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  • Writer's pictureDallas Webster

Golf is Spiritual

There are few things that can easily bring a grown man to tears in an instant, especially in a public setting around the people that heckle you the most. The hard stick of the fragility of life is one of those things.

This past weekend I took a trip to French Lick, Indiana knowing I’d get to play incredible golf, but not realizing how much the weekend would move me. We were preparing to play a 6v6 Ryder Cup style match at the famed Dye and Ross courses at French Lick. This was not originally a trip I planned on attending. With work and kids, my summers are full. Squeezing in 4 selfish days to forget about the outside world is not an easy sell to an equally stressed and busy spouse. However, late last year as the trip was being planned I had a change in perspective when the world lost Mike Leach.

Mike Leach was a football coach at my alma mater Texas Tech. He was a brilliant man that gave me some of my favorite moments in college and I had the privilege of meeting him several times. When he suddenly passed due to a heart condition at the age of 61, it rocked me more than I could have ever expected. My father happens to be in his later 60s and the reality that however much time I have with him is not enough hit me hard. Call it a midlife crisis. Maybe it is. I'm 39. That event started a snowball effect that led to me leaving my engineering career to go all in on a golf business I’d been flirting with as a side hustle for 7 years. Life is too short. I couldn't see myself waiting any longer to do what I loved and it felt like I was at risk of working a job to save money for a later life that is not guaranteed.

My buddy organizing the French Lick trip had recently gone on a similar journey leaving the same corporation to go out on his own. He encouraged me to take the plunge. I left my day job. I committed to the golf trip.

Early in this buddies trip, that same friend tipped me off that his dad was indeed dying. His body was shutting down and he only had potentially a few more days on this Earth. It was a passing moment. A small conversation between running from one scheduled item to another. I could tell he was hurting, but the time, the place, the tone just didn’t allow for exploring further.

We started the matches on the Dye course which could quite possibly be the hardest golf course I’ve ever played with narrow fairways, small greens, and brutal slopes throughout. It smacks you in the face with its raw contrast. That day we all bonded over just trying to survive the challenge and then prepared for a day that would dramatically deepen my love for this stupid game.

We played the last match of the Bourbon Cup in the morning at the beautiful Ross course. The cup ends. There were laughs, high fives, a trophy ceremony, and a quick lunch before heading out for the last round of the trip.

We saved this last round to pair up guys we hadn’t played with yet in the matches. Which put me my fellow entrepreneur, the event organizer, and two other great friends. We could not wait.

Golf went as expected for the first 8 holes. There were laughs, drinks, and great shots including an almost hole out hitting the flag stick on a par 3 and a near albatross on a par 5. It was shaping up to be another phenomenal round on a great course.

Things pivoted on the 8th hole. I don't know the exact trigger, but as I walked up to my approach shot I noticed two of my buddies embracing in the fairway. One sobbing heavily. Golf is always an escape, but there are some things you can't run from. The harsh reality that you are losing your father is one of them. I joined in on the hug and after several moments he was able to pull himself together enough to finish the hole.

As we stood on the 9th tee box waiting on the group in front to hit their approach shots, the rush of emotion came flooding back. Uncontrollable sobbing. I imagine it must have been a strange scene for anyone casually observing as the four of us stood on that 9th tee box in a long 4-way embrace and cried together. There were words of encouragement. We spoke of God and the afterlife. We whispered about peace and all the gifts his father had already given this world. It was a release I did not expect. My father is healthy, but when you start noticing the affects of age its hard not to wrestle with the realization that the day is approaching faster than you could ever prepare for. I could feel his pain and my heart hurt.

Eventually the group in front of us cleared and we all had to step up to the 9th tee box to hit a tight tee shot on a difficult par 4 while wiping tears from our eyes and trying to regroup to finish the round. One by one we all stepped up and miraculously striped some of our best tee shots of the day as if golf was telling us “it’s going to be alright. We can get through this.”

Somehow I knocked the approach close and as I walked up the hill to the 4 footer for birdie, one of my best friends in the world walked up still with tears in his eyes and said,

“I don’t know what to do D. I don’t know how to help him.”

And as we we got the green with our arms around each others shoulders I just said,

“I think we do this.”

Exactly what we were doing. Loving, supporting, and sometimes distracting from the painful world outside. Somehow I managed to make the 4 footer for birdie and just thought to myself, “this is precisely where I was meant to be at this moment. This is why I have such a passion for this game.”

Nowhere else is it so easy for four grown men in their 30s and 40s to be so authentic, emotional, and raw.

There were several more breakdowns throughout that round. More group hugs. More tears. There were arm in arm walks down the fairway between shots. Each of us took just a little more time to soak in each moment and appreciate life. Tell each other we love each other. That we appreciate each other. That we’re here for each other. These moments aren’t isolated to golf and it’s a big part of why I love all sport, but golf is unique in its pacing. In its ability to naturally foster these hard conversations and emotional moments as you travel from shot to shot and fill empty space with deep conversation. It's one of the few spaces where my friends and I don't fill dead time with mindlessly scrolling through social media. We are 100% present with each other for 4-5 straight hours. We need more of that.

This was a release we didn’t know we needed and that only golf could give us.

As we got to the 18th hole we decided to slow down and let the other two groups catch up. There were few people left on the golf course and heading in as a 12some sounded like the perfect way to end the trip. It was a chaotic mess of sprayed drivers, left handed attempts, tired golf swings, and exhausted bodies. I’m sure the rest of the golf course could hear us hooting and hollering as we rolled down that last fairway to finish off one helluva weekend.

After the round, we sat in the patio restaurant of the Ross course to have one last dinner and enjoy each others company. We relived the laughter and joy from the good shots and bad shots of the day. Drank from the Bourbon Cup trophy, which leaked through a hole where the airline had broken a handle off. We settled up on all the remaining action. Then In all the chaos of the beer driven banter, one of my buddies saw the most incredible sunset happening over our shoulders and like giddy children, those of us remaining at the table ran out to sit and watch the sunset. Fireflies flickering. Sky exploding in color. Many of us just sitting arm in arm soaking in one more moment before the long journey home in the morning.

I confess I am not the most religious individual, but these moments are spiritual. You can’t help but know that there is something much bigger going on out there. And I was put in this place for that reason to be there for a friend and to realize this life is fragile. It needs to be spent playing more golf with the people you love. I can't wait for my next round with my pops. Going to hold him just a little bit closer.

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1 Comment

John Mitman
John Mitman
Aug 07, 2023

A beautiful story, and thank you for sharing! Carpe diem, YOLO... whichever phrase you use, they're words to live by.

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