For years, I have awaited with eager expectation the coming of the Mens and Womens U.S. Opens. Along with thousands of other invested lovers of the game, we have together looked forward to a new experience of golf in our beloved historic Pinehurst. After all, we are known for being the birthplace of American golf and the preservers of all that has gone on before us.
Every now and then, however, you have to break tradition to make room for something brand new. I love that word “new.” The word connotes something fresh, different, innovative, original. It means more than improvement or an added twist. It means something entirely different. I like the word because when you actually encounter something “new,” it also brings along with it a burst of energy. And we can all use a fresh breath of air in our lives can’t we? I don’t mean from time to time, but on a regular basis. Without “new,” life becomes “old.” Even a town can become full of wrinkles as it withers from a lack of oscillation, beholden to the narrow and confined instead of the open and invitational. Oh, yes, even a village has to pulsate with the beat of life.
For weeks leading up to the Opens, I meandered over to the Resort each evening with my beloved dog, Teddy-boy. With childlike curiosity, I would marvel at the transformation of the resort into a major championship site. With each grandstand, generator, tent, and rope that was erected, my imagination was stirred to see not only something new, but something really big, so big it could not contain just a village, but the whole world. It’s called a vision. I became excited to see a vision not only coming to pass, but bringing a town to new life. Even I felt the pulsation.
As the tournament week began, each morning I would awake with an eager expectation for the day. I didn’t have to drum it up. All I had to do is show up and be part of the vision and encounter a fresh dose of life.
For me, it began on the steps of The Carolina on Monday evening. Teddy-boy and I sat on the porch and greeted the incoming guests, and struck up conversations with total strangers. One lady standing next to me was really tan. I said to her, “Wow, you look like you are from Florida.” “No, Pittsburgh,” she replied, “Pittsburgh!” I exclaimed. “I grew up in Pittsburgh. I worked at Oakmont as a teenager with Bob Ford and Lew Worsham.” “I had my first lesson from Lew,” she replied as both our eyes widened. “Do you know Fran M.? I work with him in my law firm,” she went on. By now I was freaking out. “Fran M. was my neighbor who lived directly across the street from me on McCrea Road for eighteen years of my life! Small world!” What were the chances of that connection happening? A random conversation with a total stranger standing two steps away from me bringing connection to someone from my deep past was mind boggling to me.
On the course it was entirely new for me as a media badge holder to have the privilege of going inside the ropes and hanging out at the driving range throughout the week. What a thrill it was to stand a chip shot away from Phil Michelson and watch him warm up before his play. That thrill was echoed in the words of Lydia Ko who was star-struck with meeting the likes of Sergio Garcia. “I got to hug Sergio! When will I ever get to do that again? When will I ever be able to see the guys play again?” Here is one of the greatest women golfers in the world ga-gaing over the guys. I had to chuckle to see Lydia video Phil’s swing on the range. She, too, was catching the fresh energy of the larger vision, something brand new in the shared presence of both sexes on the tee.
While it is easy to define new only by score, as in the likes of Martin Kaymer’s record-setting runaway Open win, perhaps it is even more accurate to define new by the likes of Lucy Li. It was new for me to sit in the press conferences of so many of the men pros last week—Bubba, Rory, Martin, and the like. But none elicited the laughter and delight of the press like Lucy did. None brought the force of life into the room as powerfully as this confident, uninhibited, giggly eleven year old who can hit the ball 230 yards on her drive, and whose post-game practice includes eating more ice-cream.
When asked what her goals were for this week, she answered in perfect eleven-year old form, “Just to have fun and have a good learning experience without thought of the outcome.” Every answer was about just having fun playing. The meaning of being at Pinehurst to her was not about winning a major championship. It was about being at Disneyland. Pinehurst #2 is Lucy Li’s playground for the week. You go girl!
Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from my experience at the Opens was not from the low scorer on the course, but the high scorer of life: “Stop being an old fart. Put away the old and keep doing something new. Even when the Opens are over, you can keep the spirit of the championship going. You can create a vision for your life or town, get up every day in expectation of something new, talk to a stranger to make a fresh connection, and get the energy of youth by doing what youth do: PLAY! And for giggling sake, eat more ice-cream!