I think everyone has a story about how or why they started playing golf. It is my hope that one day The Practice Round will be the start of someone else’s story. On the heels of last week’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst, I wanted to share my story of why I started playing golf.
By my senior year in college, I had had two knee surgeries as a result of running Division I Track. After my second surgery, my running career was over leaving me uncertain that I’d ever find something that I loved as much as track.
That summer, I worked at Kids Across America (a Christian sports camp for urban youth) as the Athletic Director, where I was responsible for organizing all classes and sport activities. It also was the summer we opened and dedicated the Payne Stewart Memorial – a driving range, putting green and learning center in honor of the US Open 1999 champion. Payne, an avid supporter of the camp, died unexpectedly in a plane crash just four months after his grand US Open win. The memorial was built was to expose campers to the game of golf – a game not widely popular among urban youth. It was on that driving range that I took my first swing, and immediately fell in love with the sport. I spent every free minute I had at the driving range officially getting bit by the “golf bug.”
As I learned about the game, I learned about the type of man Payne Stewart was – the type of husband, father and friend. His love for God, his family and golf made his untimely death that much more heartbreaking. But if it wasn’t for Payne’s Stewart story, I probably wouldn’t have learned how to play nor develop a passion to grow the game among my peers. Even in death, Payne Stewart’s life had an impact on mine, and for that, I will continue to play the game.