When Golf Love Is Lost… and Found

A lifer is forced to reexamine his priorities
When golf is both your profession and your pastime, accepting new, less-traditional ways to enjoy the game is vital. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

I still remember the moment. Walking off the ninth green at Troon North in Scottsdale, Arizona, I’d shot 6-under 30, the lowest of the low numbers among our group of dreamers, all hustling side jobs to pay for rent and food and skunky beer as we chased the pro dream. That was the goal, right? To win tournaments and fly private and walk into rooms where everyone is waiting for you to enter. 

That day turned out to be a high-water mark for me. My pro dream never came true. But I wasn’t ready to give up the game. I’d already worked in a pro shop, picked the range, worked outside service and caddied, so I had to find a new path. Fast-forward to today and a new dream, this one realized: an incredible job in golf media. 

Despite all that, I admit there are times my passion for the game can lag. For so many people, golf is an escape from their job. But golf is my job. Look, I know I’m lucky. I understand this can be seen as such a first-world problem. But that doesn’t mean my internal struggles aren’t real, and I am sometimes left wondering: How do I maintain the same level of enthusiasm for something that has been the most important part of my life for more than 25 years? How do I keep loving something I can never get away from?

I’ve recently discovered that these existential crises are often settled by the simplest things. The joy I used to feel from a low number has shifted to watching my 2-year-old son tinker with his Fisher-Price club, smiling wide and swinging the thing like a battering ram. I don’t care if he can’t go full Rory and smash his plastic ball through a washing-machine door—just the fact that he picks it up from his growing world of toys gives me hope and happiness.

More now than ever, I value experience over score. I never thought I’d be the guy who didn’t care what I shot, but the less time I spend playing (and let’s not even discuss practicing) means my scores will inevitably balloon. And that’s OK. If I want to pick up a 12-footer for par because my partner is already in, I should be able to do that. Does my GHIN really matter so much that I’m grinding over a putt on a Wednesday in a $10 Nassau that’s already been decided? No, thank you. Do I really need to sulk after a rough finish while I’m sitting on a balcony surrounded by friends who volunteered to take six hours out of their busy lives? I do not.

My joy is in the walks and the chuckles, the cigars and the well-struck 8-irons. The old me walking off that green in Arizona would have never believed that today I’m more invested in my playing partners’ numbers than my own, pulling hard for Andrew or Maddie or Damon to finish par-par for that career round. 

I used to lay out a weekly plan of how to get my mid-irons a little sharper. My process now is laying out a daily show that tells thought-provoking and joyful stories to golf fans.

I’ve learned that it’s OK to evolve and be open to change. I’m working on the balance needed to be as excited on the drive away from the golf course as I am on the drive there. 

In the end, I still love the game. I mean, your partner might change their hairstyle or put on different outfits, but they’re still your person. Golf is trying new looks for me, and I’m happy to report the game’s still got it. So bring the cigars, bring some music, let’s do match play and forget about the final tally. Meet me on the first tee with a smile and an excitement that on this day, at this time, we’re playing golf. The rest, at this point, doesn’t matter.