abk Golf: Documenting the Struggles

In my last journal entry, I talked about my entire family being literally sick. Just ten days ago, I was throwing up everywhere. Some 24 hour bug. It had me sideways.

This week, I want to talk about being figuratively sick. Think, for a moment, about resigning from a great career, taking a massive pay cut, and leaving family and friends so that you could focus on one thing that required an exorbitant amount of time, effort, and attention. Think about grinding it out for over three years, day after day, accomplishing both so much and absolutely nothing simultaneously. And then for whatever reason, one random day, you completely forgot how to do what it is you’ve worked all this time to do. I bet it would make you sick to your stomach. It certainly did for me.

I can tell you exactly where it started: my second shot on the 17th hole at The Warren Course at Notre Dame University, September 2nd, 2022. To my knowledge, I had never hit a shank in my entire life, but about 2:30pm that afternoon, I hit my first one. And then I hit my second. And then my third. I never got my ball in the hole on the 17th and 18th holes, a disappointing finish to an otherwise fantastic day.

I thought maybe the heat had gotten to me. Maybe the local Michigan IPA had me a little woozy. Maybe giving lessons to my playing partner had me a little unfocused. Or maybe, after being completely honest with myself, I knew something was seriously wrong. I felt a knot in my stomach.

It was very apparent upon my return from my trip that something was seriously wrong with my golf game. My first round that I played? Horrible. My first lesson that I gave? For the first time ever, I couldn’t SHOW my student what to do.

The worst part was that I couldn’t pinpoint the problem. Was it my body? My hands? Exhaustion? Disinterest? Lack of confidence?

Luckily, I am surrounded every day with a handful of professionals along with a couple of superb amateur golfers. We talked it through. I told them how I felt. They watched me. They gave me my to-do list, everyone’s recommendations along the same lines.

Day 1 I struggled, but there were less shanks. Day 2 I struggled, but the shanks were gone. Days 3 and 4 I struggled, and quite honestly, I knew I hadn’t yet pinpointed the issue. Day 5, after some more struggle and mediocre practice, I decided to try something.

As a reminder, I am forty years old and I have arthritis, which places certain limitations on what my body can do. As such, one of my biggest weaknesses in my golf game has been an almost nonexistent shoulder turn. My teachers and mentors have told me this for years. If you fix this, you’re game will go to another level. Finally fed up, I told myself to really focus on this. Make huge, crazy huge shoulder turns and see what happens.

I played six holes. I birdied one and had tap in pars on the other five. It was quite honestly some of the best golf I’ve ever played. I was completely reenergized. This has to be the answer.

The next day I shot a one over par 37, and I can sleep soundly with that number.

I have a lot of work in front of me and even more questions. When I wake up in the morning, I am stiff and sore. When I finish working at the course, I am stiff and sore. When will I play? When will I sufficiently stretch? How will I make sure my body is ready to perform at a high level, as a professional’s body should? Gone now are the days of just walking outside with limited stretching, playing like I am fifteen years old.

But that’s okay. It’s just another evolution along the journey. Quality over quantity. Quality over quantity. It’s always been a part of Brand Benj. It’s always been a part of abk World. It’s now time to apply it to abk Golf and all of my golf aspirations.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Journey: When Things Go Off the Rails

For nearly five and a half years now, I have succeeded, for the most part, at living intentionally. If there was a place I wanted to go see, I went. If there was a skill I wanted to master, I got to it. If there were activities that peaked my curiosity, I dove right in.

As with anyone’s life, there were peaks, valleys, and surprises, but for the most part, I felt consciously in control of both my day and my life.

Roughly four weeks ago, however, I lost control of my daily intention. I know how it happened. I know why it happened. It is kinda, sorta still happening, but I’m excited to announce that I believe the end is near.

At the golf course, we are always trying to make things better. We’ve embarked on two massive projects in the past year, both of which tried my nerves a little during the process but ended up huge successes. We got into the nitty gritty of a third project about a month ago that also coincided with one of my colleagues leaving. All of a sudden, my days were filled less with golf stuff and more with trying to hire new people and get ready for the installation of a new software system.

