I was in a rush to get to the practice area prior to my opening tee time at the golf tournament. I hardly had time to hit any balls before I had to be on the first tee. I had been paired with two gentlemen I had previously played with, however, I had not played with Tom the number one golfer in the tourney. Tom created somewhat of a mystique merely by his presence. His first shot zoomed down the middle of the fairway landing 300 plus yards away. He was followed by the other two men who also hit shots down the middle but not nearly the distance. It was my turn to hit. I was like a pilot at the end of a runway going through my checklist. Grip correct,- check, Proper stance,- check, alignment, -check. Check list complete, -execute. I immediately hit the ball into the left rough and out of play. Tom said, “Gary why don’t you take a mulligan.” (In golf a mulligan is an additional shot without a penalty). “Thanks Tom,” whereupon I hit my second shot into the rough and out of play.
Each subsequent hole I got progressively worse. At the turn on the 10th hole Tom made a comment about the beauty of the course, the rolling hills and the small streams that meandered down from the mountains. I had not noticed. At this point Tom turned to me and asked, “Are you having fun?” I was at the bottom of the barrel and he wanted to know if I was having fun? The reality of the situation slapped me square in the face. The college psychology professor had fallen into the abyss and Tom’s use of positive psychology was missed because of my displaced thoughts and concentration on ‘self.’
My immediate reaction to this dismal behavior was to be “present in the present.’’ Engage with my fellow golfers, observe the environment and not be controlled by my game or the lack thereof. The back nine holes went much, much better and at the end of the practice round I was prepared for the tourney with a completely new focus.
As I reflect upon this experience I am reminded of the close similarities of the game of golf and the game of life. I have concluded that regardless of who you are, occasionally you need a mulligan. A chance to start anew with grace and forgiveness. When this occurs, I need to adjust my thinking and keep my mind on positive things and not the negative. Part of this paradigm is to be sure not to rush or hurry. My mind is a computer and I need to feed it positive data. As in golf, life and faith are as simple as 1-2-3. I need to visualize, practice and then commit. At the golf tournament I had a great caddy, Jose. In life, I have a friend and caddy I can trust all the time and on more than one occasion He has granted me mulligans. When I listen to Him and follow His counsel, my whole life changes.