Thursday, June 17, 2021

We Are Not Forgotten: Remembering Mike

Golf has the ability to connect young and old, male and female, living and those who are no longer with us. I was reminded of this truth—once again—by participating in the WGANC two-day Stroke Championship. With my summer vacation now underway, I was particularly excited do play in this tourney because I had not played at Claremont—the home course of a friend—Mike Donovan. Mike died on April 30, 2018 but his spirit and his legacy live on. Golf has a special way of doing that. Here's the story.

I met Mike many years ago through one of his closest and dearest friends, Peggy. A devout Catholic and golfer, Mike was no stranger to adversity—having lost his home in the Oakland fire and in battling cancer for 23 years. As written in his obituary, "In response to his own inability to swallow because of his cancer treatments, Mike co-founded the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders to help others with the same dysphagia. While living in Oakland, he volunteered as a Basketball Coach for Seventh and Eighth Grade boys in Oakland's inner city. He truly was a man for others, even as he faced his continued cancer treatments." In fact, his ability to speak was compromised due to those chemotherapy treatments, but Peggy always understood what he said. Theirs was a special friendship to witness and share. 

Mike still communicated volumes by his gentle and warm presence. He had the Arnold Palmer syndrome—making you feel like you were the only person in the room. He smiled and laughed through his Irish eyes and witty retorts; he let his clubs do most of the talking. I never got to play with Mike at Claremont, but Peggy sure did. Mike was unofficially the mayor of CGCC, not to mention the club champion (3x). This title means that club members take notice when you come to play. The first tee, near the 19th hole, puts added pressure on that moment. When Peggy came to play with Mike, he swung easy. Peggy rose to the occasion. We love that memory. When Mike died, Claremont flew the flag at half mast in his honor.

Shotgun start at Claremont Country Club

In February 2016 Peggy, Mike, another friend and me spent the weekend in Carmel and attended the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, two days in a row. Upon the conclusion of a weekend of great golf, outstanding weather, and wonderful companionship, I said that I didn't think I could go back. I wasn't convinced that anything could top the experience I had. Less than a year later, Mike got sick again. We had high hopes we would be able reconvene but it was not to be. I have returned to the Pro-Am several times and it's different. Still, I cherish those memories and how special our time together was.

On my drive to Claremont, I prayed for those who were touched by Mike's life and for those who still grieve.I recalled the stories that were shared in the eulogy following the mass of Christian burial at Saint Theresa's. I would like his family and friends to know, I share his story with my students even today.

Walking up to the club house, I thought of the celebration of his life that took place in that beautiful space and the sight of his close friends huddled on that patio overlooking the first and eighteenth holes. During my round, I thought many times of how he might have played certain holes and what advice he might have given to me (he was super encouraging). Though I had a bit of a heavy heart, I played great. I think Mike made sure I would.

At the conclusion of the day, I approached the General Manager and head pro who were standing together, near the putting green. I said "thank you for a great day. A friend Mike Donovan was a member here and loved this place." "Mike Donovan!" said the GM. "What a wonderful man. That one still hurts." I replied "the only time I have been here prior to today was after his funeral. I wanted to play in this tournament because I never got to play here with him and I knew it was very special." He responded "thank you for remembering Mike. Thank you for telling us that."

Although it wasn't Claremont, I did get to play golf with Mike at his other club, on the Ocean course at Monterey Peninsula GC. Mike went out of his way to make sure I got a hat as a memento from the round. Anytime I wear it and someone asks about the old logo—I get to share a little bit about Mike.

Someone recently said to me, "For someone that doesn’t get paid to play golf you care way too much about it!" His words are both inconsiderate and obtuse. I'm glad I care about golf—it has a way of connecting us to people and to places that emerge from the ordinary to extraordinary. It reminds us that we are not forgotten. We can participate and play in honor of those we love and with those we care about. I should say I look forward to talking about my round on Monday with Mike...but I already did. I believe in the communion of saints. Mike is just one more example of my conviction.

Photo Credits


Monday, June 14, 2021

Coaching Will Ruin Your Life: Why We Do It Anyway

Ask me why I still coach after twenty-plus years of working in high school athletics and my dear friend Haley comes to mind as one answer. Haley is a former colleague; she is a huge sports fan, wife, mom, teacher and true soul sister. Like me, she runs a varsity program. Unlike me, she manages a team of 30 young women on a team sport. Golf is different. It is an individual sport that high schools and colleges offer as a team experience. I carry nine girls on varsity and eighteen in the program. In spite of our differences, Haley and I meet in the middle. We unpack the challenges of coaching the female high school athlete. We discuss the fight that we face to give female sports the recognition they deserve. Together we have come to determine at some point, somewhere we want to offer a talk....or write an article...entitled "Coaching will ruin your life: Why we do it anyway." And, finishing the 2020-2021 school year's golf season might just add a new twist. 

Coaching high school sports will ruin your life. During the season, you can kiss your weekends goodbye. You never quite know if you are doing enough. Should I have scheduled a few more scrimmages? Why not organize a Catholic school tournament? Did we practice this part of the game enough? Why can't they do x? How can we get better at y? And when will z stick? There is always some administrative task that has yet to be done. Though you may have the transportation needs and dismissal times published, you forgot to get the uniform orders in as early as you had hoped. Your weekdays are long, your game days longer. It is never safe to assume anything. For example, as soon as I started to think how well my team was getting along, one girl confessed to mean girl syndrome on the team. This floored me. Just the other day, I shared with another golfer some of the drills my team practices. She said "wow, you really plan stuff." Yes I do. If I don't, my life is doubly ruined!

But this post is not the story of the ruination of my life since athletics reopened in the state of California due to COVID. When the CIF announced that girls' and boys' golf would begin on February 8, we were ready and excited. When I saw that the league championships would take place in May and the sectional championship would happen in June, I thought "ok." So much of life this past year was TBD. I figured the story of this season was to be determined. And so it was.

Coaching did anything but ruin my life this year. In fact, it was one of the most enjoyable parts of it. I wouldn't be a teacher or a coach if I didn't enjoy spending time with young people and this season allowed me to do something I once took for granted. I got to spend time, in person, with the same girls, participating in a game we love. With the restrictions of COVID came new found freedoms. We met at the golf course, and girls came when they could. If they couldn't make practice or a match we worked around it. This wasn't seamless or without hassle or mistakes, but it worked.

We welcomed to our team two seniors—one who quit the year before due to academic demands. The other was a young woman who had talked about playing golf—a lot—but played volleyball in the past. I heard about this as her classroom teacher and invited her to try out. Too many seniors take a step away from participation in high school sports. We are so grateful she didn't! 

