You’re likely to find me with a bucket of balls at the driving range any given Saturday.
I learned how to play golf when I was 12 years old. Every summer weekend, my dad would take me and my two little brothers, ages 9 and 6 at the time, to golf lessons at the course where we had a family membership.
Eventually, after a few weeks of lessons, my dad took the three of us onto the course, and we’d play nine. It was challenging.
There’s one hole, the fourth hole, we call the “water hole” because you have to hit the ball over a pond to get it in play on the green.
I’d take out my driver and square up on the tee. The whole time, I would think the 12-year-old version of “What the f*ck?” But, my dad was patient.
Even if I lobbed three golf balls in a row into the air, and all of them landed with a heart-wrenching “plop” into the water, my dad would be nothing but encouraging. He’d give me pointers on my stance or how to keep my left arm straight in the back swing.
He was the same way with my brothers -- always patient and always encouraging. He was never critical or upset when we’d lose golf balls in the water or the rough. The only thing we weren’t allowed to do on the golf course, or in life, was give up.
This was back in 1998, when some of you were born. There were very few kids golfing back then. Tiger Woods won his first major in 1997, so golf was just beginning to take off as a sport that had exciting potential for young people.
Before Tiger became the poster boy for bad behavior, he was the poster boy for the benefits of learning to play golf at a young age. So, my dad wanted all three of us kids to learn early, even me.
Let’s face it: Most girls don’t golf. Golf is like the manliest sport out there. You have to wear khakis and polo shirts to play. There’s a clubhouse.
You drink beer before and afterwards, and pretty much every guy at the golf course looks like he stepped out of a Brooks Brothers ad (which absolutely is not a bad thing at all).
There's also what you overhear when you eavesdrop on a bunch of dudes approaching the 10th hole on a spring day. Whoever said guys don’t gossip about relationships is wrong.
A group of guys playing 18 holes will chatter about women with a verve equal to Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha. (Hearing all this, it’s probably making you wonder why you don’t golf.
The truth is, if you’re a lady, you probably should learn because it’s really fun. Get out there!)
My dad was determined I learn to play. That’s the way I was raised: to be equal to the boys and never feel any different.
We got to drive the golf carts. Driving a golf cart continues to be awesome, by the way. At the ninth hole, he'd call in an order for food at the clubhouse.
Our chicken tenders and fries would be waiting for us when we finished. Dad suggested we drink it with sweet tea, so that's what we did.
My dad and mom are both from Boston. They're Northerners, so there's absolutely no reason my dad should love sweet tea, the most Southern of all beverages. But, he does.
My dad barely has any free time. He’s a specialized doctor, an interventional radiologist, who works constantly. He’s always on-call, and when he’s not working, he’s checking his emails.
But, somehow he hardly ever missed my swim meets or my brothers' baseball games. He's always been there for us.
He told me golf courses are where a lot of business deals get made. He didn’t want me to ever feel left out in the business world if a group went golfing.
He wanted me to be able to go not as someone hanging around and watching, but as someone who could actually play.
I still compete with the boys.
As I became more focused on swimming and academics in high school, I stopped golfing. I was too busy. In college, I was busy with, well, the typical college stuff.
I was taking shots of cheap rum known as Sir Francis Drake (my friends and I called it "Sailing The Seven Seas"), spending all day Sunday in the library, dreading turning 21 because the glory days would be over, etc.
Gradually, as the years went by, and I got jobs and boyfriends (and ex-boyfriends and ex-jobs), I forgot I’d learned how to play golf.
My golf clubs sat in the garage of my parent’s house in Virginia, collecting a thick layer of dust along with the old tennis rackets, bicycles and baseball gloves we’d grown out of.
Then, about a year ago, my dad suggested we all go golfing together. We were all home watching TV. A major golf tournament happened to be on. My brothers and I were in town, and I looked at my dad incredulously.
Golfing? Me? I hadn’t held a golf club in 15 years. My mom hadn't even golfed with us before, and my dad suggested she join us.
It’s one of the best decisions I've ever made.
We got to the driving range, and I dusted off my 5-iron. I stood with the golf ball in the middle of my stance. I tried to remember to keep my left arm straight in the back swing. Then, I hit the ball.
It skidded off the tee and went about 30 feet, barely clearing the tee boxes on the range. It was like I hit a grounder in baseball. My face flushed, I refused to look at all the cute guys golfing around me. I felt so embarrassed.
Golfing isn’t like riding a bike: If you don’t swing a golf club for a while, you lose the feel for it.
I wanted to give up. I wanted to step away, sit down in my golf-appropriate capris and check Facebook.
Basically, I wanted to do just about anything in the world except hit another golf ball and experience public humiliation. Private humiliation is so much better.
But, I looked up and saw my mom, who was struggling to hit the golf ball cleanly just like me, place another ball on the tee. My mom, who didn't learn how to play golf as a kid like I had, refused to give up.
So, how could I justify giving up?
I took a cue from my mom and put another golf ball on the tee and tried again.
A year has passed. Now, I can hit the ball about 150 yards off the tee, and I clear the pond about 85 percent of the time on the “water hole."
Occasionally, I’m a par golfer, though I do hit off the ladies tee. Though they give me a significant advantage over my dad, he still hits it farther.
Through picking up golfing again, I’ve learned how important it is to never give up and to always expect the best of myself.
I practice. You don’t get better in a day, and it takes time. You have to work on it. Nothing worth doing or striving for is going to be easy.
That’s what sports teaches you.
When it comes to dating, my dad taught me to remember three words: kindness, fairness and respect. Find a guy who treats you this way, and you’ve found a winner.
He always encouraged me to put myself first and to focus on my own goals and my career. Once those things panned out, a relationship would fall into place. He used to tell me, "You can't fish for tuna in a pond." This is true. You can only catch tuna in the ocean.
You have to put yourself out there and set yourself up to be in the best position you can in life.
So far, I’m still looking. I’m confident I’ll find that guy, who not only treats me with kindness, fairness and respect, but who also challenges me to be the best I can be, just like my dad always has.
I know a special guy is out there, and if there’s one thing I’ve been taught, it’s to never give up.