Bobby, my older brother, has and always will be my hero. You see my brother always wanted the best for me, constantly showering me with praise and doing everything possible to build up my confidence. He was a great mentor and motivator, leading by example. He taught me to love the game of golf. He would always tell me that with a lot of sweat and hard work I could become a great player. I worked very hard, sometimes hitting up to 500 balls a day and became as great as my brother had always said I would be. Or at least that is what I thought!
During my teenage years I began to compete in golf tournaments. I quickly found out that playing golf for fun and competing in tournaments was two completely different things. What set them apart from each other is what I like to call the “little voice”. You know, the “little voice” in your head telling you, “Don’t hit the ball in the water, or don’t three putt”. The “little voice” had never been around when I playing just for fun, thinking I was the next Arnold Palmer. I quickly became very confused and did not understand what was going on in my own head. On one hand I would hear my brothers strong and confident voice telling me how great I was and that I was a champion. Then without skipping a beat the “little voice” would be telling me all the things that I did not want to hear. I began to ask myself, what is going on here? Am I a choker? Listening to the “little voice” began to drain all the confidence that my brother had worked so hard to instill in me. Now I was letting him down. The pressure began to mount and I began to fear competing. I told myself, maybe if you work just a little harder the “little voice” will go away, but that didn’t happen. I became overwhelmed with the “little voice” and began to see it, as my archenemy. I would never be able to defeat it.
To put this in perspective, I was a member of a high school golf team rich with tradition. We won multiple State Championships and I knew I was the best player on the team. But, I was never the best player on the team, if that makes any sense. You see everyone around me knew I could play much better than I was scoring in tournaments. In practice rounds I was Arnold Palmer, but in qualifiers and tournaments I was Arnold Zieffle (for those of you to young, he was the pig in Green Acres, a 70’s TV show). I would always play well enough to qualify and good enough in tournaments to help my team win. However, there was never any satisfaction because I knew I was so much better than the “little voice” would allow me to be.
The summer after my freshman year in college I was back home playing what we in West Texas call the Bar-B-Q circuit. These are golf tournaments played in every small town all across West Texas for prizes, with a Bar-B-Q dinner held after the first round on Saturday night. I played in a partnership tournament with an old teammate from high school, which we won. Sounds good, right! Well, I was lucky to have a real good and I mean real good partner. Playing with an old friend was a wonderful experience, but it was a conversation we had after the tournament that changed my world and began a lifetime of enjoying competition.
Just a couple of weeks after winning the tournament with my buddy I was attempting to qualify for the Texas State Amateur in Del Rio, Texas. The round started out very familiar with the “little voice” in my head as I headed to the first tee. The first hole is a short par 3 and I kind of gagged a nine iron on the green and somehow two putted for my par. Two guys in the group birdied the hole and my first thought was GREAT, I’m already one down. The second hole is a relatively easy par 5. I hit an ok drive that got a real good kick and ended up only 195 yards from the flag. As I walked off the tee I began to recall the conversation I had with my friend from the victory a couple of weeks earlier. He had asked me why I did not score as well as I played. I told him about the “little voice” and he laughed. I could not believe that he laughed at me this was my friend. But then he posed a question and gave me the best piece of advice in the world. He said, well whom does the “little voice” work for? What? He said, tell the “little voice” you’re the boss and that it works for you. I said I’d give it a try.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. So, here I am, trying to qualify for the Texas State Amateur. Standing in the middle of the second fairway and I am about to become the boss. It is my first day on the job and I hear the “little voice” say don’t go left there is OB and don’t go right because there is a river. I said fine, then where should I hit it? No, answer! I said where should I hit it? Then I heard the “little voice” say, you can aim at the bunker on the left and hit a little cut 5 iron on the green. I get over the shot and the “little voice” says you’re still nervous, don’t hit it OB or in the river. I kind of grumbled to myself who’s the boss around here anyway? Out of nowhere I proclaimed in a loud enough voice that everyone in the group could hear me, “You know, a great player would hit this close and make an eagle”. I pulled it back and let it rip. The ball started right at the bunker and cut slightly right, hitting the green and rolling to within 4 feet of the pin. One putt later and it’s an eagle three.
I went on to qualify for the first of six appearances in the Texas State Amateur. I have been able to win many individual amateur tournaments. I have qualified and played in various national amateur tournaments all over the country. I say this not to boast, but to let you know that I became the boss of the “little voice” and it has become my best employee. God gave the “little voice” to me as a gift. My love of golf has given me countless opportunities to share my faith with others as we play and compete. There is trouble everywhere in life, not just on the golf course. Fear can consume and control our lives. God has given each one of us talents to be used for his glory. Overcome your “little voice” and use your talent for God’s glory.
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