Their kindness, positive attitudes and talent galvanized into a team chemistry that shaped our team for the better. Whereas teammates are naturally competitive with one another, the affect of these seniors buoyed the camaraderie and playfulness of the crew. For example, after one round, one player was noting how terrible she played because of her three-putt. One of my seniors said "well would you rather three putt or three chip to get on the green." That's a good teammate.

We finished second in the league and played at the Central Coast section championship, Wednesday June 9—nearly two weeks after classes resumed. We were told by the league commissioners that players would need to leave right after their round and there would not be an awards ceremony. No one questioned these protocols; girls' golf in the Spring season is already an anomaly.

What materialized could not be scripted. Because we qualified as a team, my players were in the final six groupings. Upon finishing, girls sat on the grass—the 18th green at Laguna Seca Golf Ranch has a natural amphitheater around it— and waited as their teammates came through. As each girl came in, their teammates wanted to know how they did. This is always a tense moment because their is the inner-pressure to best everyone in the field is coupled with a true desire to support your teammate! With school out and the season over, we felt no pressure to go anywhere or be anything other than who we were at the moment.

One player was fighting back tears. Another girl saw this and said "it's ok, I cried earlier." Another admitted that she cries all the time. One added that she wears waterproof mascara because she knows she will cry. When one girl finished, her dad gave her a big hug and told her how proud he was of his daughter. The girl sitting next to me said "I wish my Dad was like that." Her tears began. We continued to watch and share stories of the round. At one point I told a girl that I cried when I realized what time I needed to leave my home to get to the course on time. She smiled saying "see Coach, you cry too." I gathered the team together for one final meeting. I congratulated them, I thanked them, and told them I loved them. This moment however was shortened by a player's parent telling us to hurry up. They were giving away awards.

This impromptu, informal gathering was unexpected. One of my players earned a medal for finishing fourth overall. An outstanding teammate, we were overjoyed for her award. Moments later, our team was awarded with the third place trophy. We ran up for our hardware, embraced and celebrated the moment. Team pictures, selfies, high fives and hugs are what we will remember—tears and all.

In a non-pandemic season, I would drive the team to the match and most of their parents would pick them up and we would depart separately. The team van would be empty and I would begin the haul back to campus. This year, I left as I came—alone in my Jeep—but full of gratitude for the season that almost wasn't.

I turned on the radio, and I started to cry. Overcome with emotion, exhaustion, those feelings of self doubt and uncertainty, coupled by the others of thankfulness and knowing I gave my very best. So many tears.

I reached out to Haley to share all that I was feeling. She simply said, "Tears in or after a season only make it official. So happy for you!!" 

Once again, coaching ruined my life....and I'm so grateful.

NB: and to women in particular. If you are thinking of coaching high school sports, please talk to me and to Haley. We have a lot to share.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Lessons from The Good Life and the 2021 US Women's Open

In her philosophy class, What Makes a Life Good?, Dr. Meghan Sullivan contends "there are some things in life that we just can’t outsource to other people." In other words, only you should offer an apology to someone you have hurt, you must be the one to go on the awkward first date with someone you are interested in dating. and, the only person to speak to a therapist about their own problems....is you. Sullivan offers these examples because she also believes that determining what makes a life good—the essential question of the course— is something you have to do for yourself. I asked my students what they thought. When I found little to no disagreement, I then asked "What else ought you do for yourself?" Someone replied "write a thank you note." "Interesting," I said. "And is a thank you note essential for living a good life?" My student responded, "maybe not the note itself, but expressing gratitude in an intentional or formal way is." I agree.

The champion, Yuka Saso tees off on the iconic 18th hole of the Lake Course
I recall this snapshot of my Moral Issues class because I find myself in need of expressing gratitude. And, I don't know to whom I should address my note—but I am thankful to have been a part of the 76th United States Women's Open that took place from June 3-6, 2021 on the Lake Course at the Olympic Club. It was the sixth time the club has hosted a US Open Championship and the first time it has welcomed the women's tourney. I will carry memories from this entire week with me for a lifetime.

When asked to work as the co-chair for junior volunteers in September 2019, the plan was to target young people, especially female golfers—to work "inside the ropes" next to the best women in the world. Like so much of life since March 2020, the USGA worked overtime to pivot and find a way to keep young people involved. I'm glad they did--both for my sake and for those young members who were able to contribute to the success of the event! 

Thank you to my co-chair Marissa and to the crew of young Olympians who showed up Monday through Sunday. They sorted through thousands of range balls, separating between Titlelist Pro VI, Titlelist Pro VX and Callaway and bagged them into a highly coveted* US Open 2021 red bags. They placed the sign placards behind each player on the range so the crowd would know who was warming up, shagged balls on the 18th green practice area and made it all work. 

There were so many highlights from the week, but one in particular was having my team—Saint Francis girls' golf in attendance on Thursday, Day 1 of the Open. These young women really know the game as both players and as fans. They were in awe of seeing the players up close and personal. They analyzed their swings, their putting, their bags and their outfits ;-) At one point, the commentary between two of my players was so good, I suggested that they get into the announcer's booth. Should I warn Kay Cockerill or Morgan Pressell now? My team was  slightly star struck, when they realized we were sitting next to several members of the Stanford women's golf team. They thanked Cal Coach, Nancy McDaniel for her Confidence Drill and they were able to take photos with several players. Go Lancers!

Two of my players with Emma Talley

My team wasn't the only enthusiastic bunch on the property. It was great to see so many fans of all ages—both men and women, teens and kids excited about the women's game. The tourney offered several great story lines with the return of past champions: the Pink Panther—Paula Creamer and new mom, Michelle Wie-West. One of the amateurs—Megha Ganne who has yet to complete her junior year of high school (and is already committed to Stanford) made her way into the final pairing. She is poised and gracious, spirited and spunky. I love that she beckoned the crowd to roar for more (after making a putt for bogey....awesome) and that she conceded that although she was a crowd favorite, her caddy--a long time member might be the bigger draw. Unfortunately, Lexi Thompson—who was once the youngest golfer to play in the USWO at the age of 12—lost the lead and finished in third. The Lake Course has long been known as the "graveyard of champions." Thompson proved it to be no misnomer. Though part of the story of the 2021 USWO, none of that should take away the accomplishment or the congratulations due to Yuka Saso of Manila, Philippines. Saso captured the championship in a sudden death play off and defeated Nasa Hataoka of Japan.

