It never changes. “A ‘B’ and two green dots.” That’s the script I read to all my playing partners on the first tee of each round, a short, simple description of how I mark my golf ball. Some may think I do this just because I like my first initial and two green dots. But for me, it stands for “Boo,” which has a deeply personal meaning and is a reminder of why I’m out here.
Growing up, my family often called me Brynnie Boo and sometimes Boo for short. I felt like that name was me - a little goofy, sweet, fun, and somewhat intimidating to my competitors. Since I first started marking my golf ball that way a decade ago, it’s been like a tattoo on every Titleist Pro V1x that looks at me on the first tee. I’ve donated a few to backyards, fed a few to fish or alligators, and awakened the birds and the bees sleeping in the woods by rattling a few off of trees. Regardless, the next fresh ball always screamed “BOO” at me.
That is, until last week.
For the first time ever, I didn’t hit my ball. After missing a drive a little right in the rough, I walked up to a spot where a person was pointing at a ball. That’s standard in the professional game, no matter what tour you play. I’m always astounded when I watch PGA Tour coverage and see people in a gallery running through the rough in order to stand over an errant tee shot from their favorite player. Our galleries aren’t quite that large or enthusiastic, but we almost always have someone watching who points out a ball they’ve seen or found. The one being pointed out to me last week was sitting somewhat deep, nestled under a few blades of grass. With only one hole left in my round, I lackadaisical went about my pre-shot routine and executed the shot. I punched it out into a greenside bunker.
A few minutes later, when I heard the squish of the sand as I stepped into the bunker, the ball scared me. It wasn’t because it said “Boo.” Rather, it didn’t say anything at all. It wasn’t my ball.
I called over an official and before I knew it, I was being shuttled back to my ball having been assessed a two-stroke penalty. Just like that, I was drawing a snowman, an 8, on my scorecard.
I was angry at myself, frustrated at the idiosyncrasy of doing something I had never done before in a game I had played my entire life. In some ways, I couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened. In all the years I’ve played competitive golf, I’ve always played my ball - an ode to my usual diligence about identifying it.
At the conclusion of my round, I signed my scorecard, shut my clubs in the trunk of the car, and made my way back to the hotel, all the while wrestling with how my day had unfolded. I soon realized I should just forget it all. At some point in the near future, I’ll reflect and realize the broader meaning of this particular situation.
Now, seven days removed and almost a thousand miles away from that hole, I’ve come to a conclusion.
When the road gets long, and we grow weary, it’s easy to slip up and not play your own ball - to try on someone else’s shoes hoping they will walk in the direction you want to go, or to forget the special marks that make you who you are. It’s probably the reason I didn’t check in on Boo. I’d lost touch with the inner child, the special traits that make me different. Whether it’s my style of play, my particular way of preparation, how I treat others, or the smile that usually adorns my face, somewhere in my exhaustion, I lost sight of some of the special things that make up Brynnie Boo.
At each event, you’ll find roughly 130 players, each unique in their attire, swing, personality, and in the version of the dream they are chasing. That’s what makes this tour, sports, and life special. It can all be boiled down to how we mark our golf balls.
The short lesson - never forget to take the time. Always remember who you are, no matter how tired you are or how or monotonous your day, week, or year might be. Never forget to look at the little things, to check the marks you’ve made. And to make sure you are playing your own ball.