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July 2004
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September 2004

Their Coach Has My Number

Yesterday was a play day. I arose early and drove about an hour north for an 8am tee time. The course we played was designed by Pete Dye. It is simply one of the best golf values I have ever seen. The fairways are always green and lush and the greens roll fast and true.

I played 18 with my friend and shot two over par, 74. He had the same and said maybe next time we’ll do better. “Maybe you will”, I said, “I am pretty happy with my score”.

I left to head home where Ann was busy being a domestic goddess. She was making and canning her famous peach salsa that she gives for Christmas presents each year. All year long folks ask if she is going to make it again.

As I was leaving the course I remembered that I had a coupon for free green fees at another course. I would only have to pay for a cart. Riding would be fine since I walked that morning. In fact, my back and feet were saying no, no, no to another round while the little boy in me was saying yes, yes, yes. The little boy was victorious.

The starter paired me with another guy and we headed out. Soon, we caught up to the last pairing of a tournament being held that day. All of the high schools in the county were there playing. My mind and heart went back twenty-five years to the high school golf that I played in mid-Missouri. Those were some of the most enjoyable times of my life.

We finished the front nine. One of the coaches asked if he could join us for a few holes. We said sure and off we went. I birdied ten and hit my tee shot on eleven on the green. He has only played a couple years and asked how I was able to do that. I told him it was residual from years ago, winning the Missouri State High School Championship twice and playing for Missouri in college. He asked a little more about it so I told him about us winning the Big-8 my senior year.

He saw one of his coaching buddies and yelled to him that he was going to try to get this Big-12 (inflation) golfer to help with his team.

When I went to grad school in 96-97 we took some tests to see what career was best suited to our talents, interests and temperament. In the end I learned and decided that I would like to counsel, lead groups, teach AND coach a high school golf team. In my present position I counsel, lead groups, and teach. He had my attention.

The next hole he told me about his team. His kids are mainly ethnic, inner-city kids who are just beginning to play golf. They can’t break 100. He just kinda sorta queried me about coming to speak to them or help out once. I wish I could say I was overjoyed. The first, self-centered part of me resisted. I didn’t say it out loud but pride spoke in me, “I want to coach kids who can win.” As we played some more a better part of me emerged.

I began to realize that I have something better to offer these kids than my golf skills. I have my time to offer. Just showing up for these often forgotten guys at the poorest school in the county is important. I have the knowledge that winning is fun, but it isn’t more important than my growth as a man, as their growth as men. Placing my value in being a winning golfer and hiding my fears and insecurities in alcohol took me to a suicidal brink at age twenty-eight.

In college we called the person who finished last the captain of the all-s**t team. The person who finished next to last was second in command of the all-s**t team. I want to convey to them that being on the all-s**t team does not mean that you are a piece of s**t. As men we often measure our value by athletic success, bedding a woman, or having a large bank account. But these are empty measures of the heart and soul of a man.

Aslan is on the move. I want to join in. My desire is to speak candidly and directly to these young men and touch what is deepest and most true about who God made them to be as courageous, strong in heart, and compassionate masculine souls.

Their coach has my number and I look forward to his call.