I wasn’t supposed to fall in love with golf. Growing up in a low-income family, I played the “free sports” and was perfectly content with them. Basketball and track were my favorites. My father owned his own custodial company and I cleaned carpets, floors, and toilets at the school I went to after practice was over. It was just part of it.
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that one of my best friends told me (yes told me) that we were going to play on the golf team. “We don’t play golf” was my response. He said, “Dude, they get out of school all day on Monday to play tournaments!” I was intrigued. Don’t get me wrong, I was a huge Tiger fan (who wasn’t enthralled every time he holed a clutch putt or hit a hero shot) during high school. Golf was just never on my radar. It wasn't something that my dad got me in to. We just didn't have the time or money for it. Most weekends were spend doing extra jobs or cleaning banks and other office buildings.
Being the perfectionist that I am, I fell in love with the game. Even though I was using a set of Spalding blade irons and persimmon woods (my dad had a set from the 70s that he used maybe a few times before he had kids), I couldn’t get enough of the pursuit of the feeling of the ‘pure’ shot. One of my best friend’s fathers (a Black male) heard that I was playing and offered to take me out and show me the ropes. He taught me what an “open stance” was, and to play for bogey (rather than par) starting out. That more achievable goal of bogey helped my perfectionist and athletic mindset to not get frustrated early on. He also gave me one of wisest and most insightful pieces of advice that I still live by to this day. It was the first time I played with him and I had just had a really bad streak of holes. I was looking at the scorecard and getting down on myself. He asked why I was down. I said, "I'm not playing well. The scorecard says good is par, and par is 3, 4, or 5. I haven't had anything less than a 6." He responded with, ""Tony, how are you going to let a piece of paper determine success in your life? You've got to decide for yourself what success means to you. Starting out it might be bogey, and later on it might be par, but don't ever let someone else tell you what success means to you." I shared that story at his funeral and people told me how much it impacted them.
By senior year I was shooting in the 80s and even contributed a score once or twice in the team tournaments. Fast forward to college and I was fortunate to be able to work at the campus course and play and practice all I wanted for free. I got down to a low 70s golfer pretty consistently.
As I entered graduate school, I had to decide upon a Masters thesis to research. I reflected back upon both my youth (my friend’s dad teaching me the game) and my own heritage (my mother is Mexican-American), and it was apparent to me that not many people of color were present on the course, either as golfers or pro shop workers. I can remember only Black male golfer that was a member at the course I worked at (we did have a large South Korean golfer community though). I decided to investigate if there was any merit to the stereotype of golf being a “rich old White man’s sport.” The game had given me so much, it seemed crazy that everyone wasn't enjoying all it had to offer. Come to find out, though my Masters thesis and others' research conducted on the topic of social identity and sport, I did find that golf is considered a “White” sport. It seemed as though the Tiger era did not have as much of an impact as we might have thought on bringing in a more diverse golfing population to the links.
For my PhD, and among other studies I did examining the experiences of Black golfers pursuing professional golf careers, I studied a grassroots golf program funded by and run for women of color. It was a fascinating experience. I learned so much about how minorities feel about the game and the barriers to entry and inclusion that many do not even consider.
I got involved with MGS through one of their open calls for member testing. I was lucky to be chosen to review the Srixon Z-Star balls earlier this year and am currently reviewing the Cleveland Frontline Elevado Slant Neck putter. I really appreciate the focus on data-driven reviews (both the member forum and official business-side). Given my research background, it is something that I truly admire. No marketing hype, no BS, just the facts. I hope to continue on with the forum and I even applied for the Staff Writer position that MGS posted almost a month ago (wink wink).
In sum, the game of golf has given me so much and I just want everyone to at least give it a chance. I am a better husband, father, and overall human being when I get to play at least a few times a month. Golf is my escape from the grind of everyday life. It allows me to stay competitive as I get older, and gives me a never-ending chase (hence the username). I've met so many wonderful people while on the course and I look forward to many more years of chasing this silly little ball around the greens. Cheers and happy golfing to all.
I know this was well over 200 words, but it is hard for a writer to tell of his/her experience without some elaboration.
Tony aka ChasingScratch