When I was growing up I played virtually every sport I could. I loved basketball, baseball and football the most. I played all three into my high school years and continued to play basketball on the college level.
Like many former athletes (and I use that term rather loosely), I began playing golf when my college career was over. I had played a few rounds here and there, but was about as raw as I could be.
When I was a youngster, golf was a game played by the wealthy. While my mom provided me everything I needed growing up, wealthy we were not. There was no First Tee program, and the game was not promoted the way it is today.
So, at about the age of 21, I began to play the most difficult, frustrating, demoralizing, addictive and greatest game on earth. I was far from a natural at the game. "Hacker" would have been a kind term to describe my play, but I was determined to get better.
I am an ultra-competitive person, and I could not stand continually getting beat by my friends. Many of them grew up playing the game, and while getting beat was frustrating, playing with solid players really helped me to learn how to play the game quickly.
It helped, too, that I was obsessed with the game and played every chance I got. At one point, I even took a job at a golf course in Greensboro, Ga. -- never mind that I lived 45 minutes away. All I knew was they had a great course that I could play anytime I wanted when I was not working.
Within a couple of years, I had gone from a player who was lucky to break 110, to a legitimate bogey-golfer. By 2001, I had lowered my handicap to 11, and had rounds of 76 (at The River Club) and 77 (at Jones Creek) in back-to-back days once. I was happy, but still determined to get better.
Then something happened to my game. My belly started to get in the way. As I began to gain weight, my golf game went south. It seemed to happen overnight. I was struggling to break 90 a year after playing the best golf of my life.
To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. You might think being heavier would allow me to hit the ball farther. Actually, it was the exact opposite. By 2004 I was two clubs shorter than I had been less than two years earlier.
The game I loved had become a grind. It was no longer fun for me to go to the golf course. Therefore, I simply quit playing. I even skipped my annual golf trip to Myrtle Beach (The Junior Wide Open) the last few years.
That is when my wife even began to ask me why I no longer played. The answer was simple: I was too fat to play at a decent level. I did not have enough energy to even play 18 holes (with a cart!).
Many of you know that I recently lost a great deal of weight (122 pounds since May 13, 2008) that has allowed me to take back up the game I was so addicted to just a few years ago. After getting back on the course, I cannot believe I ever quit playing. The love affair is back on. I am playing every chance I get.
I'm going back to the Junior Wide Open next month in Myrtle Beach after a three-year hiatus, and most importantly I have found another thing to share with my 4-year old son, John Chandler.
I am so thrilled to be enjoying this wonderful game again. Now the only frustrating thing is that my 4-year-old already has a better swing than I do.
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