I kept thinking of the word "hospitality" all week long. To host an event takes incredible preparation, time, energy and sacrifice. Due to COVID, it was unclear whether or not fans would even be allowed in attendance and the volunteer pool was limited to just members. Fortunately, the tourney welcomed limited fans and it all worked because folks worked long shifts many of which required either setting and alarm clock and/or going to bed past one's bed time. We all bared the summer in San Francisco (brutal!) and walked away with fog burn, wind burn, new friends and a deepened appreciation for the club and the game of golf.

As I was talking to two of my players, I realized the man standing near us was none other than Mike Wahn, the longtime commissioner of the LPGA and soon to be CEO of the USGA. I smiled at him, introduced myself and said "I teach about you in my class." I told him about the power of the thank you note—how much I appreciated that he encouraged the LPGA players to write them to sponsors and in turn how this helped to grow the game. He was holding a folder and said "I have a few of them in here." "Caught in the act," I said. That is also something only you can do for yourself. 

What makes a life good? The 2021 USWO reminds me of the answers: friends, service, hard work, inspiration, athletics—golf, teamwork and....gratitude.

Photo Credits
@USWomen'sOpen Olympic Club Instagram

Monday, May 31, 2021

In Addition to the COVID Vaccine, a Different Shot in the Arm

I just completed my twenty-second year of teaching. On the last day of class, I congratulated my students for making it through such a challenging year, for having patience through every change and development, phase and Zoom delay. I gave a special shout out for those students who sent direct messages in the chat telling me, "Ms. Stricherz, we can't hear you" and the others who always kept their screens on when so many others did not. Applause! I told them I teach because I love learning and the relationships that form from that experience. With the Grace of God, both still happened. I said farewell to the 2020-2021 school year, hello to a better tomorrow and thank you to something equally significant: those shots in the arm.

I am grateful that so many of my students and golfers gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. I want to thank athletes like Bill Russell who have embraced creative campaigns to get one. The legendary Celtic said "this is one shot I won't block." Me either. As long time basketball fans know, although Hakeem Olajuwon holds the records for most blocked shots of all time, the accolade goes to Russell. How so? The NBA did not recognize blocked shots as an official stat until the 1973-74 season (Russell retired in 1969 after playing professionally for 13 seasons). Earlier this year however, he did not play defense when it came to vaxing up. Russell is one of many.  

I want to thank the HR department at Saint Francis who worked so hard to keep teachers and staff informed about the latest updates and opportunities so we could get vaxed early. I got mine in February and March but Pfizer wasn't the only shot I received during the past 14 months to keep people like me—a teacher, coach and administrator—healthy and happy. 

Just this past week, I had three former Sports and Spirituality students come by with a note of thanks. Each one expressed their gratitude for what they learned and the relationships that were born from that experience. Their words, the memories, prayers and hopes for the future are a shot without side effects. This was a different kind of heart burn.

One month prior, the girls' volleyball team sent hand-written, personalized thank you notes to the Athletic Office at Saint Francis for all we did to help them have a season this school year. My boss, the Director of Athletics told me about this first. He was so touched by the gesture, he brought it up in our weekly meeting. A few days later, I went to my mailbox at school only to find a stack of these missives addressed to me, too. Several were written by girls that I know but there were others I don't. It didn't matter. I read each one and I smiled. It felt GREAT. I was touched by their thoughtfulness and their realization that playing a sport is not something that just happens. Thanks to the hard work of many people, a season, practice, participation and competition in athletics can go live and thrive. We didn't need COVID to teach any of that, but it's one by-product of challenging times.

Coaches: Feel free to steal this idea!

Interesting historical perspective. This isn't the first time celebrities have been used to promote a vaccine
Here we have Elvis Presley getting the Polio vaccine in 1956

I have taught in a school where we lost not one but two students to death by suicide in the same year. There was a five year period, where teenage life was so precarious, we carried a burden that still confounds me. Long ago, I realized if we could make it through those dark days, we could make it through anything. Though true, it still didn't make this past year easier. It did however help me frame what I know: it is important to give thanks each day. Whether our gratitude is for our daily bread, a teacher or coach, the gift of life or the gift of a season of sport—let us remind one another that those words of thanksgiving whether written or said—are another great shot in the arm. And, we grow healthier and perhaps more resilient because of them.

When my friend Malia got her vaccine, she started to tear up. Relief, gratitude, thanksgiving. The nurse told her "honey, no one tells you those are another side effect of the shot." Here, here. And to more shots in the arm....thanks be to God.

Photo Credits
Bill Russell
Elvis
St Francis Thank you notes--my photo!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Gift of Work Friends

There are all kinds of quotes honoring old and new friends, girl friends, guy friends, friends of friends (when your friend introduces you to their friend... and the two of you become even better friends?!), best friends, childhood friends and friends for a lifetime. But, I have yet to read one about a very special type of friend: those co-workers who become friends. I say this because I am richly blessed. I have so many colleagues who have not just become friends, but dear friends. Close friends. And, my recent visit to Washington DC reminded me how many of them are rooted in Sports and Spirituality.

At the historic and iconic Clyde's in Washington, DC

My friendship with Bill is a story of Spirituality and Sports. We taught in the Religious Studies department at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco for twelve years together. He and his wife Mary—who is also a treasure of a friend and former colleague—now live in Boyds, Maryland. He teaches at Georgetown Prep, Mary is at Holy Child and I teach at Saint Francis High School. 

Bill arrived at SI two years before I did and established himself as the RS 300: Foundations of Ethics: Morality and Justice level leader and World Religions guru. He brought a love for Thomas Merton—the true self, Thich Nhat Hanh—Living Buddha, Living Christ and Ecological Justice to our common curriculum. To this day, I still smile when I think of a student creation—a painting of the symbols for major world religions—that he stole from my classroom and hung on his wall. He was unapologetic in hijacking it; I have a feeling that painting  hangs today on the wall in Room 205. I learned so much about spirituality from him as both his friend and colleague.

Bill also coached boys and girls tennis, and teacher coach friends are a double bonus. With Bill, the game wasn't just something he taught and developed in his athletes—to this day, tennis colors his imagination, attention, calendar and more. And, as someone who has professed many times that tennis was and is my first love, this was a triple bonus. 

up close and personal with King Fed

Bill is unparalleled in his knowledge of  the men's and women's game, both past and present. How many more times can I identify this as a bonus in a friend!? I eagerly soaked up all that he knew— his updates, stories, stats and more. I remember a friend once gave me a lengthy profile from the New York Times about Roger Federer, Bill's favorite player I started reading it only to realize, I didn't need to finish it. Why? I already knew everything in the report thanks to Bill.

