abk Lifestyle: A Five Day Feast

“It’s amazing you are not 300 pounds.”- my friend Junior, to me

My pal Junior arrived in town last Thursday. Friendly and respectful when we first met years ago, we have become damn good friends over the past five years. He is on his journey, and I am on mine, journeys of self-improvement and self-mastery. We talk regularly, discussing our progress, fears, and offering each other support. I remember one of our first conversations years ago, as we both began taking the baby steps required to break out of our shells and drive a lifelong, intentional journey. How do we start? First step?

Just try a new food.

Upon his arrival in New Orleans, we drove straight to Domilise’s, maybe the best po’ boy place on the planet. Unfortunately, we were met with a sign on the door that said: “Closed Today. No Workers.” Fortunately, it’s New Orleans, so we drove three blocks to Guy’s, maybe a top fiver on Planet Earth.

I think the only thing they got wrong was Junior’s name, the nice lady referring to him as Julian for the rest of the day. They definitely did not get “The Bomb” wrong, a footlong plus sandwich stuffed with shrimp, catfish, cheddar, creole mustard, and pickles, the flavors melding together perfectly.

‘Twas the bomb. Dot com.

Lost in all of this overly serious self-journey talk, Christy has become an unbelievably creative chef, tossing in flavors here and there that reinforce Junior’s curiosity about how I am not 300 pounds. On the menu were fajita bowls, a tag-teamed shrimp and crab boil, fresh fish tacos they caught themselves the day before, and this chow chow relish over a pork shoulder recipe that I found in some bullshit flimsy flyer that landed in my mailbox.

Flavorful. Spicy. Colorful. All abk words that bleed over into so many other aspects of living.

It is no coincidence that in a recent ESPN article, LSU just down the road in Baton Rouge was named the unequivocal best place to tailgate in America. One contributor chose to mildly dissent, offering The Grove just up the road at Ole Miss as a valid challenger.

I’ve personally been to twelve of the fourteen SEC campuses (coming next week), and if the food/drink/vibe/football quality is the general measurement, it’s not even close. Gumbo, jambalaya, alligator… stuff that I never would have even sampled years ago.

But now…

For me and my current way of living, it all started with trying a new food, both literally and figuratively. I still don’t know any better way to figure out what you truly love in life.

Christy and Banks took Uncle Junior back to the airport on Tuesday, a wonderful five day feast finally coming to an end. Well, for me, at least. Those sneaky jokers grubbed at Domilise’s.

Apparently, some workers willing to pile high the shrimp, roast beef, and gravy had indeed been found.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: The New Kid/Old Geezer on the Block

My two favorite shows on TV are Ted Lasso and The Rookie. In the former, a goofball American football coach, amidst some self-reflection, heads over to England to coach professional soccer, despite having zero experience with soccer. In the latter, a forty-something guy from the east coast, amidst some self-reflection, moves to Los Angeles and becomes a rookie in the LAPD, despite no police background and his relative advanced age.

You could say I can relate well to both.

This past week, I played my best golf in the last two plus years aka my life. I’ve shot a few better scores, but my two under par 70 Sunday round and my 36-35 Wednesday/Thursday eighteen hole combo were quite satisfying. I was hitting the ball right where I wanted to, a couple of overly slow putts away from going low for the first time in a minute.

I’ve struggled with three lingering things over the past few months, weaknesses that were exposed heavily at my first ever real golf tournament: first hole nerves, last hole or two stupidity, and errant driving. So I went back to work, and last week finally started to show some results amidst my normal ho hum rounds of 76 and 77.

In the Sunday 70 round I referenced above, I eagled my next to last hole of the day. In the Thursday 35, I birdied my last three holes. All week, my driver was on a rope. Some confidence is finally brewing again. But how did we get here?

At 39 years old, to become the dumbest guy in the room, the worst player in the group, and have a neverending supply of welcome to moments was never my goal. Who in the hell would choose that?

But they have actually been my golden ticket and the secret sauce to getting better. (And better. And better.) Pairing those things with my genuine curiosity and willingness to grind, progress was inevitable. It wasn’t easy. I had to develop real, bona fide patience, and I had to smash my ego for a second. I’m so far behind the eight ball, I just have to get to work here. I can bring the Air Jordans and pink crocodile belts back eventually.

And I did, and I have. And the belts are even wilder and crazier. But I’m better at golf now. Much better.

