A little over a month ago, I stopped in Pittsburgh for one night on my way to Michigan for a two week stretch in the midwest. 

I stayed with my grandpa’s brother and his wife. As I followed my Aunt Ruth to my room that night I passed by many pictures that told the story of my family’s past. I saw pictures of my grandpa and his family when he was younger and pictures of the new family that he and his siblings had created. 

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Amongst the pictures that spoke a thousand words were some quotes that only spoke a few. At the top of the stairs staring me straight in the eyes were the words, “there is no greater gift than to love and be loved.” Aunt Ruth led me to my room and wished that I’d get some sleep.

As my head rested on the pillow that night, my mind wrestled with this idea of love. After all, it was love that was providing me with a pillow to lay on in the first place. Like a slideshow, the faces of all the people I love went sliding one by one through my brain. In the all consuming manner of being a professional athlete, my mind then went to my passion that I love – the game of golf. 

I remember when I first fell in love with this crooked and cruel game. My brother and I went to a local public driving range. One with the double decker hitting bays. With rental clubs and a few range balls I was all immersed in the challenge of hitting the smallest ball in sports, the longest distance possible. I was so in love, my sanity for safety went astray. After going through my bucket of fifty balls in what felt like a New York minute, I went running down the range picking up as many balls that would fit in my youth medium shirt. I dodged a few shanks, the slow descent of a flop shot and the equally fast whistle of a bladed 4 iron. It was a golf war zone. As they say, love will lead you to do stupid things. When I returned to the safety of the soft and spongy green astroturf mat, I was reminded that golf warfare wasn’t exactly the smartest approach to playing more golf. The excitement of collecting 15 more golf balls quickly dissipated as the manager of the driving range approached my brother and I. He told us to gather our things and never come back. 

I guess that was my first lesson in the heartbreak of love. One that golf would continue to teach me over and over again.

Fast forward over ten years, a billion golf swings later, and now as a professional golfer… I wondered if that love had gotten lost? Perhaps my hate for losing oozed into the love of the game. Or maybe it’s the absence of love in life on the road that left me wondering what the number one human desire feels like in the first place.

After two missed cuts in a row, my anger for the game had hit an all time max. If my car could speak it would tell you it felt the same pain from the slap the trunk received in my effort to bury my clubs as fast as possible. 

With the round and the clubs at my back, it was full throttle to my next stop. From Indiana, I made the pit stop in Nashville to stay with my sister for one night. The six hour drive was just as blurry as my five hour round. I arrived by dinner time to my favorite meal sitting on the table, but above all the warmest hug. In all the hate of the day, love returned. 

From Nashville, I drove to Charlotte, NC. Both my boyfriend and brother live there and I was excited to spend a few days with two of the most important people in my life. During my time there, I was reminded of the gentle love that comes from a significant other and the contrary tough love that can come from a big brother. 

En route home to Pennsylvania, I made my next pitstop in Washington, D.C. to see my sister and brother-in-law for the night. After 45 minutes of honking horns and inpatient drivers (I’m guilty) found I-495 North during D.C. rush hour, I received a warm welcome at their house. That is if you call the jumping of a one year old golden retriever and the timer for dinner going off a warm welcome, but I do. 

Up the next morning, I headed further north to my parents and coach in Pennsylvania. On my last stop, I’d get to spend time with the two people that loved me first. And one person that loves me and golf enough to push me past the obstacles and overcome the challenges that this crazy game will throw at you. 

I’d spend two weeks home with my coach to prepare for the final stretch of the season. My hope was that if I put enough time and effort in, I’d see improvement in my game and my love for golf would come back. Despite improvement and being showered by more love than I could possibly imagine, it didn’t. That fire that burns so hard in your soul when you love something was looking more like smoke blowing out of my ears. 

In oh so perfect timing, my oldest sister sent out a text to our family group chat in all caps “OUR WEDDING VIDEO IS OUT.” That night, on the large screen TV, as I watched my sister and now brother-in-law promise the rest of their lives to each other, I was reminded of an important lesson in love. Love is two sided. That is why the quote includes “to love and be loved.” 

It hit me then that golf was teaching me a valuable lesson about love. In order to receive its love, I had to start choosing to love the game again. 

I had to remember what I love about it in the first place. I love the nature that surrounds you as you walk the pristine grass whether it is fairway or rough. I love the competition between others and most importantly yourself. I love that feeling when you hit the ball so perfectly and the quest to repeat it over and over again. I love the many lessons, both good and bad, that the game has taught me. The way golf can be a microcosm of life and teach us ways to overcome challenges on and off the course. It is amazing when we choose love how love reverberates back. 

Similar to my experience in golf, I think in many pursuits the challenges and difficulties can overshadow the love that brought us there in the first place. However, if we choose to face those challenges with love instead of anger and hate it is amazing to see the way we can overcome and live in more peace. 

When I look back on my travels, I am thankful for all the family and friends who have showered me with unconditional love and reminded me of its power. 

Because, we can live with faith and hope but as Alan Jackson said, the greatest is love.

 

***This is the last piece in a three part sequel… Faith, Hope and Love.***