Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Life

Each year when I take time away from work and pretty much anything else that is part of my daily life to attend the annual LPGA event here in Portland, I am reminded of one very specific thing: the way I live my life needs to change.  It becomes more acute each year.

I’ve written incessantly and repetitively in this blog over the last few years about my obsession with attending this tournament – the Portland Classic (see Summerside, The Clown via LPGA.com, Numb, and Sparkle in the Rain for past recaps).   What began as a tournament that I sheepishly checked out on a whim in 2010 has now turned into my only planned days off from work and the main thing I look forward to each year.  This past weekend proved that the shine is not wearing off.  This was probably the best one yet!  Each year I throw myself into this event with more and more gusto and keep adding ways to get more involved.  It is this sign of life and burst of energy and enthusiasm that emphasizes each time how unhappy I am with much of my life outside of this annual week long event.

Morgan Pressel
 There are far too many highlights for me to even begin to scratch the surface here.  There are so many little moments that occur when the LPGA stars are just out and about everywhere you happen to venture around the golf course property.  I mean, just by chance, Morgan Pressel and I caught glances as she strode down the first hole after her opening tee shot during the first round and I threw up a silly wave hello, which she returned in kind, along with a goofy grin!  It was fun to see Hee Young Park jump into one of the local food carts to serve food immediately after shooting a seven under 65 on Saturday

Hee Young Park working at Bro Dogs

Irene Coe
I was able to meet two professionals during the early week Pro-Ams that I volunteer caddied for: the delightfully chatty and energetic Irene Coe, early Monday morning (who sadly had to withdraw from the tournament due to back pain), and the fantastic Swedish major winner Anna Nordqvist on the hot Wednesday afternoon prior to tournament play the next morning.  A friend also gave me VIP passes to the “Champions Club,” which is the hospitality tent perched behind the 18th green at all golf tournaments - the ones where people eat and drink for free and seem to live a life I don’t really understand.  

Anna Nordqvist

The big highlight for me, of course, was getting to see my favorite golfer Jee Young Lee make the cut and see her hit every shot of all four rounds. I have chronicled how I encountered Lee two years ago with my first volunteer caddy group and how she became my latest favorite golfer, but this year, as I watched her struggle and scratch for pars and wind up only in a tie for 72nd place, I wondered to myself: “why she is so fascinating to me?”  Why is it that I live and die with every shot she hits?  When she hits an approach iron to six inches for a kick in birdie, like she did on the 11th hole Sunday, my heart soars with joy and I love seeing her normal stern determined game face brighten with a huge smile.  But then when she hits a dying duck hook out of bounds on the relatively easy par 5 seventh hole to score a double bogey (also on Sunday – just after I thought to myself, “Today is going to be a good day!” - proving that I am probably a curse), I feel awful.  I feel despondent.  I feel frustrated and I feel for her.  Golf, unlike most competitive activities, is so isolating and so exposed and a player is actually paid based on performance (i.e.: the worse one does, the less money they make, which means fewer opportunities to be in tournaments – imagine that in the NBA or MLB on a game by game basis).  So much of the game is played inside one’s head and there are so many things that can go wrong and generally do.  Jee Young Lee has all of the tools to be one of the best players on tour – I have no doubt.  I have seen a lot of great players up close and she has the tools.  She can hit it really far and straight.  She has the skill to get up and down from almost anywhere (as I’ve said before, she has hit three of the most amazing shots I’ve ever seen), she can curve the ball left and right.  Her putting is very smooth and consistent.  I guess I root for her so hard, because identify with her.  Why isn’t she better?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if she lacks the focus, or the confidence, or just has bad luck, or has simply lost the fun.  I often ask the same questions of myself.  I truly believe I have the tools to do a lot of good things in this world, but everything feels like a struggle and I never feel like I can excel or can break free from standing still.  But most importantly, I don’t feel much passion for what I spend most of my time doing.  It’s a terrible cycle that I know I need to break free from, I simply am not sure how.

Jee Young Lee putting

Every time I have seen Jee Young Lee play, she has had a different caddy.  This year, her caddy Kelly, was a northwest guy – from Gig Harbor, Washington.  I learned this because the only consistent people in the gallery besides me all four days were an older couple who followed JYL shot for shot just as I did. This couple were Kelly’s parents and it is amazing and sweet how much people will talk about their kids with very little prompting.  Apparently, several years ago, Kelly decided to pick up and go to the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (amazing place) and attend their caddy school for a few days (my kind of schooling!) and become a caddy for the resort.  Well, eventually, through another caddy he knew, he was asked to fill in on an LPGA player’s bag for a week and now he has been doing so for a few years.  He travels the world, caddies over in South Korea for their pro tour during the LPGA offseason.  He went out and grabbed his very humble dream.  He does not yet have a regular player that has hired him.  His parents were hopeful that Jee Young Lee would take him to Evian France with her in two weeks, but that had yet to be determined.

I bring this up, because I have often joked about how I hope that an LPGA player takes me on as her caddy – snagging me out of the crowd during the tournament.  How I want one of them to take me away and rescue me from the sludge and grind I dwell in 51 weeks a year.  I honestly don’t know if I would enjoy caddying.  I don’t know if I have the desire to travel that much and have the guts to live without the security of a regular paycheck (only a select few caddies get that steady money making machine player on the pro golf circuit), and I would worry about my health care.  But the message rang out loud and clear.  I need to find a new direction.  It is past time to begin forging a new life – a new direction.  I need to learn how to let go of the security of doing what I always do, and have always done, and start the search for what will make me want to get out of bed each day.  I know life will always have its ups and downs, but maybe those down times won’t seem so insurmountable if I actually feel a little better about myself.


  1. I'm at a similar point in my life and it is frustrating to just not know which way to turn. If there were some clear sign pushing (or pulling) me in one direction or another, I would be so happy, but for now I wait and hope for one. While I've got my fingers crossed, I'll hope for you, too. At the very least, I'm glad you have such a fantastic time at this tournament every year. Maybe instead of caddying you could find a gig traveling around and writing/blogging about the players and their tournaments.

    1. Kario, I am crossing my fingers as well for the both of us. A few people have passed along their 'excitement' about my renewed resolve to find a better path, which I share as well. However, it's difficult to feel especially hopeful when there's no inward sense of direction. I do not want to make drastic changes simply for the hell of it. But it is past time to take some risks!!

      Your fantastic suggestion of writing about players and the tournaments is so spot on and so perfect. I would absolutely love to do this! The ability to travel along with the tour, decide about specific players to focus on, and follow their rounds, along with an overall picture of each event, would be an absolute dream come true. Now, only to find a way out there without having to freelance!!

      Thank you so much for reading and providing such wonderful input. Good luck with your search and let me know if you find an invigorating direction.

  2. I love hearing about the tournament, your enjoyment is contagious.
    And yup,
    it's time for a cool change...