I wake up between 6:30 and 7am every day now, and it is already about 2,000 degrees outside. As I go outside to walk the dogs, it is not uncommon for one of my six golf shirts to stick to my body.
Somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30am, I make the ten minute drive to the golf course to begin my day’s work. I am well aware that my day’s work looks very different from most people’s day, but that does not make it any better or worse. It just makes it mine.
Between 6:30 and 8:30am every day, I am a 37 year old in a 90 year old man’s body, battling my old friend ankylosis spondylitis every. single. day. Because of this, the same heat that keeps most people inside takes me outside. But damn it, soothing or not, it’s still hot.
After a few weeks of trying and tweaking and observing some semblance of a routine (God forbid), I’ve turned my first big corner. And it has me both excited and nervous, which is perfect.
Most every day, I post a picture or video on Instagram of me golfing, and the amount of unsolicited feedback via DM, text, or otherwise has been quite useful. Words of encouragement, playful jokes, or very valuable tips from people who are actual golfers. It has turned a very solitary activity into something quite different knowing that multiple people care, proving once again that it takes a village to do anything.
At this point, I am fully immersed in my golf goal. I feel my body changing. I feel my mind changing. I feel my spirit changing. This past week, I literally whispered to myself, “I think I can do this.”
It has been a slow, methodical grind, and it has only been 90+ days. I can only imagine what the next few months are going to look like. More heat. More aches. More aggravation courtesy of this beautiful game.
Most days when I am in town, I now do a couple of hours on the range and then walk 9 holes. Walking 18 holes every day made my feet feel like I was walking on hot lava at night, so that was enough of that. Interestingly, the practice and repetition on the range provide the real value, although seeing my scores get lower and lower and lower is indeed very rewarding.
I shot 79 the other night in Iowa over 18 holes and then shot a crisp 37 over 9 just a few days later back in Mississippi. Those are still outliers, but every single facet of my game is getting better, tighter, and crisper, and the scores are getting consistently lower.
Most days, I have an internal conflict that combats increasing confidence with a “don’t get ahead of myself” mentality. Because the game, just like life, has a way of jumping up and biting me the moment I think I have it figured out. But on the other hand, if I don’t have the confidence, I am dead.
When I started this journey in April, I just wanted to get better. “Get really good” is what I told most people. Some of them laughed. I was not joking. Now, in July, I have an attainable goal of having a single digit handicap by the end of the month (getting much, much better). I’ve found myself getting really serious. As I approach each shot, I find my heartbeat slowing, my focus sharpening, and my breath steadying. That’s a lot different from me walking up to my ball and wondering what’s for dinner that night.
I am the one who has done the work, but I am so appreciative of everyone that has taken an interest in this portion of the journey. The person who suggested a swing change. The person who suggested a grip change. The pros at the club who are willing to help in any way possible.
I don’t know that many people have heard something quite like my story, where a 37 year old just quits “work” to “play” golf every day. Except work is exactly what I do, not ordering beers until after I am done, when I am ready to pour a cold 12 pack over my head.
I started as an unofficial 14-ish handicap, went to 13.2, then 12.5, now 11.2, and trending towards a 9.7. Even now, the probability of getting to a 0 in my situation is less likely than getting struck by lightning TWICE, I’ve heard. But last week I thought to myself, “You know what, I bet a 37 year old dude with active ankylosing spondylitis running two New York City Marathons was also highly improbable.”
And that’s when I told myself for likely not the last time, “Keep your focus son. There’s a lot of noise out there. Own your life story.”
Have a great week.-Benj
Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.
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