|USGA Jr. Am. 1965|
It was the trips to the Jr. State Amateur I loved the most. Teeing off #1 at Southern Hills and hitting a straight and true shot down the middle is a memory I will carry for a lifetime. Shaking the hand of a match play opponent at age 14 will also stick with my gut; "Good luck," I said sincerely as Rita and I shook hands on the first tee. "Thanks, you'll need it.!" She won the match on hole 14. Maybe, Dad knew me better when he nicknamed me Tizzy or tried to explain that my golf game seemed lackadaisical. Maybe, I overheard so many ugly comments by women in tournaments that I thought no one liked a champion?
It was on mother's shoulders that I cried and sobbed with defeat. Year after year I lost, and yet she held firm in her belief that I could win. Dad was the teacher, but mom was the counselor, the healer, and the one who uplifted me and told me over and over that I could win. I finally won a Club Championship once before she died, but I was nearly 40 years old. My family and friends were proud.
Only recently did I realize how much a mother's love and faith in her children can make a difference for a lifetime of learning and growing. Over the 50 years since my teenage golfing debut, I've learned that it was confidence that I was lacking, not skill. But it's not enough to have other people believe in you when you don't believe in yourself. "Oh, well," is such an easy reply to a disappointment in life, whether it is in a career or sport.
A few weeks ago as I walked to my golf cart, before I teed off at Prairie Dunes for the Hutchinson Women's City Championship, my heart was pounding and my stomach lurched. It was a match play event, one on one. Now I needed to win one more match for the championship. I began to question myself. Did I care enough to focus? Did I really just want to win, but not fight through my nerves to win? Will people still like me IF I win?
|Helen Stapp probably giving advice.|
My knees buckled and I looked around with tears in my eyes. "Mom?" my head whispered. "I'm watching," she replied, and I heard the pursing of her lips. When her whispering cloud passed over, my shoulders suddenly lightened and memories were filtered. I knew that somehow I could win that day, and maybe win again while I'm still young enough to compete. On my golf ball, that day, I wrote these words, "Almost Heaven."
I only hope and pray that I've been that kind of mother for my daughter, one who believes in her child without a doubt--As only a mother can.