The Bottleneck: Just under four years ago, I was a senior in high school playing on my golf team in a tough spot. Our team was very good, so maintaining a spot on the team was difficult. I had squeezed through tryouts and had hung on the fifth and final spot on varsity, as I wasn’t allowed to play on junior varsity as a senior. I was keen on making an impact on the team and contributing as best I could.
Dreams and Aspirations: Since eighth grade my goal had been to make it to the state tournament on our team. I put all I had into getting better and pushing myself to practice for as many hours as I could manage. As my only sport in high school I had dedicated thousands of hours to golf in the search of that state tournament. I was keen to hone in on my goal and be a part of an incredible group of golfers.
Nerves: Our first few tournaments went decent for me, as I produced a number of good scores, but was still the fifth man. Then I made a slight slip and threw out an 82, putting our team in a bad position at a tournament. I was worried I was teetering on the edge of being asked to step off the team for the next tournament, but my coach said I would be playing for the following week.
Pressure Cooker: The next tournament was at my home course, where I could shine and prove my worth to the team. My coach approached me before teeing off and said “I’m expecting a 75 or less out of you today” which wasn’t too tall an order. I started getting nervous as I could feel that this was the breaking point of reaching for that state position or being bucked off.
Implosion: To this day the round of golf I played sticks with me as the toughest struggle in any sport I’ve played. Things crashed to pieces as I made double bogey after double bogey. In the end I carded a 92, while my teammates all shot sub 75. After the round our coach said congrats to the good play by the rest of the team and dismissed them. I went up and barely managed to squeak out, “Is this it coach?” to which is reply was “yup, you’re done.”
The Aftermath: I fought to hold back tears as I walked into the parking lot knowing I had just shattered my dream that was years in the making. It ended up being too much, and as a 17-year-old who was nearly considered an adult, I cried. The hours of commitment all rushed back as that dream had evaporated in a span of a few hours. I felt like a failure.
Somethings Stick With You: A kid on the team who had stayed behind until it was just him and I in the parking lot walked over as I was in full devastation, and gave me a hug I won’t forget. As my tears soaked through his shirt and snot ran out my nose he didn’t let go. He only said a few words, but the empathy was there. He didn’t try to justify the situation, but rather he had climbed into the dark space that I was in to let me know that I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t that he had all the answers, but he was there to share the pain and let me know it was alright to be soaked with emotion.
Looking Back: After going home and telling my family and friends in the following days the blow I had been dealt, I received plenty of sympathetic responses. Many were along the lines of “at least you got to play for a great team” and “golf is a life long skill, don’t worry about it.” These responses only made it tougher to stomach, but after each one I would think back to my teammate and the understanding he had shared. The empathy he had shown towards me stuck with me as the compassion he displayed was entirely different. To this day I still hold that vivid memory as a moment that has helped me provide that same support to those around me when those times come around to them.