In honor of the LPGA U.S. Open starting today, I thought I’d share the story of the time I singlehandedly cost my high school the 1997 State Championship women’s golf title. It is a doooozy of spectacular proportions and is an ideal parable for both the perils of making expectations about other people and the beauty of perspective.
The public high school where I spent my freshman and sophomore years was brand new at the time and happened to have among us two of the best female players in the state; we just needed a third player to qualify as a team, and because my father made his career developing golf courses and I’d grown up in Pinehurst (the original self-proclaimed “Golf Capital of the World” outside of, you know, Scotland), the organizer was adamant that I’d make a perfect candidate. Said organizer was also my volleyball coach, which was a sport in which I was admittedly pretty awesome, so she straight-up refused to believe me when I said, “I really, really can’t play golf, Coach. Seriously, this is a terrible idea” and, I assume, just thought I was being modest. She was convinced that I could go out there and “hold [my] own” since I’d been raised in a golfing family, and so, after her relentless begging for almost a month, I acquiesced.
I’ll keep this short: The three of us traveled four hours from Myrtle Beach (the other self-proclaimed “Golf Capital of the World”) across the state to the tournament, which was held in even-more-out-in-the-middle-of-Nowheresville, SC. The two girls on the team scored the best in the entire state, and we were an easy choice to take the whole thing, even if I shot an outlandish 120.
I shot 154.
I couldn’t stop laughing; it was too absurd… and then laughing about how unashamed I was about the whole thing.
I legitimately had done my best out there because I didn’t want to make a mockery of the thing deliberately. I was raised with manners, for God’s sake. And integrity.
Also, I felt genuinely sorry for the other two girls who were maybe hoping this whole thing would be a beautiful underdog story that would put our sparkling new high school on the map and possibly help them catch the eye of scouts for potential collegiate golf careers. But I’m not sure how they felt about it, really, because they made sure to never speak to me again.
However, the look of shock and horror that slowly crept across Coach’s face as she watched my swiftly-unraveling game was the funniest thing to happen on a golf course short of Bill Murray mumbling about a Cinderella story. I even told a few friends about the catastrophic ridiculousness of my game with a shrug and the honest assessment that, “I DID say it was a bad idea…”
What’s most interesting to me all these years later is this: At the time, I was of the age where I was shamed very, very easily.
Call me “overweight”? I’ll be a wreck of tears and starvation for a month.
Fart in mixed company? Not going to show my face for the next hour.
But grandly, publicly, comically botching a state championship in front of hundreds of people in a sport I absolutely don’t care about? Hilarious.
..and easily dismissed, too. This was something that not only never bothered me, but that I quickly forgot about. Telling people I played golf in a state title tournament is one of those pieces of personal trivia I reserve for games of “Two Truths and a Lie”, and people always assume that that’s the lie.
So there are two lessons here, really:
1) Shame and embarrassment are all relative to what we put value on and our individual perceptions of what “failure” actually means.
2) Don’t make assumptions on a person just because of their lifestyle’s circumstances.
Oh, and 3) I cannot effing play golf. So don’t ask.
NOTE: My sincere apologies to Katie B. and Serena (Selena?), wherever they are, who probably never found this whole thing as hilarious as I, but who never once said anything negative about it to me like total class acts. It would’ve been a real honor to play with you had I actually been playing golf that day.