In my last few written musings, I’ve promised that as the new season approaches, I would share the most valuable lessons I learned from my first year on tour. I knew which event I wanted to start with - my biggest highlight of the year. But before sitting down to write this piece, I went back through my archives to make sure I wouldn’t repeat myself. In revisiting my own writing, I realized that would not be a problem.
As I scrolled through the titles of each piece, I found a kinship between them. Almost all were written from a place of hardship or defeat. I’d written about some of my most difficult moments and turned them into lessons to lift me up and move forward.
One of the best sportswriters of all time would agree. In 1949, Red Smith was asked how difficult it was to churn out a daily column. Smith said, “There is nothing to writing. You simply sit down at a typewriter, open a vein and bleed.”
Contrary to Smith’s belief - for the purpose of this piece - I am going to flip the script.
It was the dog days of summer and the dead middle of the season. I was in Indiana for the first time in my life. I found myself in the hometown of basketball legend, Larry Bird - also known as the “Hick from French Lick.” It was my third week of a five-week stretch. After enduring the ups and downs of the season, I went into this week with the sheer goal of enjoying it.
After an hour drive from the Louisville airport, I arrived at the site of our event, The Donald Ross Course. Once I checked in at the pro shop, I headed to the first tee to play a quick evening nine. In all the unfamiliarity of my surroundings, looking out at the Donald Ross design made me feel at home (I grew up on a Donald Ross course). It took me back to when I couldn’t get enough of the game. The joy I felt playing with my friends at St. David’s Golf Club and the never-ending quest to fit more holes into the limited hours the sunlight provided. As I teed my ball up on the first hole, I was zoned in with the goal to embody that spirit for the duration of the week.
Shortly after hitting my first shot, I heard a voice in the background ask, “Do you mind if I join?” It was Casey Danielson. I had never met Casey, but I’d heard her name from her Epson Tour win earlier in the season. From the first tee to the ninth green, conversation was a constant. Casey shared her journey in golf, and I shared mine. With a win already behind her, I expected Casey to be at ease with the rest of the season. I was surprised when she shared that she started to feel more pressure and had started missing cuts. It led her to hire a sports psychologist. Coincidentally it is the same one I worked with in college. We talked about the importance of creating a balance between golf and life, enjoying the game while letting the results happen. It seemed to fit well with my goal of enjoyment throughout the week.
Fortunately, I was paired with a great group for the first two rounds. I was having so much fun enjoying their company and getting to know the volunteers that I almost forgot about golf itself.
Until I arrived at the eighteenth green during my final round and saw my name at the top of the leaderboard. Even then, I committed to letting go and enjoying the week.
Round two, I got off to the same start. When thoughts of outcome entered my mind, I took up a new conversation with my playing partners. Anything to distract and return my focus to enjoying the day. At the end of round two, I was five under and two strokes behind the leader, Casey Danielson, which was fitting.
My sister, Colby, drove up from Nashville to caddie for the final round. Despite being in contention, I was the calmest I felt all year. When Colby arrived, we went out to dinner and didn’t say a word about golf. She actually had no idea how well I was doing until I told her there is a chance I could win.
In round three, I picked up where I left off. I was having fun and birdies were coming easily. It felt more like Colby, and I were on a walk with our dogs than playing to win a tournament. I arrived on the ninth green and got a glimpse of a leaderboard for the first time. Colby came up to me, “Wow, Brynn, your name is up there! That’s a good thing, right?” I laughed and said, “I know Colbs. Yes, it’s a good thing.” She quickly responded, “Alright, well, let’s keep having fun.”
I made a birdie on 11 and poured in a long putt on 12 for another one. After reaching down to pick up the ball from the hole, I took a quick glance at Colby who was smiling ear to ear. My eyes drifted from her smile to the leaderboard behind her. Casey and I shared the lead at 10-under par.
Next to the leaderboard was the only bathroom until we got to the eighteenth green. The last thing I wanted was to be crossing my legs as I came down the stretch to win my first event as a professional. So, I quickly ran to the bathroom and met Colby on the tee of the par-three 13th.
If you ask Colby now, she’ll tell you that she wishes she’d never let me go to the bathroom. Supposedly, when I got back, I had a different look on my face. I proceeded to make a double bogey on 13 and follow that up with a bogey on 14. Fun wasn’t really in my vocabulary at that moment. Colby did her best to pick me up. But I felt the tournament slipping away.
I continued to charge on, trying to make birdies in the last four holes. They weren’t coming as easily as they did during the 50 holes prior. I went for a sucker pin on eighteen which led to a missed green and an impossible up and down. Another double-bogey there not only took away my chances of winning but pushed me out of the top five. I’d have to settle for a top ten.
Casey went on to win her second event and secure her LPGA Tour card for the following year. The week truly came full circle.
At the completion of the round, Colby hugged me and said, “please don’t get down, you did so good.” Unfortunately, I didn’t see it that way at that moment. The enjoyment of such a wonderful week was tainted by great disappointment. I tried to let go and enjoy the next day with my sister, but there was still a churning in my gut.
Looking back, I have no regrets for the tournament that week - only the moments after. That top ten was my best finish of the year. I should have celebrated the milestone instead of focusing on a shortcoming. Successes come too infrequently not to embrace them. And life is too short not to enjoy proud moments along the way.
One day my clubs will be on a shelf and my days of professional golf will be a far distant memory. I imagine my older self won’t wish I did something more to win the event. Because the facts are, I put forth my best effort and it wasn’t meant to be.
When there are a few more wrinkles on my face and the clumps of calluses are no longer on my hands I think I’ll wish I’d been prouder of myself in that moment. I hope with more years behind me I’ll see that it all happens too fast to ignore those small yet incremental milestones. And life is just too short only to celebrate our biggest successes.
I guess the lesson from the good weeks or good days is to take pride and celebrate. Share them with others and smile at the success, because you don’t know when something like that will come again. Live it up and live this life to the fullest.
Because, unlike golf, we only get one round.