It’s weird to sit in my new role, a role often reserved for twenty something former college golfers, ready to start their golfing careers.

It’s also weird to shoot a pretty damn good 74, come inside and report it, and no one gives two shits. The world I occupy now lives in under par, or no one cares. But I love that. Excellence.

I do have one real advantage, though, something that is repeated over and over about the lead characters in both shows I mentioned above. I don’t see the world or the industry or much of anything through traditional or conformist eyes. I’m not built that way, and I damn sure didn’t allow myself to be shaped that way.

I had mostly wonderful bosses in my banking career (shout out BQ if you still read along), folks that allowed Benj to be Benj (#abk) as long as I got the job done. Beautifully, my new boss is the same way. A couple of days in, he said, I’m not telling you to do anything. You just tell me what you see.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Two Days at a Time

“If you are creating what you really care for, your whole life is a Holiday.”-Sadhguru

You may have noticed that my writings don’t arrive like clockwork on Sunday anymore. I assure you that I haven’t gotten lazy. If anything, the complete opposite is true.

For years now, I’ve written about wanting a fluid lifestyle, where Saturday is no more important than Monday and Tuesday is no less fun than Friday. Well, I have finally gotten my wish, and as such, the writings will likely be arriving between Monday and Wednesday until further notice.

Effective roughly three weeks ago, weekends and holidays have been redefined. Shifted, if you will. So have bed times, wake up calls, mornings, afternoons, and evenings. It’s just completely fluid. My life is now tended to in little two day increments.

A few days a week, I’m up at 430am. I’m not in love with that wake up call because I have to be in bed the night before so early, but I’m on the golf course by 230pm those days, so it’s all good.

A few days a week, I’m up at 8am, and I love these days. The night before lends itself to unhurried dinners, quality family time, and who knows what. The morning of, I may leisurely read a book while taking in the water views. And until the time changes, that night’s activity is sunset golf at 6pm, my absolute favorite.

The late shift-early shift on back to back days might as well be one long-ass day (shout out naps and stretching), but the opposite early shift-late shift combo almost has a full day off in between (jet ski anyone?).

Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are Grand Central Station at our golf course, so my weekends are now some combination of Monday, Tuesday, and/or Wednesday. I may work six days one week and five days another, but it may feel like eight days one week and only three days another. My iPhone location doesn’t know if I’m at work, play, or what’s going on. Work, play, eat, drink, laugh. Rinse and repeat.

I tell folks that I am a social coordinator at a barber shop now. We watch sports. Play sports. Talk sports. Talk life. Talk nonsense. Laugh a lot.

Soccer, school, and PGA Junior League start for my big man soon. Christy is going to try her hand at high school teaching, God bless her. Baby girl is almost here. I plan to get the okay to start teaching golf this fall.

And football season, my favorite, is right around the corner. Will there be time to watch and enjoy?

I guess it’s a good thing I work at the barber shop now. In SEC country. In a casino town.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Lifestyle: Dream Big, Then Go and Do

“Don’t be realistic on what you want. Be realistic on how you are going to get it.”- Rachel Wolchin

Two separate incidents over the past two weeks have made me laugh out loud. First, on my first official day as newly appointed assistant golf professional, a customer asked me, Was this your plan all along? Ha! Second, I received an email from The Arthritis Foundation in New York City asking me if Round 3 of the NYC Marathon was of any interest to me this coming November. Double Ha aka haha!

I can assure you that becoming an assistant golf professional in Mississippi was not a part of the plan. I can assure you that running two NYC Marathons was not a part of the plan (it ain’t happening again Arthritis Foundation). I can assure you that hitchhiking in remote Iceland was not a part of the plan. I can assure you that waking up where I wake up every day now was not a part of the plan. I can assure you that becoming a father again at nearly 40 (just a number) to hopefully a beautiful, healthy daughter was not a part of the plan.

Everything big picture abk-related has been unplanned, and the lack of confinement has made my world huge. It has opened my heart. It has made my world more interesting and has provided meaning, purpose, and limitless opportunity. A love story about living.

It has also led to me writing down four things (well, five things, but getting more tattoos to document the journey is not that important) that some might categorize as unrealistic.

Tournaments 2024. abk Consulting. abk Golf Academy. Real estate.