Working with your friends means you get to see them five days a week. And every September, during the fortnight of the US Open, I would tread lightly in the Religious Studies hallway until I knew one thing: if Bill knew the outcome of matches from the night before. Why? I came to learn this the hard way. I still remember the disdain—the shock and disappointment— on his face when I started talking about a certain upset in a quarterfinal match. Bill taped most of the tourney's matches, AND watched them too, so he would occasionally not follow things in real time. As a sports fan, I get it.  I'm proud to report I never made that same mistake. Furthermore, I did all that I could to keep my composure and not let my body language give anything away until he was ready to chat. Those are good memories. 

While I should say that a tennis highlight I share with Bill involves traveling with a group to Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open or connecting every July for the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, my favorite memory is not about a match but about meeting a player—one we grew up watching and integrating into our classes.

Taken in 2009, we went to Indian Wells—also known as "The Fifth Grand Slam."
At this tourney we met American tennis star, John Isner. While I slept in most days, Bill arrived at sunrise and stayed until the lights went out.
 
SI teachers and students will fondly remember that our Fridays once concluded at 1:00 pm. This schedule allowed Bill and me to meet the former number one player in the world— eight time grand slam champion—Andre Agassi. Three years after his retirement he released "Open: An Autobiography" which is one of my top 10 sports books. Even if he really does "hate tennis," the stories he shared at this book talk and signing is a memory I still treasure. 

There are more stories I could share—most are true, some are enhanced. Most of them are rooted in Sports and Spirituality but they all are made possible by a friendship born in the workplace.

Elie Wiesel had it right when he wrote "friends are the jewel of life." In fact, Mary—a friend from work taught me that quote. And, as I penned this post, I realized I could go on and on. For example, Mary—who teaches Spanish loves Nadal. Bill is a diehard Washington Football team fan. He is a Notre Dame fan too, thanks to his Dad. Their son Liam—who was born in San Francisco—is a Giants and Warriors fan. Great call Liam! And, I might add that over five years have now passed since we work together. I am so grateful that our friendship remains and our love for both Sports and Spirituality is but one way we stay connected.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

ND Magazine: The Spring Sports and Spirituality Synopsis

Although many of the inmates tell Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding—one of two main characters in The Shawshank Redemption—that he speaks out of his a**, Red got it right when he said, “It was outdoor detail — and May is one damn fine month to be working outdoors.” And the same can be said for reading outdoors. 

Allow that to set the stage for the Sports and Spirituality Synopsis of the Notre Dame Magazine Spring edition. Take your printed copy and head outside. Here's what to look for.

Stillpoint: photograph
Given that I have applied sunscreen before coaching and playing golf everyday this week, this photo of male students curling next to a pile of white snow does not resonate with me or with the month of May . That “famously famous sport of the Winter Olympics” found its way onto campus.

Check out how and why. Print edition only.

Cool Classes During Winter Session
With to an extra-long winter break due to the coronavirus pandemic—students completed final exams in November and didn’t have to endure South Bend’s longest month of the year: January. 

To mind the gap, professors created more than 125 virtual courses that ranged from one to four credits per class. Boxing in America is one I gladly would have taken.

I can’t say that I follow boxing regularly. If a big fight is scheduled for a Saturday evening, I do enjoy talking to sports fans and gauging my students' about their interest. I can stomach the blows, I attended Bengal Bouts every year. I am intrigued by the number of films that feature boxing as the subject, back drop and call that so many men and now women are drawn to... I would imagine this course examines how and why.

Parenting x 3: All Aiming for Medical School, the Ekanayake triplets each excel in their own way

Samantha, Cameron and Derrick. For the Class of 2021, I can't imagine those names don't mean something.

Cameron, the middle child, once dreamt of playing football at the US Naval Academy and booming a military surgeon—but a shoulder injury got in the way. 

In spite of the ups and downs of his recovery, he played well enough to get an invitation from Notre Dame football as a preferred walk on.

He had no delusions about climbing the depth chart or winning the Heisman Trophy. He knew instead that his time and effort would prepare others for glory. “You have to be grounded in reality,” Cameron says. “As walk-ons, you know you might not receive the benefit of your work. But there’s something to be said about suffering and struggling with all these other people.”

I’m not sure what impresses me most. His manifold gifts and talents or his perspective on all of it.

Father Pete: The spirited, energetic, people-loving gregarious Holy Cross priest has become a campus favorite—by being himself.

Take one look at the 44-year old Director of Campus Ministry and you will understand what Saint Ireanus meant what he said “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” 

My guess is that Father Pete came out of the womb with aplomb, enthusiasm and was ready to roll. To read that he has been on campus for 14 years, as an assistant rector, rector and chaplain of the men’s basketball team makes me appreciate that God-given energy, love of life and the Lord. No wonder he’s beloved...and that he's committed to being that way.

The Classes
Out here in California, beach volleyball has become so popular, and mainstream that it isn’t uncommon for high schools to offer it as a varsity sport. At ND, the Irish partake in what the lake effect affords: Snow volleyball. Side out!

Section: Print Issue Only 

In Closing
May is the month of Our Lady, Notre Dame. Thank you, to the University founded in her honor—celebrating sport and the spiritual life. 

Now get busy living....

Photo Credits
All from ND Magazine!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

ISO Creativity...Thank You Shohei Ohtani

Albert Einstein said "Creativity is contagious. Pass it on." Yes please. I'll take what I can get. Why? Creativity reveals human genius. can solve problems and forge new pathways. It is the love child of inspiration, intelligence and insight. And, it is more than catch-as-catch-can, right? Right! Certain people cultivate it, others embody it. One example in worth noting and celebrating is Angels pitcher and outfielder Shohei Ohtani and I'd like to thank him for passing it on.

As a teacher and a coach I am in search of creativity every single day. I want a lesson plan that is creative to engage my students' minds. I seek to go beyond that which is expected. And, as a coach I am constantly in search of a creative approach to help my golfers improve. The game is hard enough; creativity might just make another avenue worth trying. 

There is however, a delicate dance we all do with creativity. Most often, I go looking for it. For example, just this week I committed time and attention to not just flipping through VOGUE magazine, I gazed at each fashion photo shoot and read the articles. Amanda Gorman was the feature story. To link her to creativity is a given. 

To find creativity—look, listen and learn from creative people. I also believe, that if you live your life this way—creativity will find you. And it did, on my morning walk. 

