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Lessons learned on the links

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Jodie FullerBy Jody Fuller

I enjoy playing golf, but I am quite terrible. I don’t play very often anymore but am trying to change that thanks to my friends who have not only invited me to play but have also picked up the tab. I mean, besides peach milkshakes, what’s better than free golf?

Years ago, I played two or three days a week, and I was still terrible, but it was fun and it taught me and continues to teach me a great deal about life.

A few games of putt putt was as close as I’d ever gotten to a round of golf until I was stationed in Germany in the early nineties. During my two years there, I played golf at Ramstein Air Base a dozen times or so and always had a great time. There was a lake on the 18th hole that always gave me fits. I lost more balls in that lake than I care to admit, but I never gave up. I kept trying, and, finally, on my last round before transitioning back to the states, I made it over. The ball stopped on the green just a few feet from the cup. When that happened, all the frustration and lost balls of the previous two years instantly became insignificant. The perseverance paid off. I made it over that seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

When I say I’m terrible, I truly am. Sometimes, I swing and miss. Sometimes, I swing and miss again. At that point, I put my head down, take my time, focus on the task at hand, swing away, and even then, sometimes, I miss, or it will only go about four feet. My rule is that if you can reach the ball with your club while leaving one foot stationary, then that swing does not count.

I’m terrible, but sometimes, I swing and look like a pro, and that one beautiful shot is all it takes to make me want to come back and play again. Sometimes life seems terrible, so it’s important to look for those beautiful shots, because, rest assured, we all make them.

One day, I hope to write a book called I Sucked at Golf in All 50 States: Lessons Learned on the Links. So far, I have sucked at golf in over 20 states but have taken away valuable lessons from each of them.
The goal in golf is to stay on the course. The whole purpose of life is to stay on course, but the Good Lord knows that I have certainly veered off both courses repeatedly throughout my life. God lets us learn from our mistakes but sometimes puts parameters in place to keep us on course.

I have a history of hooking and shanking balls off the course and into the great unknown, which is usually tall grass, bushes, or trees. A couple of years ago, I played a terrible round of golf at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. I hooked and shanked many balls that day that were never to be found. There were signs along the cart path warning would-be ball finders of rattlesnakes. There was one ball that I tried to reach with my three-iron from the path but as I was leaning over a ball of tumbleweed rolled by and grazed my leg. I don’t know how I did it, but in one flail swoop, I jumped, turned in mid-air, and landed back in my golf cart—lesson learned.

I enjoy playing with friends who don’t take it so seriously. It is, after all, just a game. Golf is there to teach us discipline and composure. There’s no need to compete with others unless that’s just your style. I choose to compete with myself. I like to see if I can maintain my discipline and composure, and, most importantly, I like to stay on the course. Sometimes, we don’t even keep score.

There are some incredible golfers in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you’re Tiger Woods or Happy Gilmore, no one will ever perfect the fame of golf. The same can be said with life.

By the way, that last round of golf at Ramstein was played in December. It gets very cold in Germany during winter months, and golf balls tend to bounce a long way when they hit a frozen lake.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer, and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.

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