I can’t tell you why, but this particular set of circumstances really grated on my nerves. I felt a little off internally. Simultaneously, it was about 9 million degrees outside, and I would go outside, teach a lesson, come back into the air conditioning, rinse and repeat. My body felt way off. I needed a break.

The break came in the form of a 2,000+ mile sports trip with my son that was absolutely brilliant, but upon my return home, the exhaustion was still there.

I jumped right back in. New software, training new people, blazing hot lessons. I was going through the motions. I was beyond excited for that next Monday off. I had announced to everyone including God himself that I was taking my daughter to school and then sleeping all day. It was a must.

At 9:39am that Monday morning, my phone rang. I didn’t answer. Then it rang again. And again. And again. It was my son’s school nurse. He had just thrown up in the middle of class. I needed to come get him. Thus started the week from Hell.

I called Christy. She said she felt like crap too. Monday and Tuesday were a bust. Wednesday, everyone seemed to be happy, but Thursday morning, the day my parents were flying in for Charli’s first birthday, I threw up about fifteen times. Later that evening, Banks was back to puking also.

I didn’t know if we would even get to see my parents (we did). We cancelled the birthday party. Everyone was still kind of on the fritz, and good God were we hungry!

Sunday came, and I had lost almost fifteen pounds. Christy made some comment to me about how I could relax THIS Monday. I told her I just had a feeling that would not be the case. Sure enough, it was straight to the doctor on Monday. CW had an ear infection, 103 fever, etc. I had effectively given up.

(Fifteen pounds lighter, I actually felt free and enjoyed spending the sick day with my daughter.)

I haven’t hit a meaningful golf ball in a month. That may seem trivial when compared to sickness and the like, but it’s the singular most important piece to what I’ve been building as a second career and lifestyle. Its success speaks to my credibility, allows my teaching business to grow, not to mention I take great enjoyment in being really good at something athletically.

I’m off tomorrow also. An intense reboot practice session is on the books. I’m excited, but I’m also more aware than ever that after I hit publish, honestly anything could happen.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Musings from an Epic Journey

It was a phenomenal sports trip, but to label it just a sports trip would do it an incredible injustice.

2 MLB games. 2 NCAAF games. 2 rounds of golf. 7 states. 1 very improbable and exciting sprint onto Notre Dame Stadium’s field.

If you believe me, let’s just say I had a 5th degree of separation connection with the security guard. If you don’t, Touchdown Jesus opened the gate.

I used to love the smell of arriving in a downtown, but twice this trip I stepped outside and smelled nothing but weed.

This trip had about eight iterations. Notre Dame was never supposed to be included, but a little birdie convinced me I should go.

As a father, I feel that my main role is to introduce my kids to the world. Not MY world. THE world.

My son said he didn’t want to wear a Penn State shirt to the game because he isn’t a Penn State fan. Dad, that’s your team. That made me very proud.

I had never been to many of these places, so we got to explore them together with fresh eyes.

When you go to real places like rural Indiana, Detroit, or Cincinnati and just pay the slightest bit of attention, you’ll get a good feel for what’s going on.

Due to a road closure, we experienced a little more of rural Indiana during the midnight hour than I would have liked.

My PSU and Michigan two game parlay hit, so that was pretty cool.

I tried to make sure every day had at least one or two traditional kids activities. Looking at Pokémon cards, reading at the bookstore, chalk drawing, or riding the merry go round.

You better pay attention driving around Detroit. One wrong turn and you’ll be headed to Canada trying to make a U-Turn that doesn’t exist.

Michigan Stadium is wildly uncomfortable.

A history lesson is the literal backdrop to Comerica Park (the Detroit Tigers’ stadium).

I was $300 under budget for this trip, which never happens.

I always try to see at least one good buddy along the way, when possible.

Playing golf inside Indy Motor Speedway was a unique experience.

Purdue vs Penn State…started out as a pillow fight but turned into one hell of a game.

