play. But I judged the game before I had ever even tried it and once I did try it I quickly fell in love.
My dad found me a swing coach who I began going to every weekend to help me learn the basics and then gradually fix my swing and aim. My new coach and I bonded well and within a few weeks he had me hitting my drive two hundred yards instead of one fifty. After a lesson or two, my dad took me out on the course to put what I learned to work. It was only April and golf team tryouts for school weren't until late August but it seemed to be approaching fast. I practiced any chance I got in the summer and wanted to live and breathe the sport as much as I could.
Tryouts came and I made JV. Little did I know that one of the girls in my group the first day of tryouts would quickly become my best friend. My sophomore season flew by and nothing spectacular happened but I had a blast. Our team was close knit and always had a great time. My stats were consistent but not where I wanted them. After the season ended I got back into a groove of practicing when I could and working toward the next season's tryouts. By junior year I played half JV and half varsity. I dropped my average a couple of strokes and became one of the best putters on my team. Over the summers I played in Junior PGA tournaments in my area to help prepare for high school season.
The summer before my senior year my dad and I were asked to be volunteers at the 70th annual Women's U.S. Open. It was being held in my dad's hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania and we both knew it was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. We spent a week there walking the course and understanding what goes on behind the scenes at professional golf events. I had the chance to be a standard bearer which meant I got to walk the course with the players and carry the sign with their names and scores on it. Anytime I would watch the pros on television or in person, I fell more in love with the game. These pros practice virtually every single day for hours and hours and are an inspiration both on and off the course.
After spending a week watching these pros play, I could not wait for my senior season to start. Right before I left for my trip I was practicing five days a week and working out almost every day of the week. My best friend and I went up to a golf camp at the University of Illinois for two and half days. At camp we spent over thirty hours working on our game with a large focus on putting and chipping. I was feeling good and ready to try out and set some personal records for the season.
The highlight of every golf season was always the feeling I get after a great match. By far my favorite day of golf ever was the day of our conference tournament. I was wide awake that morning at 5am and was way too happy for a dreary morning. I picked up my best friend that morning to grab our pre morning breakfast sandwiches and smoothies from Panera. Our favorite part of this tournament was the fact that we got to skip the entire day of school just to play eighteen holes of golf. I had a good feeling that day as we sat in my car in the parking lot waiting for the bus to pick us up.
We anxiously rode the bus to a course I had only played once before. We got off the bus and the gray clouds continued to roll in right over our heads. We walked over to the driving range and hit a couple balls and then putted before our team meeting. My dad even took off of work for the match, which was a big deal because he only ever saw me play in high school matches a handful of times. We get out to my first tee and I played it as good as I knew how. It rained and drizzled on and off my entire first nine. On my fifth hole I hit my second shot in the bunker. I hate sand bunkers more than stepping in water in wet socks (which is number four on my list of worst things ever). I ended up taking 5 shots out of that bunker (it hasn't happened again and I don't plan on it happening again; I learned my lesson on that one) and finishing that par 4 with a 13. I put that hole behind me and finished that nine with a 45. I started off strong on my back nine and told myself to focus on the hole I was on and not the previous one or the one following. The last hole I had a twelve foot putt for birdie on a par 3. I walked up to it without much thought and sunk it with no problem. I ended that nine with a 37. I finished that round with an 82 and my best friend shot an 80. It was the best rounds of our golf careers and we placed first and third in the conference and took first as a team.
I decided against continuing my competitive golf career at the collegiate level because I wanted to go to a large school that had division 1 sports and focus most on my studies. I love the game but I never saw myself playing in college. I'll miss everything about it from the smell of the grass to teeing up the first drive in a round to eating a hotdog at my home course. I'll miss the bus rides to matches and wearing skorts and bows. I'll miss putting competitions at practice or longest drive competitions with my best friend and lining up putts. Golf holds a special place in my heart and I fell in love with all of the small things of the game. It gave me some of the best three years of my life thus far and a great best friend for life. Thank you golf, for pushing my patience and maybe my sanity at times but you taught me to never give up and to give new things a chance; who knows, you may ending up falling in love with it.