As I step up on the first tee, my hands are shaking as I get a ball out of my bag. I grab my favorite sharpie and mark my ball with three lines. I listen closely for the air horn to start play. All of the guys are standing around talking as I am standing off to the side talking to myself in my head. All of the sudden, the air horn sounds and regional play is underway.
I watch as the two other guys in my group tee off. My turn approaches, and I fumble with my ball and tee trying to set it up because I was so nervous. I step up to what may be my last first tee shot ever. Slowly the club comes back, and then I snap my hands down and make contact with the ball. I immediately knew after the contact was made that it wasn’t the hit I wanted. I watch as the ball snaps to the left and goes down over a hill behind a tree. I try to stay calm because it was just the first hit. I still had 17 holes left to make it up. I approach my tee shot, which lies on the side of a hill, buried in the rough. I grab a seven iron out of my bag, line myself up, start my backswing, and make contact and look to watch the ball soar through the air. Instead, I watch as my ball shanks off the toe to the right and comes to a halt just before entering the hazard. I think to myself “well this isn’t going to end well.” I finish the hole and take a six. I walk with my head hung low towards the intimidating hole that is number two at Green Hills Country Club.
Standing in front of me lies the 178 yard par three over water with trouble left, right, and long. I watch as one of the two guys I am playing with hits it short, and it goes in the water. I watched the second push it right into the sand trap. I take the walk down to my tee box to think about how I was going to attack this hole. I grab my six iron out of my bag, and I say a prayer that it gets there. I swung and watched my ball barely get fifteen feet off the ground as it rolled up onto the green. From here, I think it is going to be smooth sailing. I was wrong.
I fought through the next few holes, and I managed to stay one over through the next four holes. I walked with confidence up to the tee box of hole six, a 329 yard par four with a dip in the fairway and an elevated green making it play longer than the yardage on the scorecard. I snap my drive into a downed tree on the left marked with ground under repair. I get free relief, so I bring my ball back to the nearest point of relief, and I hit a long iron to try and get a green in regulation. I chunk it, and instead of it going 160 yards, it went about 100. My head starting to lower, I take the long walk up the fairway thinking about how I am going to scramble to get a par. Unfortunately my head got the best of me and from 60 yards in it took me four strokes to get the ball in the hole, and I took a six. It started to go downhill from there.
The next hole, a par three. I took a four and moved on to the terrifying hole that is the 406 yard par five, straight up a mini mountain. My drive ended up rolling just into the rough. I got a three hybrid up to the top of the hill, and I was at the top of the mountain in two. During the daunting walk to the top of the mini mountain, my anxiety kicked in. I made the stupid decison to calculate my score. I needed to birdie out to shoot in the low 40’s. My heart rate increased more than it should have, and my breathing was now uncontrollable. My hands shook as I tried to calm my breathing before I conducted my next stroke. Anxiety got the better of me. I rushed my shot and left it short, and then I left the next shot short as well. I left myself with about a 35 footer for par. I took one last big deep breath before I made my stroke. My putter hit the center of the ball, and I watched my ball fall right over the edge and into the hole. All I had to do was get a par on hole number nine, and I would have put myself in an okay position to shoot in the 70’s. However, I choked and ended up getting a five on hole nine. I stormed off the green and went to the tenth tee box to decompress by myself with my thoughts before starting the back.
Four holes into the back nine, and I was four over. Fear cast a shadow over me, and I stood over my ball about to tee off on the short par three that is hole 14. Striking the ball almost perfectly, it dropped about four feet from the hole. I tapped it in, took my birdie, and made my way onto the next terror I had to face. A 600 yard par 5 with out of bounds all up the left and trouble up the right. Somehow, I managed to get a bogey. Little did I know, but that bogey now had me tied with the leader who was in my group. We had three holes to play.
My anxiety made its way back to me, and I started to make stupid mistakes. I lined up wrong, pulled putts, and was mishitting my bunker shots. I ended up going five over just on my last three holes and ended up losing by four strokes. I shot an 82 and ended up tied for second. I may have not been happy with my score that day, but it was that score that got me to states. I took the first individual spot and qualified my senior year for the state tournament, something I had been working towards since my freshman year. I learned many things that day, most of them being about my golf game, but the biggest lesson had nothing to do with golf. No matter how bad it gets, if you can’t find a way to grind it out and push through, you will never accomplish your goals. I will never forget the day that I made it through the season-long journey of making it to states.