Eye on the Prize


By a stroke (pun intended) of luck, some good contest odds and an answer to prayer, Ashley and I were off with gifted tickets to the U.S. Open at No. 2 in Pinehurst, NC, on a beautiful June morning.

Describing ourselves as rookies to the sport is a stretch. We have a few lessons under our belt. We know how to two-putt. We have chipped…once or twice. We generally know the names of the clubs and which one to use for which shot (or between the two of us, we can figure it out). And both of us have felt the golfer’s joy of swinging with everything you’ve got, connecting perfectly with the ball and then watching it go flying through the air.

But that’s about it. We haven’t played a game yet. We don’t have clubs…or shoes. We’ve never walked a golf course. And Phil Mickelson was the only name we recognized on the roster until doing some brief research the day before.

Once we arrived, we approached the 12th hole where McIlroy, McDowell and Stenson were teeing off.

Ooh, the excitement. It was quiet. There was anticipation. The Marshall’s arms went up, it got quieter. One by one, each player swung, hitting the ball down the fairway a distance that would have taken me at least 4 shots alone.

With no specific game plan for the day, we were headed to the Trophy Club. Along our way, we followed the trio for a couple holes, watching them in their element. They were on their game. This was their jam. Talented beyond belief. Each having precision and skill envied by thousands. There to do what they were made to do.

We made it to the Trophy Club, got our bearings and checked the roster for a few players we wanted to see: Bubba Watson, Jordan Speith and Phil Mickelson. As we were refueling with a Chick-Fil-A sandwich and a Bud Light Lime (at 11:30 am, mind you, but you know what they say about it always being 5:00 somewhere!), we chatted with two gentlemen from Henderson, NC, who we learned meet at BoJangles for breakfast each morning (U.S. Open fans are friendly folks we would soon realize).

We decided to camp out on the 8th hole for a bit. Conveniently, the groups that included Speith and Mickelson were only a few threesomes apart. We found a great semi-shady spot to the left of the stands with a perfect view of the hole. We stood there for over an hour chatting with another golf lover and his wife, Nance. We learned about the players, the history, the game, tips for aiming, golf trivia (that it costs $415/round per person to play the No. 2 Course, for example) from our fellow fan.

We watched Erik Compton, who at 34, is on his third heart. Out there in the heat, you would never have known. He was doing his thing. On his game. We watched Kevin Na tap in a perfect shot. We watched Phil Mickelson, along with an incredible crowd of followers, make his way down the fairway where the crowd then got so quiet, we could hear the “tock” as his club putted the ball in, resulting in the oh-so-quiet crowd erupting in a huge cheer.

In Mickleson’s threesome, we watched Matthew Fitzpatrick, a young 18 year-old, with poise and talent that far surpassed his age, hold his own, as he golfed alongside one of the sports’ greats.

Ricky Fowler, a favorite to win, paid an appropriate fashion tribute to Payne Stewart as he golfed his heart out. We watched Jordan Speith. Dustin Johnson. Martin Kaymer. Brendon De Jonge. Bubba Watson.

Ball after all ball, play after play, stroke after stroke, swing after swing. Athletes. Artists. Professionals. People. All in their zone. Giving it all they had. Playing their hearts out.

The atmosphere was electrifying. The anticipation could have been cut with a knife. Fans were everywhere, soaking up both the sun and the moment. There was hardly a shot where we didn’t hear the club connect with the ball. There was reverence. There were mistakes, like when Dustin Johnson missed his shot and threw his club up in the air in frustration. There were unexpected birdies and eagles….and bogeys. There were great stories of overcoming obstacles and defying odds and choosing not to live, but to thrive. Of choosing not to give up, but to play on. And surrounding these people in their moment were thousands of people who cheered on the great shots and moaned on the misses.

These athletes were doing what they were made to do. They were in their zone. In their holy place. Nothing else mattered. Everything failed in comparison. They had their eye on the prize (which, in this case was $1.5 million).

And then, dusty, sweaty and hot, it occurred to me. Isn’t that what each of us are here for? Isn’t that what each of us is made for? Isn’t that what each of us is capable of?

Perhaps, it’s not golf tournaments, and instead being at home all day, wiping up one sticky mess after another with kiddos who seem more like mini tornadoes. Or maybe a job. A hobby. Or a dream that has been placed upon a shelf for when there is more time to be had “someday.”

But what if I lived out my life with the commitment and determination and dedication that I had witnessed from not one, but dozens, of golfers that day. What if we all did?

What would that look like? What things would become more important, what things would fall away if I lived in the zone and kept my eye on the prize? What if played my heart out every day and then got up the next day and did it again. What if I didn’t let setbacks or frustrations or obstacles be the end of my story? What if, instead, I let those be my launching points and kept practicing and trying and growing and picking up my club and hitting the ball again….and again…and again.

And, what if we joined others in their pursuits too, cheering at the victories and mourning the losses?

Psalm 96

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

I imagine if I lived like that, it would look something like this:

The atmosphere would be electrifying. The anticipation could be cut with a knife. There would be reverence. There would be long days and mistakes and frustration, no doubt. But there would also be great stories of overcoming obstacles and defying odds and choosing not to live, but to thrive. And I would be surrounded by people who were in the ring with me, celebrating my victories and mourning with me in my losses.

Let’s try it. For maybe just a day? Maybe two? And let’s see what God will do when we show up and give him all we’ve got. There’s life there. That’s where life is really lived. In the zone, doing what we were made to do. While $1.5 million isn’t always at stake, our lives are. Our children’s lives are. And then all of a sudden $1.5 million seems small. Eye on the prize the whole way.

Martin Kaymer went on to win the tournament, breaking and setting new records along the way. Erik Compton, who never knows from day to day what his stamina level will be, came in second. And Ricky Fowler, third. They all played hard until the end. Eye on the prize the whole way. Nothing else mattered.


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