I was once told that “if you forget golf, golf will forget you.” – by Eric Gustilo no less. For this writer, it cannot be truer than this moment in his mediocre golfing life. It seems that for now, the game of golf and I have indeed forgotten each other. I have just gone to the range and hit a few buckets of balls. Somehow, however slowly, some muscle memory is coming back and I’m learning to remember how to play the game again. But for some reason, golf can’t seem to remember me.
I was introduced by Bro Babes Javellana during my early BCBP days into what he calls a thinking man’s training grid. Because of the rut I’m in now, the grid has taken on a whole new meaning. This grid ranged as follows:
Starting from the state of being (1) unconsciously unskilled – this brought me back to 2005 when I first held a 7 iron in my hand and skulled my first ball – “I thought hitting a golf ball in real life was as easy as it was on Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’11 on my Nintendo Wii – but No!
(2) Consciously unskilled – I am now aware that I am unable do a proper swing despite following the tips from those back issues of Golf Digest. The sensation of hitting my first tee is akin to taking a bungee jump from a 100 foot high platform. My golf pro instructor senses that he’s gonna make a lot of money teaching me.
(3) Consciously skilled – I am now able to break 110. I can hit the ball to wherever I want it to land – more than 50% of time – the other 50% makes me wish that there were more than 2 mulligans for every 18 holes. I now possess some audacity in joining the unavoidable betting.
To the final goal of being (4) unconsciously skilled – like second nature – like Phil Mickelson at the Masters at Augusta, like Grame Mcdowell at Celtic Manor at the Ryder Cup. This has not happened yet. For now I’m stuck in (2) bordering on (3).
Tony Yupangco who frequently plays with BCBP Alabang once shared to me the thought that if you play golf only once a week, then your front nine is your practice round. Actually for me and perhaps some other souls, the whole 18 holes indeed becomes your practice round. Even the truisms learned in primary school seems to be brought back to memory, including: “Practice makes perfect” and “Repetition is the mother of learning.”
Golf and one’s spiritual life share a common place in my attitude and correct (!) thinking. Just take a look at the four stages in the training grid and compare them to your prayer life and, then, to your spiritual life. And the Lenten Season is just the right time to do this.
So here goes a little self-evaluation: 1) Unconsciously unskilled – prayer life is routine and limited to a hurried Sign of the Cross when passing a church and a mumbled Amen before sleeping. 2) Consciously unskilled – aware that my prayer life lacks something, actually probably lacks a lot of things, not sure what to do about it but willing to try and learn. 3) Unconsciously skilled – I now have a personal relationship with God and talk things over with Him, although I still need to practice listening to what He has to tell me, and even more so, to practice willingly following His plans for me. 4) Consciously skilled – this is bordering on holiness already, when striving to do God’s will enthusiastically and passionately will become second nature to me.
Again, like in golf, now I’m kinda stuck in (2) and bordering on (3). I draw comfort from what I once heard in a homily … that holiness is a journey not a destination, so we must enjoy the journey, no matter how difficult or stressful it may seem to us at the moment. So (4) here I come!
Practicing the correct prayer habits, I discovered long ago is one of the more important keys to having a constant and fulfilled BCBP life. Habits are born out of doing anything you love, of practicing your passion more often. This sounds quite expensive in terms of golf but I say it is worth a shot (pun intended) in one’s prayer and spiritual life. For the sake of comparison, what some of us golfers experience in terms of bad golfing days can be likened to, perhaps, spiritual dryness, in one’s spiritual life.
I propose a practical solution. I’ve quoted Walter Hagen in a previous column when he said “Golf is a game of recovery!” T’is the season of Lent – perhaps it is an opportune time to recover from a partially frayed spiritual life and a mediocre golf life – through conscious, consistent and correct practice. I know the Lord won’t mind our practicing on the training grid for holiness . P.S. Let’s not forget that moving up the training grid not only requires practice but perhaps even more than that, passion!