Repeat after me: I can do it!

Golf is a tremendous commitment. Becoming elite in the sport requires an enormous amount of time, patience, and yes, luck. Having family obligations also take a lot of time, especially when others depend on you, such as children. Their angelic faces are heartbreaking to watch when they sleep and are just as likely to be covered in their last meal when they are awake. Children cannot be put on the back burner and require the amount of love, time, and patience that makes golf pale in comparison. Yet you do not have to trade one for the other. Life is NOT perfect, and neither is golf. It IS possible to become an elite player and accomplish your dreams while remaining committed to your family.

So how do we do it?

The most obvious answer is time management. With the correct approach we can theoretically achieve 8 hours a day to practice and play golf, 8 hours a day to be with our families/children, and 8 hours at night to sleep. But we’ve all heard all of this before right? A dose of balance here and a sprinkle of time-strategies there and voila! We magically have a superwoman who has perfectly clean, dressed, and well-behaved children and also appears regularly each week at the top of the leaderboard. The reality is it doesn’t work that way. Number 1 players like Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa chose to leave the game once they were accomplished in order to begin their families while other top players, such as Julie Inkster, Pat Hurst, and Leta Lindley, achieved wins after their children were born. I don’t know about you but I haven’t accomplished everything I set out to in the game of golf and don’t believe I should let go of my dreams because I chose the natural option of having a child after 10 years with my husband. So here are some real strategies for real women on how to become better at the game you love while staying true to your family and children:

Make the most of the time you have

I used to beat balls until my fingers split and bled then I would go home and put tape on them and hit more later that day. I have hit balls at both 11 o’clock a.m. and p.m. in the same day. I have hit balls into a net in my yard in December off of an icy mat causing snow to go down my shirt in the back while my son looked on wrapped in a snowsuit sitting in his stroller. I once hit so many balls in one day that the next day I could barely hold my head up. Yes, I’ll admit being intimidated when I heard that sometimes young Korean girls will hit thousands of balls in a day. I didn’t have the benefit of taking up golf as a kid and have tried to make up for that with ruthless amounts of practice as an adult.

But then the truth set in. I didn’t listen to it; I had to live it. What’s the use of “raking and beating” when that’s not how we play on the course? I smartened up and realized that if I was going to pay a babysitter, or inconvenience a friend or family member I should at least be smart about that time. This means no constant chatting, texting, or fiddling with my iPhone on the range, making tee times in advance so I don’t “wander the course” until a spot opens up, and planning how my golf time will be spent before I get to the course. I don’t have a lot of time so that last thing I’m going to do is waste it. What’s your biggest time-waster on the range? At the course?

Elicit help from Family and Friends

My son went to morning pre-school from ages 2 until 4, which granted me two and a half hours of time during which I practiced, played or tried to do both. On plenty of occasions this wasn’t enough time and other moms, whom I trusted, were often willing to bring my child home with them to have a playdate with one of his friends until I got there later in the day. I also maintain a weekly schedule that involves 18 holes of tournament golf at a local course every Friday from May until August. My husband has been able to arrange his schedule to work and conduct conference calls from home during this 13 week period. I leave about 7:15 am to go play in the tournament and then afterwards I drive back to my home course to practice or play some more. I can then go home in time to play with my son when he wakes from his nap and have dinner and hang out with my family. This nets me about 8 or 9 hours of golf every Friday from Memorial Day until Labor Day regardless of my son’s summer or school schedule. The truth is, you can’t do it without help.

Share the game with those you love

I have brought my little boy to the course with me countless times, beginning when he was six weeks old, largely out of necessity. This is a blessing (your mental game gets really sharp when someone yells “Mommy!” on your backswing) as well as a hardship (some toys barely make it through a par 3 before he gets bored with them), but at least you are sharing what you love with whom you love. How many people can say they bring their child to work with them and also teach them a valuable skill?

Lower your expectations

This is a hard one; I want to perform as well while managing a preschooler in a cart as when I am walking 9 holes on a beautiful day by myself. I want the perfect range session where every fix works not the one where I’m crabby because I can’t stop hooking it and don’t appreciate him for being quiet and patient while mommy practices. Change it up! Make the day you share with you kids all about the mental side and focus – how well can you totally engage over your shot when you might be interrupted at any second? I’m reminded of stories where Tiger’s Dad would jingle keys or loudly drop his bag of clubs while Tiger was swinging.

Appreciate the opportunity

Anyone who gets to place golf for a living is lucky. I play at a semi-private course where the majority of the membership is retired persons who worked hard to make money and raise a family during their formative years. They didn’t get to play much when they were younger and therefore may have not reached their full potential. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to make my dreams come true. I will not let my appreciation be clouded by resentment over minor scheduling issues or hardship at having to juggle a tournament schedule with mommy demands. I am happy to have both things in my life! ◊