All of the gratitude in the world goes out to the ladies at the McDonalds in Memphis, Indiana, the security guard at Notre Dame Stadium, and the manager at Greyson Clothiers in downtown Detroit. The level of customer service we received was out of this world.

We pulled into downtown Detroit, and a few minutes later, a fireworks show broke out.

The Detroit pizza was good, but because I was absolutely ravenous, let’s call it phenomenal.

The best nachos were a toss up between the ones at Michigan Stadium and the ones at The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

Along the journey, we stayed at budget hotels. At the destination, we splurged.

At all of these different places, I remind my son that we are guests and that we are super lucky to be able to experience all that we do.

I had no idea what we were going to do on the way home. So last minute, we went to Cincinnati and watched the Reds play the Rockies.

There were glimpses of autumn all around. College football, the trees in northern Alabama, the 60 degree temperature as we departed Michigan.

This year we have done Boston, Memphis, Charlotte, New Orleans, Atlanta, and now Detroit. Which one was best?

I am just endlessly inspired by being on the road.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Dabbling in Dad Shoes

Yesterday, I played my 900th day of golf in the past three years. Five days a week, I stand four to eight hours a day for work. Four to five days a week, I teach and coach a couple of hours per day, also standing. I also have two young children.

So a couple of months ago, I did what any self-respecting man in my situation would do.

I bought dad shoes.

From the time I was a teenager, I knew outward appearance and unique style was in my DNA. I remember wearing those purple striped shorts to my first day of middle school. Later on, I remember walking around New York City on vacation with my dad in a shirt and tie. I didn’t care if something was viewed as different. I knew what felt right to me.

As a banker for nearly 17 years, I was truly blessed with some great bosses that allowed me to be me and express myself. Though I might have toned it down for the occasional overly conservative client, I think most clients enjoyed having a banker that was a real human being, not just a corporate robot. I had beautiful suits made, collected ties from all over the world, and for one season even rocked a pair of pink suede Chelsea boots.

When I decided to make this massive life change some three and a half years ago, I unloaded a style bounty to family, friends, and Goodwill. Fifty plus pair of one off sneakers: gone. All but my most favorite suits and shirts: gone. Though I knew I may never wear them again, I kept the ties. They belong in an art gallery.

As the golf journey began, I started expressing myself in a similar yet totally different way. Enter custom designed golf shoes, exotic belts, unique yardage book covers, and a stylish array of shirts and caps. Amidst all of the personal changes, my love for self expression was not one of them. Again, I have been blessed to have a boss that lets me run wild.

About a year ago, I knew I needed some new shoes. Here I was, this almost forty year old man, living life on my feet like I was fifteen years old. I searched far and near, did some experimenting, but nothing really worked.

Then one day, I found the ugliest, most beautiful pair of shoes from Hoka. Either all white or all black. Built for doctors, nurses, and the service industry. Pricier than hell, but they looked super comfortable.

They were bona fide dad shoes, and I bought them, and I’m glad I did. Besides, I AM a dad, and are they really dad shoes if they are paired with a tri-colored python belt?

Have a great week.-Benj

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The Great Reconnection

When you have a conversation with most people in this world, you ask how the job is going. How’s the family? Did you get the boat fixed? Did the kitchen finally get renovated?

Then there are those few people with whom you dive a little bit deeper. Are you following your dreams? Are you happy? Are you spending your finite time each day doing that which you most enjoy?

If you put a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you what my childhood friend Josh does for a living, other than that he is in the United States Navy, even though we talked for upwards of four hours in the upstairs of my coastal Mississippi house last Saturday night. Maybe I’m a terrible listener. Or maybe it never came up.

When you used to see and talk to someone every single day for the better part of fifteen years, even if it has been a solid decade plus since you last spent any considerable amount of time together, you just dive right in. Hell, when my son asked me who Uncle Josh was, I told him that he was the guy in my childhood neighborhood who had the Nintendo. What I didn’t tell him was how one day another friend and I wanted to play that Nintendo and didn’t want to wait for Josh to get home. So we climbed through a window, set up shop, and got to it. I’m pretty sure Coach Lowery was shocked when he walked in and we were plopped down comfortably on the couch, without his son, like it was our second home. (Which it was.)