On the other end of the spectrum, the actionable, sometimes tedious abk-related details must be intentional and tended to regularly. Grinding, discomfort, commitment, and focus are major parts of life.

Tending to the Tournaments 2024 ambition daily is a bit of a puzzle, but I love a good challenge, and I enjoy playing so much. Elbow pain. Constant soreness. Fatigue. Occasional disinterest. Weather…

Tending to the long-term abk Golf Academy ambition daily seems to be on the right path, as I have been a sponge around some terrific teachers for the past two years. Fingers crossed (which means nothing), I should be given the green light to begin my foray into teaching by fall.

Tending to the abk Consulting ambition is the most complicated of the bunch, but presents the biggest opportunity. I observe so many people regularly that can’t see or are afraid of their own potential that I want to explode. I see the opportunity to help so clearly. The manner in which to help is still a little fuzzy, though I do speak up more often now.

Tending to the real estate ambition is more of a weekly or monthly thing. I enjoyed my four previous real estate endeavors in North Carolina. I have enjoyed the latest construction project in coastal Mississippi. I am constantly looking at real estate in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Wyoming, and Montana. Something that complements the abk lifestyle. What is realistic. What is unrealistic. Better yet, what is actually realistic that we somehow convince ourselves is not.

I have done a lot of unrealistic things over the past few years, and I’m excited to do a lot more. It’s crazy how when you actually do them, they go from unrealistic to simply done. Redefined.

Statistically speaking, the most unrealistic thing I have accomplished in the past few years is a tossup between making an albatross (double eagle) on the golf course and actually finishing Round 2 of the NYC Marathon with minimal training due to sickness and injury.

Of course, running Round 3 would certainly take the cake (I swear I’m not doing it 😉 ).

Have a great week.-Benj

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Support From the Strangest Places

“You know the type, loud as a motorbike, but wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.”-Jay-Z

I am a very independent person, as you probably know by now. I also don’t get shook very often, preferring to go and do, process whatever happens, and then get on with it (which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t).

Both traits can be huge assets. They can also be huge weaknesses.

These traits are why playing golf is right up my alley. It’s an individual sport, and one that can get you shook in the blink of an eye. Therefore, the mental practice is as important, if not more, than the physical. I have done a ton of work on both aspects in the past two years, but sometimes you just need a little something different.

In my life, I have had six or eight or ten moments that I consider perspective changers. Things that have happened that alter my life’s trajectory or how I decipher this wacky/beautiful world that we live in.

Some have literally been life or death. The death of a childhood friend. The death of another childhood friend. Some have been less than life or death, but similarly influential. An event here. An experience there.

And then there is what happened in my golf tournament two weeks ago, something so unimportant comparatively, yet possessing the same possibility to alter my coming months and years, should I give it that power.

Before you laugh, two quick words. First, golf is rarely ever about golf. Substitute the word life, and we will all be talking the same language. Second, I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. People who are experts in their field. People that maybe wield a scalpel beautifully. But because of something that happened to them, something perspective altering, a three foot putt scares them to death.

With my adrenaline pumping on the first tee two Thursdays ago, I felt like I could hit the ball to Louisiana, and by God, I almost did. Twice. Fast forward ten long minutes, and in a stark contrast, my entire being felt completely defeated. Two plus years of grinding, and I had played myself completely out of my first golf tournament on the very first hole. Immediately after writing down that 9 on the scorecard, I looked over at my good buddy turned caddy turned shrink and calmly said, What the f**k just happened?

I received 15 or 20 texts, calls, and messages of support over the next 48 hours, for which I am and will be eternally grateful. These friends knew it wasn’t life or death stuff, but they did seem to know a good bit about support and encouragement regarding something that was obviously very important to me.

My main man, Kaddy Kris, who was with me every step of the way, is to be thanked even more. When people ask me how the week was, I answer honestly that it was a great time and a great learning experience. Without Kris, that would not have been the answer. Dinner each night would have been very lonely.

But the most unlikely sources of support (I should know better by now) were the locals on the coast at the golf course, some who can be a little rough around the edges, some who are real mens’ men, some who I honestly was a little nervous to face. Excellent, lifelong golfers who had been there, done that themselves, eager to now offer a kind word.

