How I Discovered “The Greatest Game Ever Played”—And How I Learned to Love It

September 2, 2008
I was at the annual golf pre-season meeting a few weeks ago when I spotted a few new members of the team enter the room. The three boys looked at me in bewilderment, smirked at each other, and then the boldest of the three asked, “What are you doing here? You’re a girl!” It is comments like that—now commonplace—that once made me cringe every time someone would asked me “What sport do you play?”, and I would be forced to answer “Golf.” It is comments like that that once made me question why I was even a member of the varsity golf team—on which I am the only girl. It is comments like that that once made me question my identity—that of the female scholar-athlete, the scholar-golfer—that is, until I joined the women’s golf team at our country club.

I began golfing at age nine, when I started taking lessons once a week at day camp. I came home after my first lesson and began naming the parts of a golf club. My father (once an award-winning junior player himself who had not picked up a golf club in many years) was ecstatic. He dug out his old clubs and took me to the driving range.

When middle school began a few years later, more schoolwork and more activities left little time to spend at the country club. Slowly, golf seemed to fade into the past, merely a distant memory.

During the spring of ninth grade, after a discouraging year of track, during which I was regularly injured, I decided to pursue golf again. I dedicated my summer to re-learning the game and, that August, I made the school golf team.

During the spring of sophomore year, I decided to make a serious commitment to my golf game. So I joined the women’s golf team at my country club.

The women’s golf team is comprised of the top seven female golfers at my country club. As a team, we travel throughout the spring to different clubs in the Philadelphia area to compete in one-day events.

I attribute my newfound love of golf to that team. My experience on the team has spurred me to improve my game and to lower my handicap. Players are ranked by handicap on the team and, naturally, I wanted to be the best. More and more, I could be found heading off to the golf course after school, spending weekends at the driving range, and taking lessons from the club’s golf professional. By the time the first match rolled around, I was ranked fourth on the team.

At first, I was a bit nervous about the matches: I feared that the other women wouldn’t accept me. I had been a member of the country club for more than two years, and I had only played golf with three of the other women. How would they react to a teenager on the team—let alone a teenager playing number four on the team? Would they resent that a girl young enough to be a granddaughter had “stolen” a spot from one of them? And what would our team’s number-one player think? She was a woman with whom I had never even spoken—let alone played with in a match. Would I be welcome, or would the golf team be a recurrence of high school track team drama, in which I was told by a junior that I, a freshman, needed to “learn my place” because I had beaten her in an important race?

But none of my fears were realized in the team matches. On my first day, I played against a woman three times my age and slightly better than I. Although she beat me, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. My opponent was one of the nicest women I have ever met, and I have kept in touch with her ever since; her teammates told me afterward that she was the perfect person to play against in my first match.

Rather than discourage me from playing in any further tournaments, the team matches instilled in me the sort of competitiveness I am famous for in everything else I do but never seemed to manage in golf. For the first time, I had a real reason to do my best—not just to be able to list a neat column of victories on a college transcript, but to satisfy myself. I finally had a goal—to become a great golfer, the best woman in the club—and I was determined to do everything in my power to improve my game. Because, as much as I’d always disliked golf in the past, I had fallen in love with the game.

But more than just solidifying my standing as a serious golfer, the matches also enabled me to establish myself among the other female players. Women chatted with me at lunch after the matches. They invited me to join them on Ladies’ Day and in tournaments. Rather than treating me like a little kid, they treated me like one of the women. And, for the first time, not only did I feel like a true golfer—I felt like a golfer who belonged.

Now, two years later, I have finally achieved my goal: to be both the number-one golfer on the Women’s Golf Team and the Women’s Club Champion. After two years of dedication to the team—two years spent playing golf with six women who have become like family to me—I was chosen to be captain of the team during the spring of my senior year. I spent two years learning from my six “sisters”—and now, I am ready to lead the team to what I hope will be an undefeated season.

These days, I spend as much time as possible at the golf course. But no longer is this a chore, an activity prefaced by the whine: “Dad, do I have to practice today?” The team matches gave me both the drive (no pun intended) and confidence necessary to succeed. But it seems I not only learned golf tips from the six women with whom I spent many a long car ride to a far-away match; I also surprised myself by learning to appreciate golf—“The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

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