Role Reversals

“The problem with being 20”. That was the first blog I ever wrote. The problem I was trying to get at then is something that’s been coming back to me lately. It was about being in that ‘in-between’ stage… where you know you’re not a kid anymore but you’re not quite sure you can class yourself as an adult either. That moment when someone asks for an adult and you look around to find an “adultier adult” than you. (Credit to whoever came up with that quote on Twitter). But that was a blog I wrote two years ago, and this is now.

A few people told me that in-between feeling wouldn’t ever go away properly. Sometimes I think I’m in that stage even more so now than I was then. But I think I’ve also grown up enough since then to recognise that part of coming out of the wilderness between teen and adult is taking a moment to realise the people that you might be influencing…. the people you might be having an effect on. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have someone let you know when it happens. Sometimes it hits you in the face – signing autographs and being asked for pictures at the Curtis Cup is still one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I gave one young girl my glove after one of my matches along with the words “I don’t really know if you want this but it seems like the right thing to do…” An hour later she found me again and asked me to sign it.

Maybe it has to be that black and white sometimes for you to realise what’s happening…. and then what has happened in the past or what has the potential to happen in the future. But it doesn’t have to be black and white. You don’t have to be the older one, in the position that other people want to be in, to insipre someone or to have an effect on their life. You don’t have to have had 30 or 40 or 50 years of experience: be it experience of failed relationships and succesful ones, or career breakthroughs and disappointments, of the times to keep trying and the times to move on. Of course there are times when experience makes a difference and there are going to be people you trust and people you turn to for advice. But don’t assume that those same people have everything figured out either. Lots of people have a missing piece, whether they show it or not… and for all you know you could be lighting up that little piece of darkness they don’t let anyone see.

You don’t have to be a teacher for people to learn from you. You don’t have to be a superstar for people to look up to you. You don’t have to be given the label of ‘role-model’ to be exactly that… and you might have been a role-model to someone long before someone else said it out loud. People notice what you’re doing whether you notice them noticing it or not. So give them the right things to notice.

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Freeze Frames and Photographs

Have you ever been in one of those moments that you wish could have lasted forever? Sometimes you know you’re in them when they’re actually happening. Sometimes you don’t realise until afterwards, when whatever it was that made you feel that way isn’t there anymore. If you’re lucky, you might have a photograph of it… maybe it’s a beautiful place that you only got to visit once, and now it’s the lock screen on your phone. Maybe it’s a meaningful text from someone who meant a lot, screenshotted to be re-read long after that relationship has drifted apart. Maybe it’s video footage of a winning putt in a tournament, a reminder of the adrenaline you didn’t know it was possible to feel.

We get a bad rap sometimes for photographing things too often. For forgetting to actually experience our experiences because we’re too busy taking pictures of them. It’s a valid point when people do it purely for the ‘look at me look where I went look how cool my life is’ image they attempt to paint. But a lot of the time people photograph things for a genuine reason… they want something to help them hit rewind when the buzz has gone.

The problem is that those freeze frames, whether you have them physically or on a screen or in your head, they aren’t real. Life isn’t a series of pictures and videos and memories for us to play back when we want to remember, it’s what actually happens to us every second we’re breathing. Pictures can’t put us back in those moments. Because what we really want isn’t to look at the picture and remember, it’s to be back in that place, at that time, with those people, feeling those feelings and thinking those thoughts. We don’t want photographs, we want it again. We want a rewind button.

I’m not sure if it’s cynicism or maturity to know that nothing lasts forever. I think a lot of people have that fear of never being that happy again. The problem with letting something, or someone, make you happy is that you can’t always control whether that gets taken away from you. Life moves on whether you want it to or not. What I do know is that allowing that to hold you back is a mistake. It’s an understandable mistake – people go through painful experiences all the time, and perhaps the more painful the experience the more likely it is to make a person unwilling to be put in a position to feel that pain again. But if you never have any pain, you don’t get to appreciate just how good the good is. Knowing it could end is bittersweet, but not having it at all would be worse. Some people would rather spend their whole life treading water because they don’t want to hit the rocks at the bottom after they’ve stood atop the highest diving board. But once you’ve had a taste for that highest diving board….

I’m not a scientist but adrenaline is the reason I can’t see myself ever giving up on golf. There have been times I questioned whether the highs could really outweigh the lows, and that’s something that applies to a whole other world as well. But the adrenaline, the high, the happiness when it finally comes through… it is so worth it. We might not be able to press pause on certain moments in our life or to put that feeling in a bottle to take out anytime we need it. We might not be able to protect ourselves from crashing back down to earth sometimes. But if we’re willing to try and touch the clouds, in whatever sense that might be, the grazes from the rocks at the bottom really don’t mean a thing.

