Find anything in life that you have a great passion for and you will discover benefits that you never considered. Such is the case with our junior golf program at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital. Each week at the conclusion of our golf clinic I walk away having learned something new from the kids or with the fulfillment of knowing that they had fun during the time we spent together. Forgetting the personal realm of the program, seeing the kids benefit from playing the game is the best part of the program. Often times our junior golfers are growing, improving, and healing in ways that I may or may not recognize.
In many past blog posts I have written about a young man named Dakota who initially thought golf was "stupid and boring." Despite those feelings he still gave the game a try and has since grown to love playing golf. At a recent clinic we had another young junior golfer with similar feelings to Dakota and was experiencing the same frustrations that all golfers have been though when the putts just aren't dropping. In fact, his frustration grew to the point that he said those words many golfers have wanted to say from time to time, "I give up. I'm not doing this anymore."
To his credit he did not give up and agreed to let me work with him for 5 more minutes. Our deal was that if he didn't make 3 putts during that time he could leave and would not have to play golf again if he did not want to. Right away we made a couple of adjustments to his stance and posture. He also changed his grip switching to cross-handed (or left-hand low, whichever you prefer) as he said it felt better to him. This made me smile as I have putted that way for over 30 years. As is the case with many changes in golf, the new stance and posture felt a bit awkward to him at first. But after a few putts he started feeling better and getting the ball closer to the hole each time.
While we were "working" one thing happened before anything else, the smile returned to his face. He was having fun again. Even though no putts had gone in yet we had already succeeded in many ways. But then as soon as the smile returned to his face he made a putt . . . and the smile got bigger. He lined up his next putt and it went in, too! Now he was practically dancing while he was getting ready for the next putt. I remembered what making the third putt meant but I wasn't sure if he was thinking about it until he said, "if I make this putt I am going to keep playing." But before he got the chance to hit this important putt he had to take a quick break for a dose of medication. This is one of those breaks in concentration and focus that most golfers don't experience. The kids at Ranken Jordan take it in stride and keep right on going without giving it a second thought.
Now it was time for that putt to find out if he was going to make that third putt. Before he hit it I thought I just wanted him to make 3 putts and here he was with the chance to make 3 in a row! As he was getting ready to hit the putt a couple of the therapists who were there stopped to watch since they knew what was going on. As soon as he hit the putt there was never a doubt . . . it was center cut the entire way and went straight into the hole! The smile he had after making the third putt in a row lit up Warner's Corner and he said "I'm not giving up. I want to keep playing!" This brought to mind the ESPY Awards from March 4, 1993, when Coach Jim Valvano gave his incredible speech which included the quote that will never be forgotten: "Don't give up. Don't ever give up!"