(anything but khakis – having been through something that you might think is embarrassing or scary or whatever and using that experience to help other fellow human beings)

I received a half dozen to a dozen real war stories. Horror stories. Funny stories. Words of encouragement that caught me off guard and hit me deep. It takes real courage to do what you did. To put yourself out there. I couldn’t feel my arms either. I made a 10. Keep grinding. Just a little tweak here and there with your driver. It’s right around the corner for you. We see it. We know it. It’s coming.

Gruff granddads all of a sudden turning into kind mother hens. What a wacky/beautiful world that we live in.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Freedom, Failure, Family, and First Tee Jitters

With my nerves at an all-time high, I basically shot myself out of the tournament on my first tee shot Thursday morning, my ball narrowly missing a spectator who surely thought he was far left enough to be safe.

With my adrenaline at an all-time high, I re-teed my ball, smoked it, and then watched it hit a cart path that had no business being in play, the golf ball then bouncing on top of a nearby cottage’s roof.

With my confidence at an all-time low, I finally finished the hole and wrote down a 9 on my scorecard. And then, for the next four hours, I fought like hell to turn what was looking like a potential 115 into a 91. Odd as it sounds, given that I finished 10 spots out of last place and usually shoot around 75, I was kind of proud. If you recall the end of one of my last pieces, I wrote simply, Don’t give up on yourself.

As we celebrated my parents and their 50th wedding anniversary over the past week, certain stories about them came roaring back into my mind, a couple of which I would like to share.

When Christy and I told my parents we were moving to Mississippi to attempt a different kind of life, one loaded with uncertainty but where the possibilities were endless, my parents’ responses epitomized everything they mean to me. My dad, who I can count the times on one hand where he has ever told me what to do, responded simply, Good for you. My mom, who we joke learned her lesson about telling me what to do when she told me I didn’t know how to raise a dog or run a marathon, cried, said, We will miss you, but good luck.

No pressure to stay, no this is a big mistake, no guilt trip for taking their grandson ten hours away, no this is not normal, no what if this fails. Just good for you, and good luck.

Thinking it was impossible to start Day 2 of the tournament worse than the first, I quickly got a wake up call that tournament golf has no sympathy. After the starter announced, Benjamin Bostic from Ocean Springs, I felt my arms go limp. I proceeded to hit my tee ball left into knee high riff raff, took five strokes to get out, had a backwards chip, a regular chip, and 3 putts to finally get the ball in the hole. A bit lost but oddly calm, I wrote down a 10 and then got on with it, my caddy and good buddy Kris somehow keeping a smile on my face. We had some good birdie looks, and then hole 7 appeared, eager to dash my hopes and dreams forever.

Thirteen strokes later that included a lost ball and a few unplayable lies, I exhaled and looked at Kris. Both speechless, there was nothing left to do but fight like hell to turn a potential 115 into a 92. So I decided to par nine of the final eleven holes and post a ridiculous 54-38 split that made the girl at the scorer’s table giggle. Odd as it sounds, given that I finished 10 spots out of last place and usually shoot around 75, I was kind of proud. If you recall the end of one of my last pieces, I wrote simply Don’t give up on yourself.

As I’ve reflected on everything in my life over the past four plus years, it occurred to me that my mother was in the same league as an elite athlete. As a professional pianist for basically a lifetime now, she knew what it took to be good, day in and day out, for fifty years. If I had a dollar for every time I called home and my dad said, Your mother is out practicing, I’d be a billionaire. This remains the case today, even at 70+ years old.

Some time in the last year, my mom and I were deep in conversation at their kitchen table in Wingate. I forget how we got to this point, but we were discussing the difference in being a professional, being good, and thinking you are good, but not truly being there yet. Watching mom turn into her other role for maybe the first time ever in that kitchen, she told me, Benj, sometimes you just aren’t good enough yet, and that’s okay.

As awesome as it would be to share some romantic, lovey dovey memory of my parents, their marriage and their partnership means something completely different to me as their son. In tandem, side by side, both individually and together, they have given me the freedom to do whatever I want to do with my life. Move to Mississippi or move to Mars? Get good at golf at the absurd age of 39?

They have always required one condition, though. Time and real effort are mandatory. Resilience. Toughness. Consistency. Patience. But failure? I’ve never heard them utter the word.

