When I was 21, just after I began my studies in education, I had a brief conversation with a close friend that altered my life. A couple of years earlier, with a small degree of enthusiasm, I decided to pursue a career as a schoolteacher. It ran in my family and it was a profession that did hold some appeal: summers off, decent benefits, significant opportunity, reliable income, etc. But in my heart I knew it wasn’t really what I wanted.
The game of golf had been a passion of mine since I was a young teenager. My appetite for the game showed up in a number of ways: reading whatever I could about the best players, daydreaming about golf, playing as much as possible (mostly in a field outside my front door – in the middle was a large oak tree which served as the perfect target), and learning the ins and outs of technique – most of which was self-taught (I couldn’t afford to take lessons).
I started playing some competitive junior golf and turned things up another notch with my desire to get better and better. It became the driving force in how I spent my free time. I went to college and played some more competitive golf, won a tournament, and continued to improve. It was at that point that I decided to turn my back on the game somewhat and pursue my career as a teacher. But then I bumped into a friend and we had the conversation which resulted in my “path of life” doing a 180.
His words were simple, and I suppose, not all that surprising: “You love the game, Andrew. It’s what you should do. It’s your passion. You should go for it. See where the game can take you.” As soon as he said these things I knew he was right. It was all I wanted to do and it made sense. Why not go for it? You only have one life, right? Why not roll the dice and follow your dreams.
To make a long story short, I went for it. I relinquished my spot in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and I enrolled in a Golf Management Program in Alberta that was geared to train aspiring golf professionals. I obtained a job scrubbing clubs at a course the following summer. I was on the road. Not for one second have I been sorry I made that decision.
Bottom line, I teach golf because I absolutely love the game. I love to play. I love to be around the game. I love learning about it. It’s a huge part of me. There probably isn’t an hour that goes by when I don’t think, in some way or another, about the game. I’m hopelessly addicted. I’m sure many of you can relate.
But, unfortunately, for a golf teacher, just loving the game isn’t enough. You need to be able to connect with people in order to make this profession rewarding. You need to understand people, to be able to get outside your own scope of thinking and delve into the minds of others – with sincerity. Thankfully, through my upbringing and life experiences – some good, some bad – I’ve developed a love for getting to know people. It’s another major reason why I teach the game. I enjoy getting to know the quirks, the insecurities, the weaknesses, the strengths, the character, and the faces of others. Getting to know others and observing how they cope, learn, adapt, laugh, and get angry, allows you to learn a little more about yourself.
Of course, with this profession we are also given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. It may not grant them the fortitude and the wisdom to overcome the most challenging issues facing them. However, engaging them in a pastime can have a dramatic effect, not just on their golf games, but in how they live their lives. It frees their minds for a while. Because everyone – doctors, housewives, electricians – needs to rest, take a break, from the “real” issues of life. It’s healthy. It’s how we were made. It’s what we need. To be able to offer that to them through teaching them something about the greatest game on earth is an honor. It’s a privilege – and I’m thrilled to be able to do it every day.