Let me start at #1. Standing on the first tee. Not knowing what to expect. I am full of hope that this could be one of the greatest rounds of my life. Such a thrill to even be able to stand there. But also very scary. Knowing that this is where the greats of golf have stood. Having seen for myself the pitfalls that lie ahead. Having seen people conquer the course and and be counted among the legends of Master’s history and having seen shipwrecks take place – also taking their place in Master’s history. What will this round hold for me?
What will this life hold for me?
So I have a choice from the get go. Do I play on knowing that it very well might not be pretty, but also knowing that there might be some great moments along the way, some memories to be made? Or do I say, “There’s no way I could ever play like those guys on TV so why even play at all.”
I choose to play! Just like I choose to live and try to conquer all the ups and downs of life. Expecting that life will at times be painful, but also enjoying the indescribable thrill of playing the game and waiting for that one shot, that one moment, that will energize me and keep me going. I endure the mundane so that I can enjoy the magnificent!
On to Amen Corner…
First, hole #11. One of the hardest holes on the course. It demands that you start well if you want to finish well. It calls for courage and finesse and creativity. This is where Larry Mize broke Greg Norman’s heart in 1987 with an improbably 140 foot chip in from off the green to win the green jacket (which incidentally, Jack Nicklaus, as the ’86 champion helped him slip on). The thrill of victory. The agony of the defeat. It is said that The Masters does not really even begin until the back nine of Sunday’s round. You have to survive 10, 11, and 12 to get to the 13, 14, and 15.
Life. Sometimes it is about surviving. And at times when we are just trying to stay alive… we thrive. I have found that it is often when I am in survival mode that God teaches me the most. He sharpens me. He shapes me. He prepares me to deal with the tough times of life and equips me to handle with humility the good times of life. But sometimes in life when things are tough… they just get tougher.
On to #12!
So here I am, standing on the tee box of one of the greatest golf holes in the world – #12 at Augusta National. It has been called the “hardest par 3 in the game of golf”. This is for several reasons…
1) The target is small and runs from east to west not north to south – which means that I must choose the right club if I have any chance of getting it on the green.
2) The swirling winds – The wind might be doing one thing on the tee box, but something completely different on the green. You just never know – and it could change between the time you hit the ball and the time that it lands back on planet earth. You just never know.
3) The crowds that are watching – everyone knows that if you are in the hunt on Sunday at the Masters that this little hole could very well define who wins and who loses. Everyone is watching. Everyone is holding their breath. Everyone is waiting to see how you will determine your destiny. You may not win the tournament on this one hole – but you could very well lose it.
4) The emotions created by the drama of the moment – I can only imagine how nervous I would be. Golf is a head game. You have to be able to control your emotions. You can’t think too much. You have to trust your swing and your game what “brung you” to this point.
A little history. In 1980 this is where Tom Weiskopf put 5 balls in the water and made a 13 in the first round. In 1992 this is where Fred Couples made a miraculous par after his ball semi-plugged into the bank above Rae’s Creek. This is where Tom Watson double bogeyed in 1991 costing him the tournament and losing to Ian Woosnam. In 1997, Tiger Woods came to the hole with a ten-shot cushion. Despite his commanding lead, Woods couldn’t help but smile and then exhale once his tee shot found the green.
It is thrilling… yet scary! Beautiful… yet intimidating! Daunting… yet dangerous!
But this is life. It is thrilling. But it can be hard. It is scary but it can be fun. It is beautiful but it can turn ugly. But it is times like this when I feel most alive. It is times like this when memories are being made, when stories are being written. Mark Batterson said in one of his books a quote I have never forgotten, “We ought to live the kind of life that is worth telling stories about.” I like that. I like that a lot!
On to #13.
It is a hole where you can come away with eagle. but it is just as easy to come away with double bogey. It is a startlingly beautiful hole. The hundreds of azalea bushes providing a gorgeous backdrop to the perils that lurk just one shot away. Last year this is where Phil Mickelson took control of the tournament with his bold 2nd shot out of the pine straw, under the trees, over the creek, onto the green. It was a ridiculously amazing shot that captured in one moment what this hole is all about. Risk and Reward! In 1985, Curtis Strange came to #13 with a 3 stroke lead, went for the green with a 4-wood, hit into Rae’s Creek and wound up making bogey on his way to a back-nine collapse. He never won The Masters. Risk and Reward!
But isn’t that what makes life worth living. You can sit in the stands or you can play the game. If you choose to sit you can expect to experience life vicariously. But if you choose to play you can expect ups and downs, thrills and disappointments, joy and pain. But at the very least you will have some great stories to tell along the way.
I want to play!
So this is one reason why I so very much look forward to The Masters every year. For me, it is great metaphor for life. And it reminds me why the game of golf is such a great game – but even more importantly, why God created me to live a life of purposeful adventure.
I’m just sayin’!