Over the 48 hour period that Josh was in town, nothing was off limits. He was curious about the abk lifestyle. I was curious about the military lifestyle. We discussed our successes and fears, missed opportunities and future opportunities. (I still have no clue what he does for a living.)

And we played golf. Lots of golf. (The golf journey has reconnected us.). The old adage used to be that business deals get done on the course. In my experience, the golf course helps cleanse the soul. We played sunset golf. We played middle of the day blistering hot golf. We played just the two of us. We played with two other members. He gave me some advice on some of my life concerns. I helped him straighten out his driver, which is ironic coming from me.

Interestingly, he barely made our day two tee time after Christy and the kids persuaded him to spend the morning out on the islands. Usually, lateness is a pet peeve of mine, but in this instance I just giggled to myself as I waited. The abk was rubbing off. Josh had 48 hours, and he wanted to experience everything.

I don’t know why, but it seems that every modern day parent wrestles with the screen time vs playing outside dilemma. Though the conversation doesn’t interest me that much, on this occasion it turned out to be a banger.

On the pro side for playing outside, Josh reminded me of this great story from our childhood. We had this fort out in the woods in our neighborhood where we played all of the time. One hot day as we were playing, we heard the ice cream truck coming through. We hurried out of the woods to catch it, and for whatever reason, we bought an entire box of ice cream bars instead of just one for each of us. By the end of that day, we didn’t want to see ice cream for months.

Josh’s point was that if we didn’t play outside all of the time, stories like that would not exist. At that point, I was quick to remind him that, per my earlier note, it was I who had broken into his house over twenty years ago to play Nintendo.

Over twenty years ago. To play Nintendo.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Dreaming Up a Lifestyle

A few months ago I changed the abk Instagram profile to read the following: Exploring my interests to create a full, non-traditional, intentional life. It’s not cute. It’s not fancy. But it’s true and to the point. If there was enough room, I would make one little tweak. Exploring ALL of my interests…

It’s no secret I have a ton of interests. Golf, sports, and travel are obvious. But what about my fascination with stadium architecture. My curiosity about Los Angeles and New York City culture. My desire to try all of the BBQ and shrimp and grits recipes in America.

Style. Freedom. Building something. Never ending learning. An intense interest in human behavior and human beings in general. Having friends and friendly acquaintances literally everywhere. I could go on and on.

My experience over the last five years is that when I am genuinely engaged in one of my interests, I am happy and fulfilled. When I am genuinely engaged in multiple interests, I’m so happy I am bursting at the seams, and that’s how I want to live. However, as someone with an infinite list of items that intrigue me and a finite time on this earth, I know that I have to be increasingly intentional and creative with my actions.

Somewhat recently, an abk idea popped into my head. Wouldn’t it be fulfilling to not only experience all 50 states, not only play golf in all 50 states, but shoot in the 70s in all 50 states while enjoying the company of either family or friends? (Travel, golf, human beings, nature, sport, self-mastery, etc)

I’ve visited 43 of the 50 states so far. I’ve played golf in 21 of those states, plus Cancun, Tijuana, and Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. Of the 21 states I have played in, I’ve shot in the 70s in 8. (North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Iowa)

As the journey has progressed, I’ve learned that travel is fun. Traveling and playing golf is more fun. Traveling, playing golf, and playing at a high level is even more fun. Traveling and playing good golf with family and friends is the absolute best.

So…

Assuming nothing wonky, my son and I embark on our next epic sports trip in 23 days. Purdue vs Penn State opening Thursday night football. Tigers vs Royals in downtown Detroit. The Big House in Ann Arbor for opening football Saturday. Golf in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and maybe Alabama. Detroit style pizza. Lots of exploration, snuggles, and adventures.

This will make state 44 for me, golf states 22, 23, and 24, and hopefully good golf states 9, 10, and 11. But let’s be clear here: the numbers and stats are just ego boosting talking points for a dinner party, which I avoid like the plague now.

It’s the time spent immersed in these awesome activities with awesome people that keeps me overflowing.