After my #21for2021 (21 minutes of reading) I head out the door for about 25 minutes, put in my headphones and listen to ESPN Sports Daily. The feature on story on May 3, entitled "Shohei Ohtani's Baseball Experiment is Working" offered me a creative insight that I shared with my golf team later that day.

For those unfamiliar with the Los Angeles Angels star, according to Joe Levin, Ohtani "stepped onto the pitcher’s mound and into the history books on April 26. That day, he became the first player since Babe Ruth (Yes, Babe Ruth) to be a game’s starting pitcher while also leading the league in home runs."

His manager, Joe Madden has been extremely supportive of Ohtani's desire to work as a two-way player. Madden and other coaches have found this to be a win-win situation. Why? How? 

Alden Gonzalez reports that "hitting and pitching on the same day is actually a major benefit for Shohei Ohtani because it doesn't allow him the bandwidth to dwell on either of the two. His last start is a perfect example of this. Think about how crazy this is: he gives up four runs in the bottom of the first. His team is down 4-1. He comes back up in the top of the second. He's got two runners on. He lines a two-run double to right field. It's a 4-3 game. He's on second base. Mike Trout hits a bloop single. Shohei comes around to score. All of a sudden it's 4-4. Shohei said he went back to the mound with a renewed confidence, with a feeling this was a brand new game and from that point forward he retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. Eight of them on strikeouts. He was a completely new guy and that was the perfect encapsulation for why the Angels feel like this is exactly the way they need to treat Shoehi Ohtani."

I heard this story and creative juices started flowing. I began to wonder if I might offer this as an analog to my golfers.

High school golf offers the experience of "team" for an individual sport. Helping golfers to understand what that means and what impact they can have takes time, maturity and wisdom.  Yes, the lowest five out of six scores determine a win or loss, but a good teammate will know that a victory is achieved by more than just low scores. Success is found in good golf AND in positive presence and active participation with your playing partner. This is not new news for my golf team. However, using the example of Ohtani was. It might be a reach, but it was one I was ready to make.

I told the girls to consider letting go of the pressure to post a low score on every hole. I said if you have a bad hole but your teammate has a birdie, celebrate that with her. This is the beauty of team golf. Let that leverage your spirits. I know you want to avoid mistakes. I know you want to play well on every hole but don't give it the bandwidth when the putt doesn't drop, the pitch doesn't fly or the drive has gone OB. Focus on the positive, wherever you can find it!

I told them about Shohei Ohtani and the unconventional role he has on his team and how it has helped him. I added that I never take for granted than any of them are playing high school golf. Certainly, many could just play junior tournaments in the area, but I encouraged them to think of what team golf affords and can do for their game and mental mindset. I hope they got it. Even if they didn't, it's fun for me—as their coach—to encounter creative examples and ideas for how we approach a tough game. If anything, I've lived up to Einstein's message....your turn to pass it on.

Is what ways do you express your creativity? Does your job require it? Is creativity something a person can cultivate? Can one be creative "on demand?" Does it take something out of you? 

Photo Credits
Shohei

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Happy 90th Birthday to the Say Hey Kid: Willie Mays

I walked out of my front door onto Fillmore Street and took notice of a great sight. Tucked inside the newspaper stand—yes, those still exist—front, center and above the fold of the San Francisco Examiner proudly paid tribute to the Say Hey Kid. "Happy 90th Birthday Willie Mays." I love beginning my day with someone to celebrate.

My commute was abuzz with all that #24 means to the Giants, the City by the Bay—where he both lived and labored—and to all of Major League Baseball. Thanks KNBR! Murph and Mac, hosts of the morning show dedicated May 6 to sharing stories, recalling memories and offering tributes to one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game.

Willie Mays is a Hall of Fame centerfielder who is one of four men alive today who played in both the Negro Leagues (The Black Barons) and in MLB (New York/San Francisco Giants and the Mets). The Godfather of Barry Bonds, "Willie Mays hit 660 home runs, drove in 1,903 runs, batted .302 and was an All-Star in 20 of those seasons. He led his league in homers four times, in stolen bases four times, and had more than 100 RBIs in 10 seasons. He had a thrilling talent and personality that captured the hearts of fans from coast to coast." Those numbers, those stats merely skim the surface. It is hard to capture in words all that he has meant and still means to America's past time. No wonder I find "The Say Hey Kid's career in pictures" so poignant. Give it a look.  The images, the quotes, the video clips only tell part of the story. 

But on this day, I made a commitment to asking those who love baseball, those who have lived in San Francisco, and those who celebrate the "Say Hey Kid" to tell me a story about him—because people have them....and they are worth hearing. I reached out to former coworkers at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco. I talked to my parents. I sought the input from those who were in that inner circle.

For example, the late Peter Magowan—managing partner of the Giants— said

He would routinely do things you never saw anyone else do. He'd score from first base on a single. He'd take two bases on a pop-up. He'd throw somebody out at the plate on one bounce. And the bigger the game, the better he played
Wow.

I'm proud to say I have a Willie Mays story of my own. It might not be about how he hit, or played defense, but it's my story and I feel lucky to have it.

Sometime during the George W. Bush administration, I was at a game with my good friend Kevin. We were sitting in lower box seats—thanks StubHub—maybe about 20 rows up from the field on the first base side. 

It was a weeknight game and it was well attended, but not packed to the gills. One or two innings into the game, I noticed a buzz was bubbling from the seats closer to the dugout/home plate. I saw a few men in suits wearing earpieces in one ear. A common sight in Washington DC, I began to wonder who they were protecting. A few minutes later, I realized Condoleezza Rice was making her way to her seat. She was greeted by a less than friendly reception. Why?

It's safe to say: San Franciscans hated George W. Bush. Whenever things reached a boiling point during the Trump years, I recalled the sheer disdain people had for #43. (People didn't know how good they had it). I offer this context because as the Secretary of State, Giants fans saw Rice affiliated with Bush. Again, she wasn't well received.

About five minutes later however, the tenor changed. Much to the delight of everyone in the crowd, the "Say Hey! Kid" walked down the same aisle only to join Dr. Rice and take a seat next to her. Willie got a standing ovation. Cheers, no jeers. Clapping, smiles, mad respect all around.

Turns out, Rice's mother was a science teacher at Fairfield Industrial High School in the Fairfield neighborhood of Birmingham, AL. One of her students was....Willie Mays. 

I sure wish I could have sat in on that conversation. Common folk. Harding working people. Extraordinary Americans. 