This week taught me a number of things. Least important is that I need to learn to drive the ball straighter and eliminate first tee nerves. More important is that I continue to work hard and get better as I am clearly not good enough yet. Most important is that I understand better why my parents have been married for 50 years.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Lifestyle: Redefining the Summer Vacation

“Summer is for falling in love.”- Musician Sarah Kang

A funny thing happened to me the other day while I was talking to my sister on the phone. She and her family were spending a week at the beach, and she was busy telling me all about it. While I was absolutely buzzing for her and knew that she was having a great time, an odd feeling crept inside of me. As someone who loves to travel, for the first time maybe in my life, I felt numb to her location. Summer vacation? Beach week? Something had changed.

Over the past four plus years, I’ve done a complete 180 on roughly 4,297 things (roughly). Of all of those things, most of them were intentional, and most of them I am very pleased with.

I knew I was moving to a place that claimed beautiful weather 10 months out of the year. I knew I was going to a place with a coastal vibe. But until I actually experienced it, I didn’t really understand what all of that meant. Until the lifestyle really started coming together, I didn’t really know what it would look or feel like. But having been deep inside of it for just over two years now, I have a decent idea. The beach is literally across the street. I spend every day at a beautiful golf course, working, playing, or both. A boat ride is a quick text away. A jet ski ride relies merely on calm seas. 80% of the time, the sun is shining.

Recently, summer hit, and the talk of summer vacation cropped up. I was as baffled as I had been in a while. Summer vacation? It feels like I am living in a summer vacation. Long story short, I’m constantly looking it wind speeds, wave heights, and my work schedule to determine which activity wins the day: snapper fishing for Christy, island days for Banks, golfing days for Benj, or all three. It’s as non-traditional as it comes, but that’s the whole damn point. As long as the naps and stretching get done (shout out last week’s piece), it’s a limitless opportunity.

So now that it’s actually time for summer vacation, I guess it’s time for another 180.

The small towns of Wingate, NC and West Point, MS likely do not top anyone’s summer vacation list. But for the next two weeks, they will be my Vegas, Key West, and Pebble Beach, and I am so excited.

The hardest part of moving away from NC, for me, was moving ten hours away from my family and friends. The move was tailored primarily for Christy and her family, secondarily for Banks’ childhood freedom, and I was tasked with making it all work while embarking on an ambitious personal journey of my own. It’s been a hell of an adventure, and it’s been absolutely the correct move, if there is such a thing. But…

It’s time to visit old family and friends. It’s time to celebrate certain major milestones. It’s time to eat Bojangles, Gino’s, and Dave’s Pizza. It’s time to see Coach and watch my big man play on the field I used to roam. I’m so excited. Little ol’ Wingate, NC has me feeling like I’m going to Milan.

With mixed emotions, I have to leave the vacation early to make the nine hour drive to east central Mississippi. I have a smoking hot date with Mossy Oak Golf Club for, I hope, five days. I’m buzzing, but I’m also very nervous, which could easily be the tag line for my last four years of firsts. I’ll be joined by my main man Kris, who will be tasked with keeping me calm and loose. Little ol’ West Point, MS has me feeling like I’m going to Tinseltown.

And then summer vacation will end, and I will return to my regularly scheduled summer vacation. You know, the one where I play golf in shorts on Christmas Eve.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Lifestyle: Naps and Stretching

“…because the easy answer to what they wanted in life was comfort. The great American dream, from my point of view, wasn’t life, liberty, or happiness—it was salary.” -Tom Coyne, A Course Called America

It should be well documented by now that I have a lot of things I want to do with my life. However, I can assure you that these things do not involve the phrase work, then retire in comfort, then do X.

I see my life as fluid. Live until I die. I chucked literal comfort out the window 25+ years ago, but not by my choice. It was, however, my choice to send figurative comfort packing about four short years ago.

One of the main hallmarks of lifestyle design is that, to the extent that it is possible, traditional hours of the day and traditional days of the week don’t matter. Want to do some work at 1am? Want to have some fun on Tuesday midday? Want to go to bed at 8pm on Friday? I’ve been fascinated by this idea for decades.

I called it the Cameron Indoor Effect. If a buddy called and offered Duke basketball tickets for a 6pm tip-off on a random Wednesday, would I drop everything and go? (In my new life, this is called the Augusta National Effect.)

Life could care less about Monday through Friday and 9 to 5. It happens when it happens. It’s been a wonderful and exciting learning for me. When an opportunity presents itself, when life presents itself, we must strongly consider taking the leap. I’ve woken up as early as 3am to do so. I’ve driven 8, 10, 12 hours in a day to do so. It really depends on want to, one of life’s most underrated qualities.

