My dad, Cesar Colon-Bonet, my son, Campbell and me celebrating Masters Week in 2004.
For me, the two best things about spring are the weather and the Masters Golf Tournament.
If you aren’t a golf fan, the Masters is like the Super Bowl of golf held in Augusta, Georgia at one of the most beautiful courses in the world. What I appreciate most is not only the tradition and history, but over the years witnessing the love of the game my father held so passionately.
My dad taught me to play when I was ten. As the youngest of five children, tagging along to the golf range or riding in the cart meant I had my dad’s undivided attention for several hours. To be honest, I didn’t love golf as a kid. My dad was pretty demanding as a golf teacher. But the demanding part was because he understood that doing something well required sacrifice. In this way, golf became a rich metaphor for life in my family.
My dad passed away last year during what would have been Masters week. It feels fitting and perfect that he went home to golf on the other side of heaven at that time. I smile as I imagine him, rum and Coke in hand, golfing with The Master, watching The Masters from above. (Hopefully, rum and Cokes are allowed in heaven.)
As an adult, golf still holds a complicated relationship. It’s sort of like the crazy uncle you love to be with – they are a total blast, but they frustrate you beyond belief at the same time. Even though I struggle as a golfer, the lessons stay with me. Golf is the only sport I know that the more your practice, the possibilities of not improving are still fairly high.
Golf’s greatest gift and greatest challenge is that it demands all of you. You cannot be thinking about dinner plans or last night’s argument or what you should do later. You have to be fully present to all of it. It’s easy to get lost in the challenge, nature, fellowship, and the game. Even now, after years of playing, I can’t say I’m much better than when my dad was teaching me to chip balls into tires in the backyard at age 10.
As I take stock of all I have learned from my dad, here are seven favorite life lessons I’ve learned from golf.
1. Be fully present.
2. Keep working at your game - some days will be terrible and some will be fantastic. Hold onto those fantastic shots.
3. Notice the beauty in your midst as you play.
4. It’s always a good idea to stay out of trouble – traps, woods, water.
5. You never want to be out of bounds.
6. When playing your worst, it’s a good idea to stay quiet and keep impeccable manners.
7. You are only one swing away from the next great shot.
After so many years of swinging a club, I’m learning that golf is so much more than a game. I’m grateful my dad taught me how to play. I think of him every time I pick up a club. It’s given me a deep appreciation of doing hard things for the pure fun of it. It’s given me a point of connection I share with the people I love – as it’s something my husband, my son and I can all enjoy together. It’s shown me that sometimes mastering something isn’t the point.
Golf has given me perhaps the greatest life lesson of all: just play.