I am the luckiest guy alive.
Throughout my life there has been trauma and comedy, along with a tremendous amount of luck. My decisions, rarely well thought out, have landed me in some of the most difficult situations and my carefree attitude has allowed me to get through it with a smile. I’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine, and there is perhaps nothing more comical than telling my story about golfing.
Growing up I had the opportunity to try many different sports. My parents were supportive but just as clueless as I was. We never watched sports or talked about them. In fact, my parents often complained that athletes were overpaid and the military and civil services were grossly underpaid. I didn’t know anything about sports, but enjoyed learning new things.
As it turned out, my new neighbor was a golf fanatic. He told me that the high school golf team needed people. I lived in a small town that had even fewer golfers and there were no cuts from the team. I was certainly going to be a walk on. All I had to do was hit the ball into the hole. I never played golf before and certainly never watched it, but I was a pretty mean miniature golf player and thought that my putting experience would pay me dividends.
But I was wrong. It turned out golf was much harder than I’d thought. I never swung a club more than a few inches in putt-putt, but this time I had to swing it wildly behind my back, then towards the ball, and pray for lift off. I thought that the prayer would come in handy, since I had never done it before. I often found comfort in praying to God, asking for a miracle when I was nervously attempting something new and dangerous.
There were no prayers answered that day. I managed to set a new high school golf record that is still talked about to this day. I had missed the ball 27 times before I achingly gave up on the wild swings. I felt more comfortable in the short backswings of miniature golf and decided that I would just try to putt it off of the tee box…and it worked! I got the ball off of the tee and into the grass.
I managed to shoot over par for the entire course on just one hole. That’s actually two separate records, in case you’re counting.
I practiced day and night, until I could hit the ball every time. My backyard was devastated by my golf swing. The grass was so torn up that it looked like we had several families of groundhogs digging for a home. Once I learned to hit the ball every time, I began having a new problem… keeping up with my insatiable appetite for balls. I didn’t have a job or money, so I had to find balls in the woods and lakes that swallowed all of my shots. I could easily go through a few balls on any given hole.
I eventually devised a plan to solve my dilemma — but it got me in trouble. My plan was simple and fool-proof, I’m not sure why no one else thought of it before me. I would go to the driving range to “warm up” and simply deposit some of the balls into my bag. While I was on the driving range, I stuffed as many golf balls into my bag as I could fit and put the remainder in my pockets. Apparently, Coach was watching and made me clean the driving range every week for the remainder of the season.
My high school career was burdened with antics like these and there was no certainty that I would actually graduate based on my attendance and academics, but I think my teachers either wanted me to succeed in the military or just didn’t want to have me back.
Luckily for me, their plan worked. I had no plans of joining the military, but my upbringing made it a natural choice for me. I didn’t know why, but I envied the medals that adorned their uniforms and the stories that they represented. I wanted to be a part of it, and I wanted a story to tell. This is mine.
Eric Keller is an RN in the emergency department at University Hospitals Portage in Ravenna, Ohio.