After Michigan, that will just leave North Dakota, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska that I haven’t experienced. But since I’ve upped the ante to require playing golf and playing GOOD golf in all 50 states, I guess I’ll just have to do them all over again.

One life.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Major Progress in abk Golf World

“They’re big, and they require sacrifice. Things that aren’t easy. They’re not the mundane. They’re not the normal. They’re dreams, and thus they require dreams execution.”-GaryVee

At the conclusion of the playing of my first Assistant’s Championship last Tuesday, it had been 1,196 days since I started the golf journey. Of those 1,196 days, I had grinded it out on the golf course for 882. 74%. Three out of every four days.

Three years, three months, and nine days. From a wildly ambitious dreamer and mediocre amateur golfer to missing my first professional paycheck by one spot. Getting paid to play golf. I finished eighth in the tournament. They paid the top seven spots.

I’ve kept copious notes of all 882 (now 885) days of grinding, and I remember the early part of the journey with great fondness. Like Day 3 when I shot 101 in my first round at Shell Landing. Or March 3, 2020, when a mentor told me my wedge game was terrible and I needed to do something about it. Or January 8, 2021, when I grinded through low thirty degree temperatures. Or June 3, 2022, when I played from almost 7500 yards to force myself to hit it a mile.

I’ve watched my son make his first real birdie. I’ve finished near dead last in a tournament. I’ve shot a 5 under par 67. I’ve practiced for thirty minutes one day, and ten hours the next. I’ve been excited, annoyed, defeated, nervous, and really nervous. I’ve heard my name called and felt my arms go limp.

I shot 109 early in the journey at US Open venue Pinehurst # 2, then posted a more than respectable 81 there just a couple of months ago. I shot 103 early in the process at Zurich Classic venue TPC Louisiana, then posted a 75 there a couple of years into the journey.

This year, I shot a 75 in my first tournament in New Orleans. In a match play event, I held my own but eventually lost 5&4 to a guy that has played in two PGA Tour events. In Houma, Louisiana, I shot another mid 70s round where I finished with two unfocused double bogies. Then I didn’t play another tournament for three months until Monday and Tuesday’s National Car Rental GSPGA Assistant’s Championship. Three months is too long. I was ready to compete.

My playing partner on Day 1, aka the eventual champion, had about a forty year head start on me in the golf world. A lifelong grinder, professional caddie, mini tour player, and teacher, it was obvious that he was a better player than me, but we hit it off immediately. After he told me his story and I told him mine, between shots, I picked his extremely experienced brain. We talked and laughed. He told me what I did very well, and he told me what I needed to work on. He only beat me by six strokes on Monday, a great gauge of my progress.

My playing partners on Day 2 were young guns, former collegiate golfers, and great players. We talked very little, but I still enjoyed the day. They hit it further, they hit it straighter, but I had life experience on my side. That might sound crazy, but I’ve done so much course management and work on the mental side of the game that I can be in the ballgame. One beat me by only four strokes and one beat me by zero strokes, a great gauge of my progress.

The course that we played was an absolute beast as witnessed by not a single player breaking old man par. I felt good about my play and solid about my eighth place finish. My Day 1 partner won the tournament at +2, and he would have shot in the 60s with his eyes closed at my home course. I reflected on and celebrated my birdies and pars, dissected my bogies, and reveled in the fact that I only made one double bogey, a direct reflection of 882 days of grinding.

A couple of better shots here and there, and I would have made $1,000. A few more here and there, I would have made $1,000 more. I’ve never even thought about the money until now, but I’ll tell you one thing. First time I win some cash, we are not celebrating the result, but we are definitely celebrating the dream execution.

And the next chance is only three weeks away.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Tuesday the 19th: A Roller Coaster of a Day

“I made three birdies, and my dog is still alive. It was a good day.”-Benj

A day earlier, some time midday, my trusty companion of almost seventeen years looked at me like she had finally had enough. Well, I take that back, she barely mustered up the strength to even look at me. I knew she had been going downhill, but I just couldn’t believe that this maniac of a dog, a dog that has been with me her entire life, a dog that has been with me my entire adult life, a dog with energy for days, could finally want to call it a day. But after a few hours of deliberation, I asked Christy to call the vet and set an appointment for Tuesday. 9:30am, confirmed. We would put her to sleep.

