Friday, May 3, 2013

How I Owe Golf...

I have heard the quote, "everything happens for a reason", all too many times in my 21 years of living. Although it is not my favorite quote, by any means, it is true. Looking back on the past couple of years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to see how all of these "things" have happened for a reason. The most evident of these "things" happens to be golf. Never in a million years would I ever think golf has had the biggest impact of anything on my life, but I can honestly say that I owe golf everything.

This long journey dates back to November of 2002. At this point in my life I was 11 years old and playing soccer for a club team, as well as Irish Dancing. I was at a mall with my mom during a soccer tournament when my left leg started to bother me. I tried stretching it, but the pain wouldn't go away. I thought I could play through the pain later that day (during the tournament), so that's what I did (as any 11 year old would do). During the game I found out that I couldn't run, and was eventually taken out. A couple of weeks after the tournament, my mom took me to the doctor to figure out what was going on. My mom asked for a X-ray, but the doctor told us it was just a muscle pull so one wouldn't be necessary. The doctor also said it would be alright to ski on it (my family has a house on Sugar Mt, and we ski every year there for a couple of weeks). So on December 22, 2002, as I was skiing with my mom, I caught an edge and tipped over. I felt the most excruciating pain in my left leg, and had to be taken down in the sled to first aid. Again, everyone (the first aid people) said it was just a muscle pull. So after walking on my "muscle pull" for five days, I finally got to the doctor (Dec 27). After X-rays, they told me that I had a stress fracture on my left femur, and I would have to have surgery that night. At that point, soccer was over for me. I tried to play a year and a half later when I could run, but I was too far behind the girls who I used to play with (skill/shape wise).

As high school was approaching, I wanted to letter in a sport my freshman year. I knew I would not be able to achieve that playing soccer (my high school team were the state champions for the three out of the four years I attended). So my dad reminded me that I semi knew how to play golf, and if I started practicing that summer, I might be good enough to make the team. So that is exactly what I did. I practiced pretty much every day, and not only made the team, but had the opportunity to play in the state championship. Granted shooting in the 100s wasn't awesome, but it was something. That next year after that I practiced, and practiced, and practiced, and practiced some more, we made it to state again, and I shot in the 90s. The year after I shot in the 80s, and by my senior year I shot in the 70s to help my team win the state title. Not only did I improve around 30 strokes in those short four years, I was also featured in a Golf Digest magazine article for Most Improved Golfers. I won this for the women's division in GA. I dropped my handicap from a 15.0 to a 5.0 within a year. With this improvement also came the opportunity to play on a college team. After my recruiting processes was complete, I chose the University of Southern Mississippi. Not only did I think my coach was awesome, but she was going to let me redshirt to give me the opportunity to improve and play catch up.

The fall of 2009 quickly approached and I was ready to start at USM. It was quite an adjustment with classes, golf, friends, and missing home, but I managed to improve quite a bit at golf as well as achieve good grades. It was a shock that the year was over so quick, but I was ready to have the ability to compete in the fall for a spot on the team. That summer, I played in events to get "tournament tuff". My dad and I traveled all over the southeast together, and had a lot of "father-daughter bonding time". My dad was a pilot, so I got to be co-pilot as we traveled together. This also made golf trips go by so much quicker...nothing beats getting places in half the time :).  By the time the fall came, I felt pretty ready. I didn't qualify for the first couple of tournaments, but my coach took me as an individual to the South Florida tournament. I could not express how excited I was! My mom wasn't able to come, but my dad was there in a heartbeat. I played pretty well and felt great about my improvement. The next tournament we traveled to Memphis. I qualified as a member of the team, and this time both my parents were able to come. The first day we played 36 holes, which was grueling. I didn't play too well, but my parents were as proud as they could be. My parents and I ended up going out to a BBQ place that night together to talk about the rounds. My dad had this tradition of writing me an email after every tournament I played in. He would tell me the skills I needed to work on, but most importantly he would always remind me of how far I had come. So that night he was telling me what to work on in the morning, and how him and my mom were so proud of me for all of my improvement. The next morning came, and the weather looked as though it was going to be horrible. Some groups had to finish their 36 holes, and right as they were done the weather started to move in. Memphis was deciding wether or not to cancel the final round, which they ultimately did. Personally, I was fine with that :). Vicky, my teammate, was in a two way tie with a girl from MS State for the individual title. So, they had a playoff to determine the winner. My dad had a meeting at church later that night, and asked me if it was alright for him and my mom to leave so they could make it back. I told them of course, and told them I loved them. After they left, the playoff began. I was texting my parents as it was going on, and received a message back they they were praying for Vicky. Vicky ended up winning the playoff for first place, and we headed back to Hattiesburg.

We got back a couple hours later, and I just got out of the shower when I got a phone call. It was from an unknown number. Usually I don't answer unknown numbers, but something was telling me I should. Little did I know how much one phone call could change your entire life. As I mentioned, my dad was a pilot. My brother was calling to inform me that their plane didn't make it back that night. Of course, I didn't believe him. I told him that I was hanging up and that I was going to try calling them. No answer. I called Dean back, and we made plans to go home.

Two and a half years later, I can't put into words how every moment is a blessing. I was never mad at God, or anyone for what happened to my parents. I felt as though it was apart of a plan that I had no control over. Of course, my life would be much easier if they were still here, and, of course, I am upset they aren't here with me, but I would not be who I am today without this experience. Although I didn't blame a person for what happened, I did start to realize that I was blaming golf. I would think, "well, if I didn't play golf this wouldn't have happened", etc. I lost all confidence in my game, and who I was as a player. This attitude didn't start to slowly turn around until I  helped found a tournament called the Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am Challenge. This event was to honor my parents, as well as bring the trailblazers of the LPGA with top collegiate players. Even still, I had a hard time wanting to be out there. The turning point really came this season, about a month and a half ago. I have had a really difficult time deciding what I want to do for the rest of my life, as any college student goes through. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that I am not ready to give up golf. I may be done as a collegiate player, but I'm not ready to be done traveling, seeing the beauty of a new course, or smelling freshly cut grass at 6:30 in the morning. I then began to look back at the past couple of years, and how much I have grown as a person. That is when the shift of blame turned to owe. If it wasn't for golf, I would not be the same Lauren Judson. I would not have helped found a tournament/organization that helps children dealing with cancer find peace and understanding. I would not have been able to help the parents of those children find comfort. I would not have found a way to mix senior LPGA golfers with young ladies my age. Most importantly, I would have never understood the extent to which I am blessed. I had the most amazing, supportive, smart, funny, and God-loving parents. I have an amazing support system consisting of my favorite (and only) brother, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and Godparents, who have taken me and Dean in as their children.  I have the most amazing friends who have stood by me through it all.

So I know this post was long, and probably a little boring to read, but I felt as though I would share it with whoever wanted to read it. God has a funny way of showing Himself. In my case, it was with a sport that I thought would be apart of my past once I got through college. Now, it is a sport that I might eventually give my life and career to. Either way, whatever I decide, golf has changed my life. The past experiences I have had no doubt have been a part of a bigger plan for me to play golf. Although I am not the best out there, and I will probably not go pro, the love of the game is what is most important. Golf used to be a like/hate relationship, but slowly like is being replaced by love (there is always some hate involved...especially when you hit the ball in water...or out of bounds...or lip out of a 2 foot putt). So whatever moment in your life has given you that life changing experience, just remember how blest you are to have received it. If you haven't received one yet, be patient because it might have happened, you just don't know it. Regardless, remember "everything happens for a reason", every day is a gift, and....

"Life is too short for cheap wine"
-Jim Judson