Their stories are but excerpts from the lives of great Americans. I'm grateful to hear them, to read them, to share them and pass them on. 

The San Francisco Giants will honor the great Willie Mays on Friday, May 7 before the orange and black take the field against the Padres. All of San Francisco ought to join in and sing "Happy Birthday" to a living legend—ninety years young. Those at the ballpark will, for sure. I wonder if Condi will return again....

Photo Credits
Say Hey
Cover Shot

Sunday, April 25, 2021

To A Coach Dying Young: In Remembrance of Mark Halvorson of De La Salle Wrestling

A. E. Houseman wrote the elegiac poem "To An Athlete Dying Young." It's haunting. mysterious beautiful and tragic. It resonates with too many of us for sports has carried more than one story of the subject: Jill Costello. Hank Gathers. Jose Fernandez. Len Bias. The list looms long. But where is the elegy or the essay for the coach who dies young? Perhaps that will be the story of Mark Halvorson, the head coach of wrestling at De La Salle High School. He died of a fatal heart attack on February 15, 2021. 

Comparatively speaking, Halvorson was not young. Costello was 21; she had just gradated from Cal Berkeley. Gathers died at age 23 after collapsing for the second time that season during the semifinals of the WCC Tournament in 1990. I still remember my students who prayed for the family of Fernandez. He was but 24 years of age and a rising superstar. Bias never had the chance to prove his greatness. He died at the age of 22 two days after he was drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Mark Halvorson was 57 years young. I learned of his passing in The Union, the alumni magazine of De La Salle High School. I could hardly believe what I read.

I never met Coach Halvorson, but I taught about his in many of the presentations I give to coaches. I had a lengthy conversation with the coaches at Saint Francis, where I work about him and his program. I had to. Why? Wrestling is fascinating. As one of the original Olympic sports, I can't help but have respect for these athletes. Furthermore, I don't know a football coach in America who wouldn't want his players to participate in wrestling. George Kittle certified. Perhaps in this day and age of specialization the numbers are low, but I'm curious. One must wonder to what degree the success of De La Salle football is because of De La Salle wrestling. But it was Halvorson's outlook and philosophy that made me take notice. He said,

The early years at De La Salle were challenging, as the program was still very young. “We were just trying to teach the kids to like the sport of wrestling. That first year, there was no wrestling culture. My team goal was to finish 3rd place in league, and the kids thought I was out of my mind,” said Halvorson. “It was more about teaching than training, and we were constantly motivating the kids.”

I love that he named a realistic goal. DLS is dominant in so many sports. To enter into the community and set your eyes on third place? I have no doubt this athletes questioned his vision. Who wants the bronze?! But Halvorson's sight and his vision were in line. I ripped this page out and have kept it under my coaching file all these years. Good stuff.
As a cross country coach, I understand the challenge a coach is presented with in getting an athlete to like the sport. However, I find that challenge to be a worthy one.

"Teaching, training and motivating"—that's the stuff  that makes the impossible possible and that which is hard—well, not necessarily easy...but enjoyable in its own right. What a gift for a young person to discover, encounter and embrace.

The team culture that Halvorson is responsible for at De La Salle is but one part of his legacy. In the article "Colleagues stunned by death of De La Salle's Unforgettable Coach," Mitch Stephens writes, He "elevated the Spartans to unprecedented heights — 11 North Coast Section championships in the past 12 years — but he was also regarded as one of the nation’s most influential leaders within USA Wrestling’s national Greco-Roman program."
De La Salle Athletic Director, Leo Lopoz said  "He brought the attributes of just a living, caring person and always wanting to make himself available.

“Wrestling is a tireless sport for coaches. State wrestling is like five days. His unselfish behavior for others cannot be matched. He did things that other coaches just couldn’t or wouldn’t do and the sacrifices he made for others resulted in the love and admiration that is flowing from all of the student-athletes and coaches of the past couple of decades.It’s unfortunate that his career was shortened.”

And so it is— to a coach who died to young, we honor the late Mark Halvorson.

I would like his former wrestlers, family and friends to know that I dedicated the prayer during my session: "Mission of Sports, Vision of Spirituality: Athletics in Holy Cross Education" at the Holy Cross Institute in his honor. Other coaches and ADs throughout the country will continue to learn about his philosophy and his story.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Numbers—The Color Palatte of Sports

Walking across campus —from one classroom to the next—my eyes feasted a sea of jerseys. Niners, Warriors and Giants. Sharks, old school Saint Francis brown and gold and even the silver and black—Go Raiders!—were on site. It's Spring Spirit Week at Saint Francis High School and the day's dress up theme invited everyone to wear Air Jordans and team jerseys. 

The first part of class allowed me to speak my language. I was able to decode each jersey—guessing the name based on their number and team color. Number 7 for the Brooklyn Nets? I'm not a fan. Number 85 for the Niners? Now we're talking! It's safe to say, I brought the spirit into this Spirit Day with my enthusiasm for what students were sporting.

At the conclusion of the class inventory, I admitted that I was always envious of athletes who play a sport that gives them a number. As a golfer, a tennis player, and a swimmer—I never got to choose my number. Sure, I had a number associated with my seat in the boat, but rowers don't dawn that number on their back. No one is ever cheering for 6-seat from near or far. 

Wearing a number and choosing one is yet another aspect of sports that make them special. But, as proven during this past week, numbers in sports are not limited to jerseys or rosters. They carry a story, they measure an accomplishment. They define and they can limit. They are surpassed and some are compromised. All in all, numbers are in many ways the color palatte for athletics.

Before class officially began, I decided to share three remarkable numbers with the class. I hope you enjoy.

30: To the young woman wearing Steph Curry's jersey, I said "49." Several kids gave an all-knowing nod. One did the talking for me. "49 is the number of points the Warriors' point guard had in last night's win over Philly." 

33: Steph Curry is 33-years young and this is relevant to 49 because no other player has scored more than 30-points in over 10 games straight at his age. Not Kobe Bryant, not LeBron James, not even Wilt Chamberlain. Is it safe to say Steph is the greatest shooter ever? Or is MVP safer?

1768: According to ESPN's Pablo Torre, "In terms of hockey immortals, there aren't many names that would go above Gordie Howe." That is, until his record of 1767—the number of games he played in a row—was broken by fellow Saskatchewan Patrick Marleau. 

23: That's the number of years it took Marleau who wears #12 for the San Jose to set this record of longevity, fitness, luck, determination, perseverance. Howe did it in 26. At the age of 41, one has to wonder how many more games, how many more year Marleau can play. One thing about numbers—we love to use them to forecast the future.