The golf lifestyle that I have chosen has many, many opportunities available, opportunities that can be reimagined and redefined every whichaway to fit my specific desires. Fashion, camaraderie, community, playing, teaching, architecture, travel…I could go on forever. It’s certainly not an uncomfortable lifestyle, but it can be expensive. It can be taxing on the body. Its opportunities can present themselves on odd days or at odd hours. Maybe I have to bob and weave a little. For me, it continues to pose that one burning question. How bad do I want it?

That is the question that drove me to wake up before the crack some twenty months ago to play golf in New Orleans with the man who wrote the book that I quoted above. Said book was just released, and damned if I’m not in it.

That is the question that drove me to send a random message to a prominent golf photographer from California who was in town a couple of weeks ago. After three days of no response followed then by a very last minute response, it was that question that caused me to drive two hours to go meet him for ten minutes. Those ten minutes resulted in our exchanging phone numbers, a 4am wake up call the following day to play golf together, and my featuring in his most recent blog under my new pseudonym, Swampy B.

📸: Patrick Koenig

That is the question that caused me to drive eight hours this past Thursday to Mossy Oak Golf Club, site of my first real tournament in three weeks time, to do a little homework. Up at 6am. Home by dark. Investment in the life I am trying to design.

So maybe you are wondering about the title?

Yesterday was Golf Day 598. My life has changed dramatically, obviously. Some days I only get 4-6 hours of sleep. Some days I exercise for 6-8 hours. Some days I’m on my feet for 12 hours. My elbows and forearms have lived three lifetimes.

So I take naps, and I stretch constantly. It’s the only way any of this remotely works.

Because as glamorous as the lifestyle looks, as lucky as I know I am, as fun and rewarding as it can be, it’s rarely ever comfortable. And because it’s not comfortable, I get the beautiful opportunity every day to ask myself, How bad do I want it?

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: Two Lifetimes

“Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.” -the late Arnold Palmer

It happened on St. Patrick’s Day, 2019. Using official golf metrics, on the chilly morning of Sunday, March 17, I opened my long awaited round at the legendary Pinehurst # 2 by 8-putting the first green en route to an opening hole 11 on the scorecard. If you want to know the proper definition of opening hole jitters, this would probably do the trick.

As an unofficial 14 handicapper who averaged a score of 93 or thereabouts per round, I shot a 109 that day, salvaging my only ounce of pride remaining by one-putting the 18th hole in true Payne Stewart fashion.

As I recounted the day in my mind as I drove out of this wonderful golf village, I was officially sick of not knowing how to actually play golf. I had waited 36+ years to play this jewel which was some two hours from my (now previous) home in Charlotte, NC. I forked over an exorbitant amount of money that, in retrospect, turned out to be a decent dollar to final score ratio. (Don’t get me wrong, the overall experience was fantastic.)

But as a former collegiate soccer All-American whose competition standards remained sky high, I shat the bed that day. And I had had enough.

I had already agreed to move with my family to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in five days. I had already offered my resignation from my commercial banking job in Charlotte. I had already sold my house and was living who knows where with who knows whom. So why wouldn’t I decide that after shooting the worst round of golf in recent memory, I was going to commit my life to getting good at golf for the foreseeable future? And not just getting better. Getting good. And not just getting good. Getting really good.

So five days later, I arrived in Mississippi homeless and jobless, and after a few weeks of rest and rehab for back soreness and fatigue, my dream officially began.

It is 26 months later, and I play golf every day. For all intents and purposes, I’ve played golf every day for the past 25 months. I’ve gotten better. A lot better. Some might say I’ve gotten good. Some even really good. I like to stick with I’ve gotten a lot better, because good is so hard to define.

I have a feeling, though, that it is going to be defined for me in 26 days as I tee it up for my first real tournament, the Mississippi State Amateur. I’m proud of myself for having the courage to play in it, to be honest. The field is loaded with ex college studs, big time amateur studs, and at least one wandering wannabe. By every metric available, I should get the shit kicked out of me. But then again, by every metric available, I shouldn’t be in southern Mississippi playing golf every day.

Currently, I’m playing to a 1.2 handicap with an average score of 75.5. To the average joe, that’s smoking. To a really, really good golfer, I need to shave five more strokes off. And you know what, I know that. And you know what else, I’ve tried. For nearly 600 days and 3,000 focused hours. But when you get down to that low to mid 70s range, the game gets really, really hard.

