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Every once in a while your kids surprises you.  I am currently two weeks away from becoming the parent of a teenager.  Like every other parent we spend a lot of time trying to prevent our kids from sleeping in and watching television all summer long. At the same time, camps and other activities are costly.  My kids?  They set up achievement goals with major objectives and a plan for achievement.  They were a mixture of academics and athletics.

Unbeknownst to us, my son had a golf improvement goal that also required him to write a 500 word essay to renew his Northern California Junior Golf Membership card (You have to love a sport that requires your kids to work on his writing skills).  The essay asked him to write about his experience with golf, why he enjoyed the sport, and how life skills from the sport and the NCGA translate into other parts of his life.  He chose to write about perseverance and sportsmanship.  Needless to say, when he gave it to me and my wife to proof, we were moved.

Sometimes teenage boys don’t tell you everything, but it was good to hear what is going on in the back of his mind and that the game of golf has helped him to put life in perspective.  Below is his essay (nope, I didn’t get his approval to publish!).

Sportsmanship & Perseverance  – My name is Nicholas and I am a 12 year old entering seventh grade this Fall.  Golf is one of my favorite sports (I also play basketball and baseball).  During the summer, my dad and I go out to the golf course almost every weekend to play Golden Gate Park or Jack Fleming in San Francisco. We have been doing this since I entered Kindergarten and it will be one of the things I remember most about my childhood and father when I grow up.  I think golf is special because it is different than all the other sports as it is the only sport I know of where you can go out by yourself and just play a game. With other sports you have to gather a team, and that can be hard.  I live just down the hill from The Presidio Golf Course and this summer I have been able to go three or four times a week to the driving range and putting greens.  This has been really fun for me because it teaches me that hard work and diligence can make oneself better, even if you have to work through bad weather or blisters.  Golf is also a very social game as I can go out with friends to a course and just have a good time and encourage and complement each other; this has been fun because in the classroom all we see is everybody studying and working, but out there, it is different, in a good way.

One thing that I have learned playing golf is perseverance. Perseverance has helped me on and off the golf course.  In baseball for instance, I wanted to hit a home run, which I had never done before, and after a lot of practice, it paid off and I hit one towards the end of the year.  In basketball, we had a great team, and after close victories, and bad calls, we won the championship.  Another thing that I have learned is sportsmanship.  In golf we don’t say ‘Don’t make it’, or ‘That was a bad shot.’ We say ‘Good shot’, or ‘Nice putt.’  In baseball, I have seen some bad sportsmanship, kids yelling at each other about who made the team lose, or saying when someone strikes out, ‘That will be the first of many.’  It doesn’t help to be a bad sport; it takes all the fun out of playing.  So if you are friendly and supporting to others then you will enjoy yourself better and friendships will grow both on and off the course.

Recently we had a school tournament out at Fleming to qualify for an inter-school event to be held at Harding.  I shot a 44, which was a personal best for me, but I didn’t make the team of four.  This got me motivated.  This summer I set a goal to lower my score so that I can make a score that will qualify. I recently reached my goal shooting a 39 and beating my score by five strokes.  It took a while to complete it but through patience, perseverance, and constant visits to the driving range up at the Presidio, I succeeded.  Now I will keep trying to improve that because I know that other kids have gotten better too.

I have come to realize that you can think of a golf course as similar to the path of life.  We go shot-by-shot, stroke-by-stroke, and patiently through life’s thick roughs and deep bunkers, through life’s open fairways and tap-in putts.  Only I can change my path, and only I can take my path.  Only I can say how much honesty and truth is put into my life and my game. Only I know if I have done the best that I can do.  It is the true test of one’s integrity.  Life and golf both have something alike, it’s important that you have fun, but you also must be serious about some things and respect that.  Overall, I have really enjoyed golf and I will continue to enjoy it for a long time.

Golf has been a part of my life ever since I started playing courses at age 5.  Being a member of the NCGA Youth On Course Foundation has allowed me to play more often with my dad and with friends. Just like playing catch with my dad, playing golf with my dad is always something we get to do together and I enjoy the quality time together.  For the past 7 years we even play as a team in the Northern California Family Golf Tournament held at Golden Gate Park.  It is the same tournament that my dad played in with his father when he was my age.  I am proud to carry on the tradition.

I started the First Tee at about age 8 at Harding Park; at first it was a little tough because all I wanted to do was hit balls, but I eventually learned that it was more than just a game.    I want to keep playing golf, because I feel that it is a game I can play as I get older.  I feel that through the NCGA, Youth on Course and the First Tee organizations I have learned to appreciate the game of golf and the life skills that it offers.