11/18/12 2:00pm

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.

10/22/12 7:00am

RICK SOUTHWICK PHOTO | Garth Griffin, Bob Feinstein and David Doyle on an annual group golf trip to Myrtle Beach. They are the only participants who have been on every trip since the tradition started.

Sports, sports and more sports is what a group of Islanders have been doing for one week every year for the past 25 years.

When it gets chilly up north, 16 to 20 guys have been getting together for a journey to the golf capital of the world, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The coastal resort town boasts more than 125 golf courses and this band of Islanders somehow found the best for them to play.

This week was the chosen one for the trip this year and it’s the first trip I have missed in 25 years. That leaves just three men (Garth Griffin, David Doyle and Bob Feinstein) who have attended every year.

Since I started writing this column each week, I have tried hard to explain why we play sports and what their benefits are. My reason for writing about this trip is simply to explain how golf can lead to a bond of lifelong friendship. No matter what business you are in, how well you play the game, how much money you are worth or what age you are, just doesn’t matter when you are competing in a sport.

In this Shelter Island-Myrtle Beach group are doctors, lawyers, financiers, police officers, entrepreneurs, blue collar workers, journalists, printers, restaurateurs and even golf pros. Their ages range from 21 all the way to 73, with exceptional players such as Rick Southwick, Gary Blados, Bob Feinstein, John Wallace, Jay Card, Ian Savage and David Doyle. Andy Wilcox and Jay Sessa, great Shelter Island golfers both, were also a part of the group in the beginning.

On the other end, players such as Newton Lamson, Starr Boggs and Garth Griffin have 18 handicaps and the rest of the players are somewhere in the middle. Our group also enjoys the diversity of multimillionaires competing alongside everyday Joes just earning a living. This is the type of companionship that comes out of the sporting world and you see it every time they meet, on or off the golf course.

At least for one week, they get to take a trip back in time when they are carefree kids once more. Nicknames have taken over for real names and they all know who you’re talking about when you say Puto, Dawg, Dirt, Diz, Doogie, Savior, Gink, G-Man, Son, Woo, Prizzle, JC , Junior, Newty and Bobby. While in Myrtle Beach, these guys are playing golf every daylight hour and darkness is usually filled with ping pong, pool, mini-golf or bowling. Every evening, you are told how you stand in the daily, weekly and lifetime standings in putts, birdies and scoring against the rest of the gang.

Another group of younger Islanders including Ken Lewis, Matt Mobius, Cori Cass, Lance Willumsen and Ian Weslek started doing the same thing about 10 years ago and are experiencing the same values of friendship and enjoyment. Since the groups both go down around the same time of year, they are now discussing a Ryder Cup match format.

So find yourself a few people, men or women, and get started in a sport if you haven’t already. You will find that it leads to companionship, health, fun and a better life. You don’t have to make it such a marathon as these guys do but I will guarantee that this sporting experience will rank as one of your favorite things.

It has definitely been one of mine and I have already signed up for the trip with my friends next year.