Sunday, August 11, 2013

Walking with Jack: Spiritual Guidance from the Game of Golf (Part I)

Four days before the first day of school, teachers and administrators gather for Mass and breakfast, a review of new policies and procedures, department meetings and more.  It's a high energy day—everyone wants to know How was your summer?  What did you do?  I look forward to meeting my new colleagues and miss those no longer with us. 

When my cousin told me that her co-worker won't be returning to teach sixth grade Math because he is on the PGA tour, I was intrigued. I thought, now that's a report I would like to have someone give on my behalf!  Big risk—but good for him!  But then I learned, he's not playing golf, he's a caddy for Jordan Spieth, winner of the 2013 John Deere Classic. That's all she needed to say.  My interest was piqued. Why is that? For some reason, I take too much interest in talking about the golf caddy.  
Michael Greller of Narrows View Intermediate School in University Place, WA traded in a book bag for a golf bag.  The 35-year old teacher decided it's no longer a summer job. 

Read more here:
I dedicated a recent blog posting to one.  I love asking golfers who have played with a caddy (I haven't) what that experience was like.  I recently learned it was yet another of my father's summer jobs. Although he says that his task was simply to carry the bag (this is long before the power cart), I have pressed him further: Did anyone ever consult you with what club to use?  Did you advise them on how to play the hole? I love that Angel Cabrera's caddy is his son and I am disgusted by the fact that until 1982 all players in the Masters were required to use the service of an Augusta National Club caddy, who by tradition was always African American. All in a caddy's days
Tiger Woods was a groomsman in Stevie Williams wedding party.  Woods fired him in July 2011, ending a 12-year relationship in which he won 72 times worldwide and 13 majors. Williams now caddies for the 2013 Masters Champion Adam Scott
The relationship between caddy and golfer is not without its share of tension. Caddies are hired and they are fired (Stevie Williams).  They are praised and they are berated (as seen by my beloved Bubba Watson on the 16th-hole at the Travelers Championship as his 5-stroke lead began to unravel). Caddies may appear to be the consummate "second fiddle," but they hold much more power than meets the eye.  

Behind every good golfer is a great caddy. They are to be trusted and respected, wise and strong. They are the consigliere. At their best, they transform an individual sport into something more—which is why I am drawn to writing and talking about them.  And that is also why I believe I would enjoy reading "Walking With Jack: A Father's Journey to Become His Son's Caddy" by Dan Snyder.

At the National Catholic Educational Association's (NCEA) Convention in Houston, I presented a talk "Sports and Spirituality: Fertile Ground for New Evangelization." A participant and fellow Notre Dame graduate, Kyle Smith reached out with ideas, books, movies and articles that he too believes helps a person understand the spiritual life through the analogy of sport.

Snyder's book inspired him to write Spiritual Guidance From The Game 0f Golf. Below is the introduction that he wrote and tomorrow I will post three of the ten gems he has gleaned from "Walking with Jack" that resonated with his experience as a golfer and a Christian.  He asked me to share them and it is an honor for me to do so.

Ignatius of Loyola referred to his fellow Jesuits as companions. The journey that we each walk—this road of faith—is not something we need walk alone.  Companions in the Lord make it better...and easier. Thanks Kyle for being one!

Introduction: If you’ve ever been a caddy, you know the feeling of waking up before the crack of dawn, running out the door, and heading to the golf course in order to be the first one to secure a loop for the day. On a perfect day, everything is still. And for a moment, all seems right with the world. There is a deep, satisfying peace. And the stage is set for the players who will walk the course; who will commit themselves to 18 holes of a sport that requires intense concentration, consistency, patience, and skill. 

In many ways, golf is the game of life. It is a spiritual journey from the first shot to the last. Golf takes concentration of will, determination, grace, humility, and yes, love. When we tap in our last putt on the 18th hole, does our score really matter? Or is the most important thing what happened out on the course? Each shot changes us. So too does each decision. Based on how we react to the game and how we treat the other players on the course, we define our experience, our journey, and in the process, ourselves.

I had the opportunity to read the book Walking with Jack by Don Snyder recently and I was struck by the depth of his insights, a few of which I’d like to share...

Thoughts to come tomorrow!  

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