How far away and yet how near golf seems to me, and what an impact it had on my life.
I discovered my talent at age ten, and it rescued me from the weights that were pulling me down. It became everything. I burned with desire to become a great tournament golfer. Golf protected me when I hid from the world and when I went back into it.
The second time I won a major regional championship, I played the first nine holes in 33 and came as close to perfection as I would ever come. “I did it!” I thought. That might have been the beginning of the end of my burning desire for success at golf. I’ve come to realize that it was the going for it, the lessons, the coaching, the huge amounts of practice, the this-is-all-that-matters, that I loved. The having of it wasn’t nearly as thrilling as the getting there. The having was all right, but after a while there was a stillness to it that wasn’t all right.
Competitive golf stopped making sense to me when I was 23-years old. I had been playing for 13 years. Twenty years later, I “returned” to golf, but the game and I were no longer connected. I was playing because once, a long time ago, I had that fire in the belly, not because now, in the living present, I had it. Without that fire, playing golf was the groping of a ghost for a reality that was gone.
A reporter once wrote that I was a “sunny whirlwind of the fairway.” I never liked those words. I never felt very sunny. I thought of myself as a killer who crucified her opponents. Tiger Woods said he didn’t want just to win, he wanted to destroy his opponents. That was me too. I can’t believe it! What nonsense.
And yet, I often wonder how my feats could mean so little so soon after they meant so much. By the same token, how could I have gone on playing once it made no sense, just because a long time ago it made a great deal of sense?
I cherished you, my talent, and guarded you – like a rare pearl. Alone together, we walked onto the fields of praise. But I left you and didn’t think of you or listen to you for a long time. I did not let you run your course. I regret that. Partly because it’s in my nature to see things through to the end. Partly because. . . . . . I’m not exactly sure. William Yeats said that “men improve with the years; and yet and yet.” The Bible says “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Anton Chekhov said “Live. . . . . . and see.”