Because par doesn’t always happen

Sometimes life has a way of kicking your tail and reminding you that you need to slow down and take things one step at a time.

And sometimes it happen when a bunch of things hit you all at once.

I played golf for the first time in years over the weekend—and I do mean years. I had told some guys at work that I was the two-time city league champ back in the day, which is true, but I was in the second and third grades when I won those tourneys. And I was the only girl who showed up, so I sort of won by default both years.

You know that saying, “It’s like riding a bike”? I don’t believe golf is like that—at all.

Let’s pretend this was a phenomenal shot.

I think my rustiness was a bit apparent in my re-debut round of golf. Because of the residual effects of my kidney surgery and the ensuing kidney infection, I was only able to make it nine holes, but that duration was plenty.

And it was definitely enough to provide me a few reminders I really needed.

Golf is a game of patience. It’s not like running or soccer or basketball or football with people hustling fast and diving and driving and expending everything they can to win. It’s different. It’s much more of a slow-paced game, and there’s often quite a bit of waiting involved—whether you’re waiting on other people or waiting on yourself. It’s not always easy to wait on things, especially when you want them to happen when you want them to happen. But that’s not how life always goes. Sometimes you simply have to be patient and take life one stroke at a time.

Golf is also a game of adapting. You can pick out where you want your ball to go each time you swing, but it’s not always going to land where you plan. There are a lot of factors that affect where each ball ends up, and you can’t necessarily control all of them—or sometimes any of them. So when you find yourself in the sand or behind a tree, you have to change your original game plan and somehow still make it work. I feel like this is the story of my life lately—and probably the story of a lot of people’s lives. We can plan out as much as we want, but it doesn’t mean those plans are for sure going to happen. We could end up in the water or overshooting the greens. We could end up in situations or places in which we never thought we’d find ourselves and that make us feel pretty close to hopeless. But somehow, someway, we still have to make it work. And somehow, someway, we still have to believe that we can.

And golf is a game of humility. You might think you’re doing alright, and then you hit one into a creek. You might feel like you’re about to master the course, and then you whiff the ball on the tee. You might think you’re about to sink a putt, and then you add another stroke because you failed to factor in the curve and the uphill. You might feel like you’ve chosen the right club, and then you don’t even get it on the green. Life in general can be pretty humbling, too. Just when you think you have it all together, something you weren’t expecting gets thrown your way—and you simply have to deal with it.

There are so many different courses out there. There are so many different shots you hit. There are so many different situations you face. There are so many different people surrounding you.

And there are so many different choices you have to make.

You don’t get many mulligans in life—instead, you have to hit the shot as is and never look back at what could have been or should have been. You might do really well on some holes, and you might have others that seem to blow up in your face. You won’t always have good days, and you might want to throw your clubs at certain points. Some holes will break your heart and leave you feeling like the next one isn’t even worth the effort. But you have to keep playing, and you have to keep swinging.

Because, even when you don’t shoot par, you might end up having one of the best rounds you never knew could exist.

And sometimes you’ll three-putt

Much to our dismay, things don’t always end perfectly for us like they do in the movies, and that’s hard to accept.

Especially since you’re the star of your own show.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love sports. I prefer to watch them over television shows anytime, so naturally I watched the U.S. Open over the weekend. I like to root for Jordan Spieth because of his ties to Dallas and because he seems like a humble and likable person. He’s also very talented. As I’m sure you’re aware by now (and if you’re not, then you probably don’t even care), Spieth won the tournament on Sunday. But it was a very close call—he got the win because Dustin Johnson three-putted on the final hole to seal the victory for young Spieth. Johnson missed a putt to birdie and win, then he missed what looked like a simple putt that would have tied it and forced an 18-hole playoff the following day.

For me—and for many others, I’m sure—it was a good to see Spieth capture his second major of the year. For Johnson, however, there wasn’t much rejoicing. You could see the complete disappointment on his face immediately after the missed putt in knowing just how close he was to winning his first major.

Just a little tap away, but his movie wasn’t a classic feel-good ending.

It’s difficult to imagine what he’s feeling, especially knowing that his failure to be able to hoist the trophy will be all over sports media coverage for the next few days. (He might not want to watch SportsCenter for a little while.) He had recently taken some time off from the tour to work on some issues in his personal life, and hopefully he’s turning things around. It certainly seems so on the golf course, though he didn’t get his fairly tale ending to his run at this tournament. It hurts to know that something so tiny could have changed the outcome so drastically.

Well, buddy, you’re not alone.

Don’t let setbacks keep you from dunking

There are countless times I have three-putted, whether it’s in saying the wrong thing, running the wrong splits, making rash decisions that impact me more than I imagined or a multitude of other things that have left me saying, “If only…” But, like one of my favorite authors Robin Jones Gunn said in one of her Christy Miller Series books, it’s best not to live in the Land of If Only. Three-putts will happen, and there’s nothing you can do to go back in the past and change them.

And our mistakes shouldn’t overshadow all of the great things we’ve done in life. After all, Dustin Johnson didn’t play like garbage throughout the rest of the tournament to put him in such a pressure-filled position. Heck, even Jordan Spieth had three-putted before the 18th hole on Sunday. Those three-putts don’t have to define you, though. You simply have to acknowledge that they happened and then move on to the next hole or the next course and keep swinging.

Truth be told, some of those three-putts happen when it comes to things that don’t matter as much as others. There was a shot of Fox’s coverage when Johnson was walking with his wife, and he was holding his sweet baby in his arms. He kissed him and then let a contagious smile dance across his face—and I hope he realizes how much more of a gift his son is than any championship he will ever win. I know he’s a professional golfer, and so winning is pretty important to him in his career, but none of that has lasting value in the end. But those moments with his son and his wife, those are what matter more. That child will likely look to his father as a hero regardless of how many titles he has behind his name, and the gift of love is a better prize, anyway.

Not every round of golf is going to end how the golfer desires; not every situation in our lives will end the way we hope. As much as we might not like it, sometimes we might find ourselves singing along with Avril Lavigne, “So much for my happy ending…” Good song—sad reason for singing it. The boy doesn’t always get the girl; the shot doesn’t always fall right at the buzzer; the hero doesn’t always ride off peacefully in the sunset; the underdog doesn’t always prevail in epic fashion. But, if we live fully in spite of the obstacles we face and errors we make, we’re able to see what really matters in life: love. Living with hearts full of love and sharing that love with others is so much bigger than any three-putt that might happen or any trophies that are won. Love is so much better.

And love always wins.