5 Lessons from a Golfer: Play It As It Lies

By Lindsay Scarlatelli

After much reflecting, I decided to write down all of the things I have learned having grown up with a golf club in one hand and a basketball in the other. One was my favorite sport, but the other was my best sport, a sport that I ended up playing in college – golf. A sport that carries with it as much frustration as it does joy. While there are many, here are five lessons I have learned from the sport and have been able to apply in all areas of life.

Golf is an honest game. A game where I learned about integrity – after all, you call penalties on YOURSELF. I now work in college athletics where integrity is a growing concern. To me, the day you lose your integrity, have your character called into question, is the day you have lost it all. I cannot and will never understand those that can sleep peacefully at night without a lick of integrity. It’s inevitable, there will be at least one time in life where we are faced with a tough decision. Even though others might never find out, do we “call the penalty” or let it slide? Remember, there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

I learned that pressure can either make you or break you. The first time I was put in a high-pressure situation as a team leader, the youngest on the team, I didn’t just fall victim to the pressure, I added my own, and then crashed and burned badly with no hope in sight. I ultimately cost our team a chance to move on and compete for a championship. I used this experience to further motivate me, learned to deal with it, and would eventually thrive under future high-pressure situations…including help lead our team to another opportunity to compete for a championship. To quote Kobe Bryant, “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is an opportunity for me to rise.” However, every now and then, the thought of the situation would creep back into my mind, which leads me to my next lesson…

I learned that if you focus on the water hazard (the negative), then yes you will find the water hazard. You cannot worry about the bad breaks, bad shots, or the end result, you can only focus on what you can control and that is the next shot (and your attitude). Golf requires short-term memory. Sometimes you can have the best round of your life and follow it up with the worst round of your life. Much like life, each shot is unpredictable and we cannot always control the good and the bad, you just have to “play it as it lies.” We have a tendency to focus on the bad or on all of the failure and frustration that we have experienced. We forget the good. Learn what you can from your failures but no matter how difficult things are, remind yourself of the good and “focus on the next shot.” You get what you focus on.

I redshirted my freshman year in college. After I had just competed in my first collegiate tournament as a sophomore and was on the cusp of securing the final “starting” spot for our remaining fall tournaments and first spring tournament, I suffered what would be a career-ending back injury. The injury: a torn L5-S1 and substantial damage to the two discs above that. Regardless of sport, not at all how any collegiate athlete envisions their career. It took a LONG TIME for me to learn this, but the biggest perceived setback of your life can sometimes lead to the greatest setup of your life. You see, no longer being able to compete with the golf team allowed for more time devoted to travel and increased responsibilities with the women’s basketball program. It was a blessing in disguise as it helped me along my current career path. Occasionally I will wonder, “what if?” but being a person of faith, I realize the “what if” wasn’t in God’s plans for me.

“One of the most fascinating things about golf is how it reflects the cycle of life. No matter what you shoot – the next day you have to go back to the first tee and begin all over again and make yourself into something.” It is like what Lou Holtz once said, “If what you did yesterday still seems big, you haven’t done anything today.” Each day is a new slate, a new mountain to climb, a new opportunity to be a better you. What’s foolish is to think success will naturally come without the work, that we have all the answers and no longer need to learn or that we have nothing to learn from others, and that we no longer need to improve. I was preparing for the first tournament of our season one year, and going into this tournament had received some “pre-season honors.” I was paired with some players that had signed with various Big Ten schools and felt it was my chance to “prove myself.” I was feeling confident – a little too confident. Arrogant, really. In my mind, I had already put in my work. Result? I shot a 14 on one hole. A 14. FOURTEEN. On ONE hole. Needless to say, it was a reality check that brought me back down to earth and humbled me a whole lot. Just because you have achieved success in the past doesn’t guarantee it moving forward. You have to work for it and when you achieve it, work even harder to keep it. Always stay humble and hungry. You could also work for it, give it everything you have got, and still not achieve the level of success you had hoped for.

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Lindsay Scarlatelli

Scarlatelli is the current Director of Basketball Operations for Miami (OH) University. Prior to Miami, she spent two years as an assistant coach at Oakland University and Illinois-at Chicago (UIC). She completed her Master's degree from Michigan State University in 2012 and while at MSU, was part of the team's first-ever outright Big Ten Championship in 2011.

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