Usually, in sports, you don’t want to look back. It’s said that “the best athletes have the shortest memory.” However, this one time, I was thankful to look into the rearview mirror.

I was 12 years old, and up until this point, I had not lost a golf tournament that I played. I played in local tournaments, but to me, I was competing on the biggest stage. On this hot July day, I found myself walking down the ninth fairway one down in the final match of our local Philadelphia Junior Match-Play Championship

I was up against a local rival one year older than me. My approach shot left me about an 8-foot putt for birdie to extend the match to playoff holes. In my mind, this putt wasn’t to extend the local match play championship; it was to enter a playoff to win the U.S. Women’s Open.  

To my surprise, the putt lipped out. I LOST. The only other times I had lost before was in baseball, basketball and football. That experience is entirely different. When you lose on a team, you have teammates to go through the loss with you. This time, it was just me. 

The only other person with me was my godfather, Uncle Drew. I owe a great deal of credit to my Uncle Drew for my early success. As many of you may know, golf requires a significant time commitment. Between the four hour rounds and the long hauls to different courses, a tournament is an all-day endeavor. It’s not quite as easy as driving to the local ballpark and playing a Little League game at four and being back for dinner by seven. Anyway, while my parents were busy working and making sure my other three siblings made it to their sporting events, Uncle Drew took me under his wing, and we began the competitive golf journey together. Despite the long car rides listening to Led Zeppelin and the Pedialyte forced down my throat on the scorching hot days, I look back with great nostalgia for the memories we shared on those summer days.

Uncle Drew was always there. Sometimes he’d hide behind trees because he was afraid he’d make me nervous, but I knew he was always watching. Except, after that putt, he was nowhere to be seen. I rushed to the locker room to call my mom. In disarray and sadness, I tried to say the words, “Mom, I didn’t win. I lost.” Somehow she thought I was saying, “I don’t know where Drew is. I’m lost.” She told me to look for Uncle Drew and that she’d see me soon. 

I walked out of the locker room and saw my Uncle Drew standing at the car with the trunk open to put my clubs. He had it all ready to go and told me we were going to get some ice cream. I must say, the thought of black raspberry ice cream sliding down my throat helped ease this foreign pain.

As we made our way to the local ice cream parlor, he said to me, “look in the rearview mirror.” I was thinking, great, another reminder of the heart-wrenching experience I just walked away from. Then he said, “soon, that is where she will be,” he continued, “now look through the windshield and envision where you want to go. Work hard, and your windshield will be your reality, and this will be in your rearview mirror.” Then it hit me that the lesson he was trying to teach me was less about looking back and more about moving forward.  

This lesson has stuck with me throughout my career. I have found it vital for me to take time to look back at the obstacles, competitors and challenges I’ve overcome. However, it is even more important to look forward to the windshield and remember where I want to go. To this day, the windshield hasn’t changed. I’m the same little girl with a big dream.