I had a tee time set for 2pm on Tuesday at Hattiesburg Country Club, a former PGA Tour stop and an old school traditional layout that I had heard wonderful things about, but had never played before. I was very excited, except that I wasn’t any more.

I woke up about 4am with knots in my stomach. For the next three hours while lying in bed, I proceeded to replay my entire adult life over in my head. For nearly seventeen years, there had been one constant in my life, and it was Becks. For nearly seventeen years, regardless of what I did, where I lived, who I was with, I came home to her. Don’t get me wrong, she was a nuisance, a knucklehead, an absolute nut of a dog. But she was full of love, and always there.

By 7am, I was crying profusely, and around 830am, I told Christy that I couldn’t do this. Let’s go to the vet, get some meds for her, and keep trucking. Yesterday was an anomaly. I don’t think she is ready.

So we did, and I immediately felt better. We got the meds, they kicked in almost immediately, and by the end of the night she was exploring the yard, controlling her bladder, and snuggling up on the couch. I felt like I was 23 again.

After crying profusely for about three hours that morning, I wondered if I would have any energy left to play this beautiful golf course that afternoon. It was about 1,000 degrees outside, and I was emotionally drained.

The course was absolutely beautiful, and I stumbled around my first nine like a man who had wrestled with putting his dog to sleep that morning. At the turn, though, I got my second wind, and proceeded to blitz the next nine in one under par, enjoying my company, my surroundings, and the fact that my dog would still be alive when I got back home.

It ended up being a great day. A weird day. An emotional day. A crazy roller coaster of a day that took me from North Carolina to Mississippi, uptown to rural, banking to golf, bachelor to father, so forth and so on.

And she’s still here. I’m so happy. I know she’s got at least one more fall season in her. Maybe two. Maybe five.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Autumn is my Summer

I’ve never loved the summer. Growing up in a college town, June and July were dead as a door nail. As a guy who loves action, it was not my speed.

As life has evolved, lots of things have changed, but my lack of love for summer has not. I don’t need to go to the beach because I live 100 yards from one. I don’t need to feel that Florida heat, because Mississippi heat is Florida heat on steroids. I don’t need to go see the palm trees, because I have three in my front yard.

What I do love is when July ends and August begins. Though it’s still hot as blazes, soccer and football start percolating, as do my autumn thoughts and the most wonderful time of the year.

Our summer crowds at the golf course are a little different down here. Mostly local. Mostly get out early, get in before the sun fries you. It’s hot. Brutally hot some days. The tourists love spring, fall, and winter, but not so much summer.

But this past Saturday, something interesting happened. As I started interacting with the day’s players early that morning, I immediately felt something different. This was a fall crowd. A football crowd. Lots of LSU fans. Some tourists. Some big groups. A couple of families. A bachelor party.

It got my blood flowing…

August 1st to January 1st is my favorite time of the year. Every year older that I get, I enjoy this time of year even more. Traveling to new places. Attending new stadiums. Seeing fall leaves. Playing fall golf. Watching all the games.

It’s an incredible time to experience life and just feel wonderfully alive. This year, I am more excited than ever, which is a great measure of the effectiveness of the journey.

It all gets kicking in about two weeks’ time when I play in my first Assistant’s Championship at the old school Laurel Country Club. Soon after, one of my childhood buddies is coming to see what The Secret Coast is all about. Immediately after he leaves, I’ve got another tournament, albeit more laid back and fun than the first. As August comes to a close, the big man and I are heading north to Michigan, a five day journey with all sorts of cool stuff on the docket. Later in September, I may get way out of my comfort zone and try to tee it up with the big boys, though a part of me knows that’s still likely a few years away. I’ve got fun tournaments in October, November, and December, but I’m most excited about the November family fall trip that, as much as I like new things, will be at the exact same cabin outside of Chattanooga where we all stayed a few years ago. That trip was so bananas good that we all agreed it could and should be replicated. Fall leaves, fall temperatures, the hot tub, incredible golf, great food, a charming town, games on the TV, and the kids playing.

