The old adage “the grass is always greener on the other side,” suggests that what we want will be better than what we currently have. Too often that saying is misinterpreted. It’s not an axiom. It’s a warning, a trap we can all attest to falling into at some point. Wouldn’t it be nice to have this car or that house or that next promotion? Then we arrive there and it’s not much better than what we left behind. The only thing greater is the regret we feel for making the change in the first place.
I’m guilty of looking at other circumstances or other people's lives and thinking, ‘That would be nice.’ For example, after playing golf for 15 consecutive years and being on the road for the last two, I thought it might sound appealing to get a break. However, that break came and not when I wanted it to. As I was trending towards playing better golf and feeling good about my game, I was hit with the onset of shoulder pain. Just like that, I was sent to the other side. My clubs remained in my travel bag. I would be off the tour for an undetermined amount of time.
Although it wasn’t the timing I would have preferred, I was given what had always seemed to me like a good break. I quickly found that the grass was the same shade. I spent a lot of time thinking, ‘What do I do now?’ I played out multiple scenarios in my brain and the only solution I came to was that I wanted to get back out again.
So, what if it’s not about the grass being greener on the other side? What if, instead, it’s about making the grass below our feet sweeter?
After a two-month hiatus, I returned to life as I had previously known it. I packed up my bags and headed to Harris, Michigan for the Island Resort Championship. Ironic or not, the event would be held at Sweetgrass Golf Club.
For the first time in weeks, I felt in control. I knew what my week would look like. I knew the people surrounding me. I knew how to prepare and put myself in the best position to perform. It seems funny now because as professional golfers, what looms above our heads is the unknown - unknown outcome, paycheck, and the trajectory of our careers. All those concerns seemed trivial compared to the questions I faced working through my injury.
Lying in bed on the eve of my first round, I jotted down these thoughts:
“Venturing into the unknown is weird. Trying to predict what is behind the closed door of the future is a feat we have yet to unlock. We’re only left with peep holes. Possibilities. Potential outcomes stored in our minds. Some sights that do come true while others rest at the pillow on which they were born.
I write this as I lay in bed anticipating my first round of competitive golf after a nine-week hiatus. An unwanted break brought on by an injury. Looking back, it was time off and I tried to make the best of it, but to say it was easy would be cover. It was, indeed, hard. Never from the pain of PT, the injections, or the injury.
The difficulty was all born from the unknown. Not knowing what was going on. Not know what my next day, week, or even month would look like. Plans seemed useless so I developed strategies of being efficient day by day. Knocking off to-do lists in the least inspired manner. Reading for motivation, but often I felt more drained from the conversations that would continue between my ears. A constant murmur, trying to figure it all out. And when I mean all, I mean everything - the where, what, why’s, and when’s of life, as if I had the magic key to predict the future.
But here I am now, back in the saddle, and a return to normal life. Surprisingly, for the first time I can say in some ways I’m more comfortable under the sheets of this hotel bed than in my very own home. Only because life seems back in motion. I know what to expect.
But I still lay here wondering what tomorrow will bring. Expectations don’t currently exist. I’ve never been in those shoes before; never taken this amount of time off and never had to negotiate with my body and the golf course.
In some ways, I’m back to doing what I know. But in other ways, a new challenge has presented itself.
Lying here for the first time in weeks, I don’t fear tomorrow. I look forward to what the day may bring. Success, failure, or somewhere in between will be a gift. I know this only because when I look back at the last two months of struggle, I remember the blessings along the way. The time spent with loved ones that otherwise would have been a figment of my imagination. A trip to the mountains where, for the first time, my golf bag didn’t ride in the trunk. The complex conversations with my dad learning the anatomy of my shoulder, but the lessons extended to life. The nights I spent laying on my fiancé's chest leaving water marks on his shirt. In those moments of struggle, we discovered new depths of each other’s hearts. A hidden blessing.
So, the lesson from my time away is simple. Jump right in. Don’t fear what’s next. Don’t stay fixated on your plans. Chances are something will change. Whether you like it or not, I promise there’s good in all of it. Sometimes it takes a lot of soul searching only to realize it’s been in front of your eyes the whole time. Maybe you’ll land on realizing the greatest gift of all - our lives today.”
Throughout the week, I was very calm - simply trying to appreciate the moment I was in. It was highlighted by the great hospitality from the Island Resort Casino and the staff at Sweetgrass Golf Club. Tournament host Tony Mancilla understood making the current grass sweeter. Upon registration, each player was gifted with 100 two-dollar bills - a gesture to say thank you for coming. The truth is we are the ones grateful to be there. Thirty-some players had the opportunity to compete in “The Basters”, an onsite fishing competition. The winning team was awarded in cash. Floods of sponsors poured in for the two-day pro-am and a tournament banquet on Thursday night. Tony took the mic and shined again. Distributing awards, gifts and cracking jokes that created a room full of laughter. Everyone was living in the now and it was easy to enjoy the present.
My week on the course was solid. Finishing 2-under par for the event, but more importantly, I walked away pain-free and with feedback on what I needed to work on.
After finishing my round Sunday, I headed to Green Bay, Wisconsin for my flight. I spent the afternoon being a tourist in the town of the Packers. Lambeau field surpassed my expectations and the whole community had a special feel about it. This was a place where people made the grass sweeter and in fact greener.
On my way out, I stopped by the Green Bay Packers Pro Shop to grab a gift or two. I walked by the coffee mugs that were stamped with some of Vince Lombardi’s most famous quotes. One of them read, “the measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”
Those words hit home hours before my feet officially would. Life or golf is about making the grass below our feet sweeter, not looking for the greener grass. Whether that direction points toward a detour or a faster route to the unknown, therein lies the thrill.
Today is full of learning with open eyes for tomorrow. This life is short. Make it sweet.