Every Failure Is A Lesson

No. 3 Outlaw at Desert Mountain. For a lush spring, we let it go dormant in the winter.

I was playing with another pro on our Outlaw Course at Desert Mountain here in Scottsdale. It wasn’t anything that was set up, it was all good timing. I was warming up on the range for an open-ended tee time when he showed up too. I’d played with Alan before, but not for quite a long time.

Since I was by myself, I invited him to join me and added one last piece of information in case it mattered to him, “I’m walking if it matters to you.”

“So am I,” he replied, a relief to both of us, I’m sure. Carts are nice, but there’s something about packing your bag over the land. It seems more purposeful.

And what ensued was a leisurely stroll in the park with golf clubs, with both of us just trying to make good golf shots. He told me that he was working on making sure his backswing didn’t go past parallel and I told him I just wanted to make sure mine was getting to parallel. We were fighting the different battles that attach to age.

He talked about his aspirations of making one last run at playing professionally–he’s that good–and I spoke about my one and only foray into playing professionally, albeit one that lasted nine years on the Champions Tour.

It was a beautiful day with some pretty good golf shots, each of us providing a second pair of eyes to the other. Professionals do not offer unsolicited advice. We each just wanted to know where our backswings were at the top and just that one piece of information was all we needed to make the myriad of possible corrections to get there. Anything else would have been like asking, “Did you know that your right knee is outside your left shoulder?” It would have been so incongruent and nonsensical to two minds trying to pay attention to something so completely different.

I was once watching another professional friend working with the belly putter before they became all the rage. Since this guy could routinely shoot in the low 60’s, I wondered why he would even bother.

In any event, he was rolling putt after putt and was a little exasperated with the results. And suddenly, I was able to see precisely why. “You know, you don’t have the butt of the club pressed against your belly.” That’s the whole modus operandi of the belly putter. I thought I was such a helpful wizard. A diagnostician extraordinaire. What a friend I was!

“I don’t want it against my belly,” he snapped.

Gulp! I couldn’t believe I had done that. I knew better. And I spent the next minute and a half telling him so and apologizing profusely.

For men, maybe it’s all about ego, not wanting to appear vulnerable to a peer. Or maybe it’s a psychological recoil from years of fathers telling us we’re doing it wrong. But whatever it is, it cuts off the accumulated wisdom of some pretty specialized knowledge.

So anyway, that’s the depths of the collegial round Alan and I were enjoying. And somewhere on the 10th hole, one of us hit a 20-handicap shot and I don’t remember which one of us or which shot. But what I do remember was the freedom and permission in the relationship that caused me to jocularly blurt out the title of today’s post, “Every failure is a lesson.” And we both wryly acknowledged the truth of it in our own experience.

I wasn’t even going to write about this engaging morning I spent with Alan. But after yesterday’s post on Steve Stricker’s win in Kapalua, his patience and positive outlook that won it for him just seemed to tie into my experience perfectly.

You’ll recall that Stricker 3-putted the par-5 5th for a par and then one of the best putters on Tour did the same thing on 6 for bogey. And he admitted to standing on the back of the 6th green furious with himself.

But by the time he was walking down the 7th fairway, he realized how self-defeating that was, “I always go back and forth,” he said. “So I kind of tried to reverse it a little bit and make myself feel good.”

Playing from “feeling good” is a lot better place than feeling bad or worse, anger. It is so easy to let the game hook you over a bad hole or shot. The next time we feel it happening to us, we just need to remember that the Tour’s Golden Boy doesn’t let it happen to him. And for now, he’s sitting pretty as the winner of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the No. 5 player in the world.

As to us, we get to learn the lessons of failure more clearly.

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One Response to Every Failure Is A Lesson

  1. chris says:

    Many good points in your post. Playing from a “happy place” does make a difference whether it’s golf or tennis. Also no one likes to be “coached” especially while in a match. Sometimes it’s tough to restrain but it is always the better choice. I enjoyed your post a lot today…I could relate. Best to you. Chris