One of the only hard and fast rules of the journey is to never wish away a single day, let alone an entire season. But I know where my heart lies, and I know how I start to feel when something amazing is just around the corner.

Have a great week.-Benj

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The 38 Year Old Intern

“We all know it’s hard climbing and sometimes it’s lonely – so find a good why and you can endure almost any how.”-Erik Anders Lang

When I started the golf journey over three years ago now, the quiet voice inside my head kept saying one thing over and over. You have to learn how to play golf well before anything is going to happen. That could take years. Hell, it may never happen. It’s definitely a risk. But, if you can handle that, anything is possible. Until then, that’s got to be your singular focus. Learn how to play golf well.

The logic inside of me just kept telling me that no one would take me seriously until I learned how to play well. Scratch golf, at an absolute minimum. That was more important than this certification or that certification. Learn how to play well. Immerse myself into the world of good players. Listen. Observe. Weed out the riff raff.

Give up a lucrative banking career to try something that may never happen. Sounds like a genius plan.

Somewhere between one and two years ago, I started working at a golf course. Since I was there five to ten hours a day anyway trying to get good at golf, they offered me a job. One day a week at first. Then two days. I basically ran a cash register, but that was my IN.

Then, a few months later, I became an assistant golf professional. My involvement increased significantly, and I also got lucky.

The onset of COVID around this time brought a boom to the golf industry that had never been seen before. All of a sudden our sleepy little beautiful golf course turned into Grand Central Station.

I had to learn everything. I had to learn everything fast. And I had to learn everything fast in an environment that never slowed down. I felt like a recent college graduate that hit the trading floor on Wall Street for the first time. Welcome to the team, now let’s get with it.

I love to learn, so I just buckled up. I listened. I observed. I did this wrong. That confused me. I could have done that better. But then it started clicking. This is how this works. This is why that works. But I still had questions. This doesn’t make sense. This could be changed. This could be done better.

I basically checked my wallet and ego at the door for a year (maybe more) and became an apprentice and a sponge. This applied to playing, teaching, coaching, and running a golf course. I didn’t know how to do any of this whatsoever three years ago. The subtleties, the intricacies, the details.

But I do now, largely because the demand for my and our services went bananas. I bet I learned a decade’s worth just last year.

As such, we shifted into high gear and got this place rocking and rolling. For eight to nine months out of the year, we never sit down. I personally teach six to twelve private lessons every week, with a growing waitlist. I help run our junior leagues and coach our kids. I am well into my PGA work, with a goal to be a full member by the end of 2023. I just got my American Development Model (ADM) certification for coaching kids along with my PGA Modern Coach certification. I take care of our members. I take care of the guests. I trade travel stories with the tourists. Most importantly, I play five to six days a week, and I try to play eight to twelve professional tournaments in our section each year. The most important thing is still to learn how to play well.

Just over five years ago, I started the journey of self-mastery: understanding, accepting, and investing in myself as an adult. For those first few years it felt like a figurative or intangible investment, though nonetheless important. For the last year or two, after going all in, it has definitely been a literal, tangible, financial investment. As the title of this piece states and as I wrote in my five year anniversary piece, I’ve left a shitload of money on the table. The ex-banker in me thinks I’m crazy. The current version of me is so proud that I have put my money where my mouth is.

I took a full year off to whittle 15+ strokes off my game. Over the next couple of years, I took another couple of strokes off. Now, I grind it out nearly every day trying to take decimal points off.

It may seem delusional, and I know lots of people both here and there thought I was nuts. But that first year of grinding with no pay was so important. The second year with minimal pay was so important. The third year with limited pay, relatively speaking, was so important.

They are the reasons that, for the first time in five years, the trajectory has now changed. The momentum has now changed. With every day that passes, I have a clearer picture of what this all could become.

Have a great week.-Benj

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