Lessons from a Little Game Called Golf

This is the story of my daughter Sarah’s subregion Drive Chip Putt competition…and the life lessons we found in it.

What’s Drive, Chip, and Putt???

It’s a junior golf competition where you get 9 shots (3 drives, 3 chips, 3 putts) and try to accumulate points, max of 25 points per shot.  The subregional is made up of the top 3 contestants from four different local qualifiers.  So, the competitors are all top notch.  Only the top 2 advance on to the regional contest.  No freebies here.  You’ve got to be good to make it on.  


The Story

Sarah is very good at driving the ball.  She hits about 140-150 average on her drive, not too shabby for a 9 year old girl.  To score points in the driving section of this contest, the drive must land in a 40 yard wide fairway to count.  Sarah hit all 3 of her drives out of bounds.  Here’s why…the fairway and the tee box were not in alignment (this is not uncommon but not the usual case).  From the tee box, the fairway went off to the right.  Sarah failed to recognize that fact and she simply lined herself up square with the tee box on each of her shots.   Lining up with the tee box made her shots be aimed left out of bounds, exactly where she hit them.  They were 3 good, long and straight shots.  Were it a normal round of golf, they would have been in great position.  But for this competition, it meant that Sarah scored a 0 for all three of her drives.  So after the first third of the contest Sarah was in dead last position, having scored 0 points.

In my mind, Sarah’s contest was finished.  The other girls were too good for her to overcome that kind of deficit.  When she walked back to me, I was sad.  She was not sad. Sarah had that look in her eye that I’ve seen before.  It was her look of irritation mixed with determination.  We talked about it briefly and then she said something like “Let’s go do the chipping. It’s not over.”  That’s my girl!!!

Long story short, Sarah did awesome at her chipping and phenomenal at her putting.  She sank her 30 foot putt to finish the putting skill.  As we walked up to the scoring area, holding her 86 total score, I realized my daughter had something special in her mind and heart that I’m not sure I even have.  Sarah had made an amazing comeback from dead last in 12th place to claim third place overall, and only 1 crazy point away from being in second…which would have advanced her to the southeast regional competition.  As it was, our DCP journey came to an end this year.  

That was a really hard lesson learned.  We talked over things briefly so that we could evaluate what happened.  But we didn’t dwell on the fact that she came up short.  Rather we chose to celebrate with her that she was determined and had a remarkable comeback, placing 1st in putting, 3rd in chipping, and 3rd overall.

Lessons Learned that Apply to Life in General

As I reflected on these events I saw a lot of life lessons.  Humor me as I share them with you…

  1. The mind is a powerful thing.  Sarah took a really bad thing and simply decided that she wasn’t going to be defeated by it.  Call it what you want: grit, determination, mental fortitude.  In the end, if you want it… you can get it done.
  2. The past does not determine the future unless you allow it to.  Because Sarah decided that she wasn’t done…then she wasn’t done.  Those drives had no effect on her chipping and putting.  It was the best chipping and putting she had ever done.
  3. Don’t quit.  Just don’t.  If you quit then you will never know what amazing things might happen.
  4. We need to think about everything.  Acting without thinking usually doesn’t produce the best results.  This is true in golf and in life.
  5. Alignment matters.  Things can be beautiful but still wrong, just like Sarah’s drives.  You have alignment in life when everything is on the same page and working together.
  6. Leadership is about empowering others to do well.  This is the gut punch for me.  I feel like Sarah’s failure on the drive skill is 100% my fault and my failure.  I am owning her failure.  She’s been playing golf for a little over a year, and I’ve been her caddy the whole way.  In the DCP contest parents are not allowed to give any advice, which is the exact opposite of normal golf caddying, where the caddy is purposefully there to help the golfer.  I have always helped her line up.  I now realize I was doing the alignment for her and she was aiming where I would tell her.  Never again.  I saw her alignment error but I was not allowed to help her.  I had not properly equipped her with how to evaluate this part of her game.  I just always did it for her.  My goal now as her caddy is to lead her to evaluate all parts of her game on her own.  That is good leadership.
  7. Learn and grow from your mistakes in this life.  If you grow from the bad things that happen in life then those experiences are not wasted, no matter how bad they were.  The road to success is paved with failures that have been learned from.


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