I often get asked how I got involved with golf. So I thought I would write a series of blogs about how I got into the game and where it has taken me. My path to golf was a bit unconventional since no one in my household played the game. It was a family friend who introduced me to the game that would shape my life.
Part 2: Red Shirted & Skirted: My journey to golf continues and this particular segment finds me in the middle of a tough decision. As mentioned in part 1 I was selected to play varsity basketball my 7th grade year and this assumed that I would continue to play varsity at Athens Junior High School for 7th thru 9th grades. However the decision I would make following my 8th grade year is quite possibly the one decision that steered me further into golf.
The spring semester of my 8th grade year had me feeling very unsettled. I had a big decision to make, one that I didn’t think would even matter a year before. But I was not happy with the way things were going at school, nor did I like how things were going with the junior high basketball squad. I was unhappy and wanted a change. If I leave however and enter McMinn County High School as a freshman I would have to sit out (or red shirt as it’s often called) my freshman year on the basketball team. There was some upside to this decision. I would be entering the freshman class with several of the girls that I played league basketball with for several seasons. We lost touch a bit once we started 7th grade as we all attended different schools. But now I could see the potential of reuniting with several of these players and the fresh start with them at the high school. Together we had already experienced a good number of success, league champions, MVP’s, all-star teams. Even if I could only practice with my teammates it would be better than showing up a year later and potentially falling behind to other players. Settled in my decision and the hope of what could be I moved on. The fall of 1993 I entered my freshman year at McMinn County High School bound for Lady Cherokee greatness.
As the fall semester began so did early morning basketball practice. And there was more practice and more practice, it was wearing on me a bit and looking back I wonder if I wasn’t just feeling burned out. Had I just ran away from junior high hoping the change of pace and eluded dreams of stardom would suffice? Was I searching for something else? What was I missing? Why was I still so miserable? As basketball practices drudge along I find that the highlight of my afternoons is getting to play golf matches. My red shirt status did not effect me playing on another sports team. The high school golf coach happen to be Coach Haynie (flashback to Part 1, this is the gentleman responsible for introducing me to the game). Although I was the only girl on the team Coach Haynie encouraged me to play the fall season to gain more experience. I didn’t mind playing matches with the boys, I’d been playing sports with boys since 5 years of age and it was very normal to me. So I pressed forward and focused on improving my golf game.
Later that season I qualified to participate in the regional golf tournament, which comes down to I was the only girl representing the school and thus had the opportunity to compete at this level. I was excited about the opportunity. My game had been improving and my confidence and expectations were high. I had a new golf bag, new shoes, all the right stuff to perform at the next level. However as the team van pulled into Chattanooga Golf & Country Club for the regional tournament I recall a hard lump developing in my throat. My bolstering enthusiasm quickly gave way to nerves and intimidation. All of the sudden this seemed way more uncomfortable than driving down court for the game winning score.
To this day that regional tournament is still a blur and I can barely recall any of my shots, but I sure hit a bunch of them. What I do remember is sitting in the team van disappointed and ready to give up. Then I hear commotion from the men’s team as they approach, one in particular runs up to me in excitement. “Congratulations! You are going to state.” I wasn’t sure if I was being teased or being confused with someone else. I didn’t even know what “going to state” meant. However, it turns out that my whopping 113 score advanced me to the “state” high school golf tournament. Maybe there was hope for me and this game of golf after all.
It was a rocky start for my opening round at the state tournament. I lost my ball in the left rough on hole #1 at Henry Horton State Park. First tee shot, lost ball, that was likely covered in leaves and I exhausted the 5 minutes I had to search before marching back to the tee to put another ball in play (Rule 27-1c). Four holes later my tee shot nestled on top of a rock in the right rough. No relief for that so I pulled out a 4-iron and gave it my best shot. No damage to the club thankfully. It was a tough opening round but I still managed to break 100, which was one of two goals. The other was to not put so much pressure on myself. Golf, I was slowly learning, is a journey and something about it was taking hold of me. Maybe it was the challenge, the newness, or the respect that it demanded. My athleticism alone would not allow me to get by. Golf would require much more than that and I wanted to find out how far I could go and where it might take me. Golf was pulling in the fast lane and I was jumping in.
I achieved my goal at the state tournament posting 94-93–187. I did not look back. That winter of my freshman year basketball and I departed ways. I can remember the emotion of letting go of something that I had invested so much time in. Walking away from teammates who depended on me and I on them. But that chapter had come to a close and to this day I have no regrets of the decision I made.