47: As mentioned in my previous post "You Can't Be What You Can't See: New Perspectives via Golf," 47 is both my age and the age of RBC Heritage Champion, Stewart Cink. Although I told my students about his age, I did not reveal why that had special meaning for me. He finished 72 holes of golf at 19 under. That's a total score of 265, and posted a 70 on Sunday (for one under). I could speak with many more numbers, but those speak for themselves.

My only regret on the day is that I didn't wear a sports jersey. The funny thing is, even as a massive sports fan, I only have one. That would be for my favorite male athlete, #22 of the San Francisco Giants, Will Clark. Always lots of #22 at Oracle. The connection is immediate. Sometimes a number can do that....

Photo Credits
12
with Howe
Steph shooting

Monday, April 19, 2021

You Can't Be What You Can't See: New Perspectives via Golf

"You can't be what you can't see."—Marian Wright Edelman

I was familiar with the words of American activist and founder of the Children's Defense Fund Marian Wright Edelman long before the Biden-Harris victory. But her message was celebrated by many as no other woman, or woman of color has been elected Vice President of the United States before. If Edelman is right—and I think she is— then the future should look much different in America. Time will tell.

Edelman's words, however, cannot be contained to the political sphere. Two recent events in the golf world have invited me to consider her message and what is means for a 47-year old like me.

I say that because on Sunday, April 18, 2021 Stewart Cink won the RBC Heritage Golf Classic that celebrates a crazy cool jacket for its victors, too. 

As written by the Associate Press on ESPN.com "He shot a steady, stress-free 70 to cap off a dominant, record-breaking week at an age -- 47 -- when many players are looking ahead to the PGA Tour Champions." Sunday’s win was the eighth of his PGA Tour career and second this season. Prior to last fall’s Safeway Open title, Cink experiences a twelve year drought; he hadn’t won on Tour since the 2009 Open Championship. 

With his win at Harbor Town, Cink, rose 71 spots, from No. 115 to No. 44, "cracking the top 50 for the first time since January 2011." He will turn 48 in May of this year. I was happy to read that he is not a grandfather...yet (his son Connor is engaged).

And if you've been following golf this year, you'll know England's Lee Westwood, ranked 23 in the world is also 47 years of age. 

I have not seen either athlete described as "middle aged." I would like to thank journalists and sports writers for the abstentia, for the last word I would use to describe myself is "middle-aged." From time to time I do feel that way, but to see both 47-year olds grind it out, compete on the highest level, maintain composure and strength has been inspiring. Thanks guys. I had no idea 47 has so much potential. And, to those who read this post with a cynical sneer....for anyone who is uttering under his or her breath "they're golfers!"—please play 72 holes/over four days and get back to me.

Meanwhile, if I hadn't been told he was 24 years of age, I would have believed Will Zalatoris—who finished second at the 2021 Masters—was a high school sophomore. Today at practice one of my players—who is a sophomore admitted that they have the same waist size: 28". She then lauded his strength and reach. A four-time All-American at Wake Forest University, one has to wonder in what world is a man that trim a professional athlete. In this one, is the only answer. 

Whether you look at Justin Thomas or Bryson DeChambeau, Michelle Wie-West (who's 6'1") or Lucy Li (who played in the USWO at the age of 11), no one should be discouraged by what they see in golf which on the professional level is only increasingly more diverse in ethnicity, age, shape and size.

The same golfer said she wished Edelman's quote stated "You can't become what you can't see." She prefers the notion of potential. We are more than just one profession, one way of living, one passion we follow, one role we play. I think that is inspiring, too.

Photo Credits
Stewart Cink
Helen and Lee
Will Z

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Matsuyma, Hideki: Honoring the Victory, Custom and Culture of the 2021 Masters Champion

Japanese culture places such emphasis on the family, that professional athletes are introduced and recognized by their last name first. It is with that spirit and custom in mind that we extend the warmest of congratulations to the winner of the 85th Masters: Matsuyma, Hideki. 

Matsuyma, the first Japanese golfer to win The Masters also earned his first major championship title by finishing the 2021 tourney at 10 under par. Here are but a few insights honoring and related to the 29-year old victor.

Why Matsuyma won: Moving Day 
As many of my readers now know, Moving Day is a colorful way to describe the third day of a tourney—usually Saturday—because it is the day where competitors try to set themselves up for the final push on Sunday.

Golf fans love to dial it in on Moving Day because certain players advance up the leaderboard by leaps and bounds. As written by Golf Digest, "Others collapse under the pressure and slide quickly, knowing that simply by making the cut, they've assured themselves a decent share of the purse." In short, moving day is  the day you can confidently move up or you can move back but you cannot lose sight of what that lead score is.

One could argue that a golfer wins a tournament because of how they play 72 holes of golf—but one look at Matsuyma's scorecard from Saturday: a 65 says a lot. With five birdies, one eagle and a bogey free round following his two prior rounds, (which were both under par), Matsuyama created distance between himself and second place. At the awards ceremony, he admitted that his nerves were driving the ball from the first tee on during the Final Round. However, thanks to truly making moves on Moving Day, Augusta National extended a green jacket to a new man.

On Saturday morning, before I headed up to play my own round of golf, an announcer proclaimed—"I don't buy into this Moving Day stuff. Today is like any other day in the tournament." I heard what he said and looked sideways. "That's no fun," I thought. I love the jargon. I love the spirit.  And as evidenced though Matsuyama, there IS something to it.

Diversity Has Many Faces
In the sixteen years I taught at Saint Ignatius the school grew increasingly more diverse. It was not the same community it was when I started working there in the Fall of 2003. People too often made assumptions about who comprised that community. Their perception was not reality. S.I. should be very proud of the efforts it made for the student body and faculty to reflect the diversity of the Bay Area--a diversity that has many faces and looks different than what one might expect.

I speak of this truth because I find similar assumptions made about the game of golf. While there is certainly much to question in terms of access, equity, inclusion and the need for diversity, I would like to suggest the face of the PGA and the LPGA is not what you think. 

Of those who finished in the top 10 at the 2021 Masters nearly half are international. You have the winner from Japan, two Aussies, one Englishman one Spaniard, and one Canadian. Of the five Americans—one is biracial, another is Samoan/Tongan. There is really only one jerk and one with a waist size 26 on a good day. Again diversity comes in many forms.

