Sports Column: Life lessons learned from my daughter

I am often struck by how much I’ve learned about life from golf. And how much I’ve learned about golf from life.

Those of you who know me know I lost my loving daughter, Nancy, last week and she is still foremost in my mind. I’ve put enough positive spin on this heartbreak to get me through. All this week I found myself constantly repeating to people the unique way Nancy played all games and sports.

To her, playing games and sports was not all about winning. Listening to adults advising children these days, you would believe that it’s about winning and then learning from your losses so you can win the next time. Throughout my life as a professional golfer, I was always most proud when my staff would say they couldn’t tell whether I won or lost after playing golf. Beating another individual when it was supposed to be important never gave me a good feeling about myself.

This leads me back to Nancy and the unique way she played sports — I never saw her get mad. In golf, a sport she played well, and one of the most frustrating sports of all, she would laugh after hitting a poor or terrible shot, something in all my years in teaching golf I never experienced. She did the same in every sport she played. Not only did Nancy have this great attitude about sports, but she also influenced others to do the same.

Nancy made the events at her beloved junior golf events joyous by having people dress in costumes, hit out of a pond, hit a golf ball blindfolded, with a baseball bat and with a tennis racquet, to name only a few things she did to make the game more amusing for the kids. She did hop-skip-and-a-jump to get to their ball or had them throw the golf ball. The kids loved it.

Everyone who becomes proficient in any sport is just having a great time playing. I found when people are enjoying themselves, they become more creative and want to play more and more. As they play more, they become even better. Some get so good that they’re told they should make a living from the sport. Many times at that point, fun becomes practice, practice becomes work, work becomes boring, boredom attacks creativity and improvement stops. They go to sports psychiatrists, only to be told to just enjoy playing and not to worry about results. Vicious circle, isn’t it?

Let us teach the world that we are not what we do, we are not what we have and we are not what others think of us. Let us just love our sports and games and the friends that enjoy them with us.

That’s what Nancy did, and by doing, taught others the right approach to sports and life.