Thursday, October 4th at approximately 2 pm, I walked off the golf course as a professional for perhaps the last time. I was the first to hole my putt in the group and from that time until the flag was in the cup something happened, it is something that I’ve seen and felt before but this time was different. It’s kept me up the last few nights. It’s hurt my reflective brain. It’s emotion that I’ve felt before but evaded my grasp, really made me think. Unable to vocalize it, unable to avoid it. I tried both. If you are wondering what “it” is, it’s simple and I’ve finally got my hands around it’s throat…

My high school athletic career feels like it was one hundred years ago, both physically and mentally. I know it’s so fucking cliche and perhaps a little corny to talk about (back in my day syndrome) but it’s important to me.  My life as a twenty and thirty year old is a very dark and stark contrast to those days. What happened? I was never the most gifted, the strongest or even the smartest but one thing I never was, was a quitter. I played until the whistle blew, giving it my last breath until I was on the bus or at home.

There are a couple events that stand out in my memory. My junior year I was awarded the starting quarterback job, I’m not sure it was earned but I took it. There were two games that year that stand alone. Playing at Wright High was an all time  low. I threw four picks in that game and was embarrassed by the home fans, the worst part was I threw them all to the same guy. I never felt like the leader of that squad, but I played the game until the end. Giving it my absolute all until I was excreting blood from my nose and sweat from my soul. I remember trying to inspire my teammates in the fourth quarter with guts and was quickly thwarted, told to “shut the fuck up.” The last game of that year was over the mountain at Riverside High and I had a hand problem because I could not hold on to the ball in the first half. Dropping snap after snap, it was nerves personified. It was the last game I would ever play with some of my best friends and perhaps the beginning of the end of some personal relationships, I was scared. I took some time in locker room, pulled my shit together and had an unbelievable second half. I remember not wanting to leave that field after. The next year two events stand tall. There was a practice, one of those practices that makes your lungs want to quit. The coaches were testing our mental toughness, testicular fortitude. Myself and a teammate took it upon our selves to inspire. Running faster and harder than everyone else. I got severe tunnel vision and the world was collapsing upon me, I needed to vomit but couldn’t show the team weakness. I turned towards the big horn mountain range and puked down the front-inside of my shoulder pads and kept leading.  Homecoming that year was the cleanest game I ever played, I had guaranteed victory in the local paper. I delivered, during the halftime locker room speech was the first time I felt like a leader of young men, like an inspiration. Nothing could stop us that day and what a coincidence that it was versus the team I had embarrassed myself against the prior year.

Basketball season that year (senior year) was an emotional roller coaster. We were perhaps one of the most talented groups I have ever been around, a group of us playing together since grade school. We battled in many practices, competitive as nobody wanted to lose or appear weak. About half way through the season life got really hard for me. I was having a difficult time focusing in class and was actually failing a couple classes. I was called into coaches office before a practice, that’s not good. When I left with the news of being ineligible that week, it was hard to breathe. Being told I could practice but not participate in the games cut deep. My teammates looked at me like a cancer, I went harder than ever. The next Monday, during practice, I was being reckless and in a back peddle I felt a pop and burn in my lower leg. It felt like someone hit me with a hammer, torched my heart. I went to the ER that night, torn Achilles tendon. In the words of my doctor, “basketball is probably over for you.” I was out for three weeks, I missed some amazing games, only watching. On a visit to the doctor that week, I was given my MRI results and had a slight tear, not enough for surgery but “should not be taken lightly.” Not cleared by the doctor, I went to practice that day and told an out and out lie. “They cleared me, I’m practicing.” Every day hurt, every practice hurt, every game hurt. I wanted to be the leader of that team so bad and it crashed on me, battling with the head coach I was benched on several occasions because off an “attitude.” I had a hard time taking a back seat. It was my most miserable season of sport in my short life but the one I miss the most, interesting, and I could write an entire book about it but will save it.

I ran track for four years and every year completely sucked at it. I think I continued to do it because I needed the team atmosphere. The comrade of the bus rides, meets  and horrible practices. I loved it. I was slow but there was one race, my last. I always ran the 400 meter and the 300 meter hurdles. They were back to back races and that was pure punishment. I knew I was never going to win but I liked to push my body to the brink. The last race was at the conference meet, 300 meter hurdles. I had to finish in the top 4 to advance to the State finals, a place I had never been and all of the sudden it seemed possible. As I looked at the heat on the starting blocks, I saw a bunch of guys I could and have beaten in the past. Hope overtook my body and I got off to an amazing start, so fast in fact I thought I faulted. Making the turn I was actually leading. With two hurdles to go I had fallen to third or fourth but I could still do it. Half way over the second to last hurdle I felt my back ankle grab the wood of the hurdle, down I went, a skidding shoulder roll to a  bloody stop. Instant pain, I walked across the finish line. Hurt but with my pride in tact because I once again played until the end.

I’ve tried over and over again. I’ve taken the difficult roads, definitely less traveled. I recognized a few things today as my head cleared. I’ve been going at this the wrong way. 1.) Prepare. If I decide to play any more events, I must prepare correctly and passionately. Find that kid inside that use to give his all, that used to bleed pride. 2.) I can no longer do this on my own. To be successful I will need a team, I need that team atmosphere to keep going when it gets difficult. One of my biggest faults as an adult has been not asking for help. I have some unbelievable resources to choose from and of course my ultimate team mate is right in front of me. 3.) Start living every day and not just once in a while. I feel like I’ve wasted so much time. The one thing we can’t control is time. It is precious and it’s time to act like it. 4.) Use that look that I got from those guys as motivation. If you are still wondering, it was PITY. They pitied me. For a little over four hours that day, I was ready to hang it up, ready to quit again. That look I got from everyone in that group, two players, two caddies and a couple spectators has haunted me. That’s not the way I want my story to end, with pity. At this realization comes another. I’ve searched the world for inspiration. I search and search and search and “holy shit” there it is. The inspiration does not lie in some book or you tube video. The inspiration is ME. It’s been hiding deep inside, in some dark corner, covered by years of crap that I went through. It’s piled deep under there, I’ve searched for outside influence and just simply forgot where to look. I am inspiration. I am heart. I’m still that kid that refused to quit. I just had to find him. The door of possibility has been reopened but like that kid I must crawl before I run. This is a huge day. I’ve had self-realization days before, but this one feels completely different. It’s more honest, real. I’m ready to deal with it. To be continued…

Advertisements