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Friday, December 6, 2013

Improving Lives One Swing At A Time

As I sit here typing this post I look out the window and see snow coming down on top of the snow and ice the St. Louis area received in the past couple of days.  With this type of weather some may think that it would be difficult to be excited about the game of golf.  After all, unless I come up with an excuse to go south to warmer weather I won't be playing golf anytime soon!  It certainly is not uncommon to lose a bit of passion and desire for the game knowing that consistent warm weather in this region is a few months away.

The winter months are really the ideal time for golfers to recharge their batteries and do the little things that can pay huge dividends when the next golf season arrives.  For some this could be getting into better physical condition, reading a book by Dr. Bob Rotella to improve their mental approach to golf, or just enjoy some down time after a long season of hard work.  Others may enjoy doing what I am doing right now and watch whatever PGA Tour event is on to see some beautiful golf courses, sunshine, and warm(er) weather.  One thing I do every week that keeps my passion and excitement for this game at a high level is go to Ranken Jordan and work with the kids in that incredible pediatric hospital.

Golf can and does represent a lot of things to the kids in the hospital.  It certainly gives them a fun activity to do while they are in the hospital and provides numerous physical therapy benefits.  They see social and emotional improvements by interacting with their peers through sport.  The kids see possibility and hope from being involved with and learning a game that they can continue to play when they leave the hospital and go home.  And one of the things golf will do for these kids is exactly what I was reminded of recently:  it gives them a reason to smile and look forward to the day.

As I walked into the hospital a few short days ago the mother of one of the kids in our golf program stopped me and told me that her child hasn't been as happy as usual the past couple of days.  However that all changed when she told him that particular day was "golf day."  Suddenly the smile that everybody knows and loves lit up his face and he wanted out of bed as fast as possible.  This game we all love took a couple of bad days and instantly turned things around.  Never mind that weather conditions dictated we stay inside and bang drivers off the windows (how many pediatric hospitals do you see golf balls bouncing all over the place every week?).  Just being able to get a golf club in his hands and make some swings had this young man happy once again.

Sometimes people will ask why I spend so much time at the hospital working with the kids.  My answer always starts by telling them that I don't spend as much time there as I should.  But the reason why I spend the time I do is a story like the one I just related.  By showing up and bringing the game of golf to the kids, their lives are improved.  Some of them will continue to play the game of a lifetime when the leave.  Others will never pick up a club after going home.  But all of them have fun, laugh, and smile while they are in the hospital playing golf.  For those who have never spent time in a pediatric hospital and done something to put a smile on the face of a child I can tell you that nothing compares to seeing that reaction.  Golf has done a lot of things for me during my lifetime but the best thing the game has done is allowed me to bring a bit of joy to the lives of some very special kids.

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