Especially for a knucklehead that only really started to get serious about and understand the game at the ripe old age of 37. I might as well be one of these kid’s grandpa.

The prize for winning this tournament is an automatic spot in the PGA Tour event that’s held in Jackson, Mississippi each year. I’m a massive dreamer, I’m a massive doer, and I have massive self-belief in certain things, but I’m also a realist. I don’t think I’m anywhere near ready to win.

But I’m ready to start, and I’m finally ready to compete. I need to know what all this looks and feels like. How my heart beats. How my forearms feel over an important putt. How nervous I might be on that opening tee shot.

I have my realistic sights set on 2024, so I have to keep that in perspective. That’s three more years to take five strokes off, body willing.

So for this tourney, I really only have a few things to tell myself. You’ve done the work. Do your best. Stay patient. Dial in. And for the love of God, don’t give up on yourself.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Travel: Hot Dogs and Horses

If you ever come to my house at The End of the Earth, Mississippi, you will know when you have arrived. Your GPS will look like you are driving through water. If you keep going straight, you will drive into a swamp. Unless you hit a tree first, of course. If you turn right, you have about four seconds until you…

Given the location, it’s likely been a long voyage for you to get there. So just look left and exhale. Freedom and creativity rule the roost. You’ll feel it as soon as you step out of the car. You have arrived.

Getting to Far West Texas is roughly the same. At an absolute minimum, it’s a three hour drive from anywhere. For my buddy and abk supporter, Kris, and me, two days. TWO DAYS. But anything but khakis ®️ turned four last Saturday, so an epic abk adventure was in order.

Starting from my house at roughly sea level, we eventually reached almost 8,000 feet on an off-road trail in Big Bend National Park. In Marfa, we experienced the largest hail storm I have ever seen, and twelve hours later it was 104 degrees just a couple hours south. It’s a scruffy, vast terrain, and if you find yourself there, it is not by accident. At our campground, I could have hit a pitching wedge into Mexico, and I thought about it, but then I thought better of it.

Numerous folks have asked me, Why Far West Texas? They might as well be asking, Why coastal Mississippi? Why this specific location? Why to any of the crazy places I have visited? The lazy answer is, why not. The more thoughtful answer is creativity, variety, and freedom.

Marfa, Texas is this tiny town, nay intersection, in the middle of freaking nowhere. Roughly 2,000 people live there. It is close to nothing. But somehow, there is this unbelievable international art presence and creative vibe all over town.

I mean, I get it. I’m sure Mississippi is not at the top of any creativity lists, but when I step outside my front door, that feeling I feel begs to differ. I’ve felt it in Cody, Wyoming; Hurricane, Utah; Ocean Springs, Mississippi; and now Marfa, Texas (among others).

Roughly two hours south, Big Bend National Park looms large along the Mexico border. It’s not necessarily a creative place, but it reeks of freedom and variety. Nobody says you can’t do this, you can’t do that, mainly because for hours on end you may not see another human being. Roadrunners? Yes. Mountains? Yes. Desert? Yes. Humans? Maybe not.

The biggest drama that we encountered along the trip was the wildly unpredictable weather. Otherwise, no soap operas. No complications. Just nature. On the way home, my buddy, Kris, and I discussed the coolest moments that happened (or didn’t happen). I was hoping to get a cool tattoo in Marfa involving a skull, a cowboy hat, and golf clubs, but they couldn’t fit me in. We got rained out trying to play golf in Austin with my buddy Marcus on the way home.

But of the things that did happen, our Top 5 Moments were unanimous. In reverse order:

1. The food and drink at local Marfa joint Al Campo. The lemon chicken over sweet potato mash was banging.

2. Sunset in the desert.

3. Talking with the locals at the golf course during the hailstorm. They were a little unsure of us Voodoo foreigners at first, but they ended up buying us each a beer.

4. Grilling out hot dogs at the camp site while wild horses grazed close by.

5. Stargazing and planet gazing under the vast, dark, unpolluted West Texas skies, and then having a coyote come visit just before heading to bed.

Nothing fancy. Just life.

So why West Texas? Why this? Why that? Surely, after 4 years and 202 articles, it has become crystal clear.

Have a great week.-Benj

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If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com.