My Favorite Moment
I could not help but appreciate the composure exhibited by the champion as he secured the win and extended thanks and congratulations around him. After a warm embrace, Matsuyama's caddy started to walk the flag back to the 18th hole. But,  before he placed the pin in, he took a bow. He bowed to the crowd, to the course and the game of golf. 

Having traveled to Japan in 2015 and attending a baseball game in Seibu, I know just a bit about Japanese culture and traditions. They are a people who honor the sacred and show respect with the simplest of gestures: a bow. I don't think I've ever seen a caddy do that before. It was a special moment.

The Champions Dinner 2022
I don't want to make any assumptions but I have a strong suspicion that a lot of golfers are already looking forward to the 2022 Champions Dinner. As mentioned in Big Night: The Champion's Dinner, the previous year's winner sets the menu. Given how many people are mad about sushi....how many of my friends enjoy Saki, or for me—love Kobe steak! that menu is not one they will want to miss.

In Closing
I am always sad when The Masters comes to a close. Given COVID restrictions, none of us had to wait a full year for the 2021 tournament to commence. But, as we progress toward a healthier and reopened society, we live in the hope of what next year will bring. 

This Masters brought a limited number of patrons. Though they didn't litter the fairways or fill grandstands, they did what fans ought to do. They cheered loudly, giving away what was happening on another hole before we could get the report from CBS. They stood to clap and acknowledge the great golf by the players in the hunt and most especially to this year's victor: Matsuyama, Hideki. 

Thanks to the members of Augusta National for hosting my favorite sports week of the year.

Photo Credits
Xander and Hideki

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sight and Vision: The Green is Sacred Space

It is no secret that I have long believed that sports and golf in particular serve as a worthy analog for understanding the spiritual life. I love playing with ideas—and teasing out the correlations, limitations and seeing what sticks. What do I want to pass on? What "works?" It's not only fun, it's necessary for the continued growth and vitality of my own spiritual life. 

As we move into the final round of the 2021 Masters, I would like to share one analogy that I have returned to many times in the past year. The green is sacred ground and to read it properly requires both sigh and vision. The purpose of this post is to explain what that means and why it's important far beyond golf.

First, how do we know it is sacred ground? When I asked my golf team about the green as a sacred space, they answered without hesitation. They noted the obvious: golfers exhibit behaviors on the green unlike anywhere else on the golf course. For example, one would never leaves their bag or push cart on it. A golfer is expected to fix any divots and tend to any marks to keep the green intact. A good rule of thumb is to do your best to leave the space better than you found it (read: housekeeping!). 

Scripture tells us that we ought to take off our shoes when entering holy ground. I know many people would love to do this on the golf course but thanks to athlete's foot, golfing without shoes is forbidden (believe me, I've seen people try....doesn't go over well). However, a golfer is ever mindful of where and how she walks on the green. For example, you are not to step on a person's line. More often than not, golfers tread lightly on the green. Sacred spaces ask us to do the same.

I often associate sacred space with the notion of pilgrimage. While the purpose of pilgrimage is to reach a meaningful destination, pilgrims discover the journey itself is just as important. It is always physically and spirituality demanding. Pilgrims grow weary but find respite in unexpected people and places along the pathway.

In golf, the green is home to the flag or pin, and the objective of each hole is to get the ball there!. It goes without saying, it isn't always an easy place to get to, either. When approaching the green a golfer ought to implement both sight and vision. In other words, they are tasked with looking hole to part and part to whole. They ought to determine: What is happening here? They should look front to back, and right to left.  And as they look, they are asking What is the slope? Where are the breaks? What speed and distance do I need? This information ought to help a golfer make a good decision about how to play. 

I have been able to visit sacred sites—shrines and cities, churches and memorials. And, in these places I have asked myself similar questions. I have taken a personal inventory, I am seeking clarity. I am hoping for direction beyond here and now—but for where I am going next. 

The green is not a place where people rush, nor should they. Though a putt is but five, ten or twenty feet to the hole, each stroke counts the same. A golfer may get on in two and resents the game when they three-putt (speaking from a lot of experience here). Every golfer has his or her own pace and method. There's no one way to get the job done. A golfer must do what suits him or her.


I have always felt this same way about prayer. There is no shortage of methods and modalities for prayer. Each one puts us in touch with the Lord, others and ourselves. No need to rush it, either.

The reason I spent so much time thinking about this analog is because my colleagues and I took months to determine when would be the right time to have our coaches retreat. Due to COVID, high school athletics were on put on pause in March 2020. Whereas we would have had a coaches' retreat to kick off the new school year, this school year's gathering was slated for November, then December and finally occurred in February 2021.

Given my role in the Athletic Department, there is nothing that I wanted to do more than bring coaches together for formation in the mission of our school through conversations about sports. And yet, I wasn't sure how to do that, and when to do that. I asked questions like Do we need to acknowledge what we have lost? Is it ok to look ahead? Will this be meaningful? How can the message we want to offer be relevant? In short, I was looking for a way to "read the green."

In November 2020, Dustin Johnson set the course record at The Masters by finishing the tourney 20 under par. His win is attributed to being long and strong off the tee, hitting nearly every last green in regulation and reading the greens with excellent precision. But what was most noteworthy to me is how he did that.

Dustin's caddy—his younger brother Austin uses the aim point method of reading the green. This requires sight and vision. A golfer or in this case, a caddy must feel the green with his or her feet. Straddling the line to the hole—half way between the ball and the flag—a read requires feeling the balance of right and left. Is it equal? Is one side 2-1? 3-1? This read determines where the golfer then aims the ball. In short, feel, speed, sight and vision work together to execute the putt. Austin was excellent in advising his brother for what to do and where to aim, but ultimately Dustin had to decide and to execute. He said he couldn't have done it alone.

In my own life, I like to feel the green. As with the retreat, I wanted to get a sense of the balance. I realized I might be straddling two different places where people stand. I wanted to account for both, but lean into one more than the other. We erred on the side of hope, but not without naming what we had lost and what we had mourned.

A funny thing has happened since I learned more about the Johnson method of reading the greens. I see things SO much more clearly. There are times now when I play golf and I have the line and I know it. My putting has improved dramatically and with that, so has my confidence (this might not be saying a whole lot because there was big room for improvement). I enjoy the time I spend on the green. I like paying better attention and seeing the part to whole and whole to part. I love feeling it with my feet and firing away. My hope is that this same comfort and enjoyment of reading the green will carry over to how I live my own faith. I can use the boost.

Sight and vision....care and precision....taking time and  doing your best...sounds like a good way to life the spiritual life, too.

Photo Credits
brown greens
Austin and DJ