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Split Life Living

I’m writing this as I sit in Costa at Gatwick airport, looking out the window at darkening skies and bare trees that make me think I’m back home for Christmas again.In 24 hours time I’ll have finished a practice round in Portugal for the inaugural Patsy Hankins Trophy, a matchplay event between Europe and Asia. Even as I type this messages are flashing up as the players already there discuss what the dress code is for tonight’s dinner.

Less than 24 hours ago I was in Phoenix, Arizona, probably about to watch my 8 iron on 17 drift slowly, agonisingly into the water as I made double to drop out of the lead in my most recent college tournament.

I still have three hours to kill before my next flight. Maybe it’s the tiredness, the coffee covered jetlag struggling to make sense of which emotion is most appropriate to feel. I want to go through my stats from Phoenix, I want to get lost in new House of Cards episodes, I want to finish reading Legacy, I want to get ready for the amazing experience ahead of me this week and I want to take a train to Leicester with my sister to watch Newcastle’s first game under Benitez.

But I don’t know which.

Everything just feels a little bit different. Exactly the same, but different.

CNN to BBC News. The New York Times to The Guardian. I have Netflix open but my US account won’t play here. And even if it would, watching a show about American politics isn’t something my brain feels right about in a UK airport. (Not that American politics is something my brain feels right about either). I asked my dad to bring me some European adapters when he picked me up, which he did, but now I’ve realized I only have an American head for my phone charger with me and the adapters are UK-Europe. I accidently asked for a grande latte in Costa instead of a medium. I’m not supposed to be in England in March. Split life living.

It’s hard to answer the standard “do you know what you’re going to do when you graduate?” college tournament question when you just don’t know what’s going to happen. you don’t know which path will work out. They say the best in the world don’t even consider the Plan B option because doubting Plan A is a self-belief weakness they just don’t have. But one thing golf teaches you is that you can have all the best plans, best preparation and best intentions in the world… but it will never guarantee the outcome. The unpredictability is what keeps me in love with it. It doesn’t help me answer the question though.

College opens your eyes to the world and the thousands of different paths you could take; the different lives you could lead. You want to give your all to one thing and see how far it could take you, but what if you’re leaving something else behind? What bit of your life goes into what compartment? It’s not just college: people travel all the time and have experiences every day that change the way they view things. We leave, and learn, and return, and everything is the same, but different. Maybe we expect the world to go on hold while we figure out what and where we are. But the world keeps turning and people keep living. Trying to figure out how that all fits together can be unsettling. But who wants to settle anyway? I’m incredibly grateful to get these experiences.

Split life living. It’s time to find another coffee.

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2016

New year, new resolutions, new goals, new chances to be a better person… all of the inspiration is lighting up social media at the minute. And why shouldn’t it? It’s good to see people making extra efforts to achieve the things they want to. There’s something about a new year that starts the hope in people again – even though really, January 1st is just another day, it can be a chance to remember that a better version of you has the potential to exist.

Maybe it’s more of a mental thing than anything else. Some people don’t buy into resolutions. There are a lot of good people out there, and if you’ve spent the whole of 2015 – or even your whole lifetime – chasing your dreams or living your values, a new year might not seem like a big deal. Trying to be the best person you can be doesn’t require January 1st for everyone. But that doesn’t make the “new year, new me” promises invalid. It may well be irritating, but anyone who recognises and is willing to address the changes needed in their life should be commended.

But it isn’t about how you feel at the start of the year.

That inspiration doesn’t come on tap… trust me. There will be times when the light isn’t there. There will be times when distractions intervene and there will be times when you wonder whether you’ve been going backwards instead of forwards the whole time. Times when you’re stuck in a routine that is showing you no sign of progress and the people who supported you through the good are nowhere to be found. (Side note, that’s exactly when you’ll figure out who the genuine ones are). But when the version of you who made those promises at the start of the year gets slapped in the face, or stabbed in the back, by something that you think is reality… it’s about how you feel then. Whether you’re willing to keep those January 1st promises then.

The motivation and inspiration will not always be there. Your trust in yourself will not always be there. Life can get in the way of the promises you make quicker than you have time to realize. But the whole point is that it isn’t supposed to be easy; it isn’t supposed to be comfortable. Comfortable is going to the gym because you have new nike trainers and nothing better to do. Comfortable is going to the range because the weather is good and you know you’re hitting it well. Comfortable is complimenting a stranger because you’re having a good day. But comfortable isn’t always there, and it’s about the things you’re willing to do when uncomfortable hits. Will you still remember your promises to yourself then?

So whatever it was that made you dream those dreams, whatever it was that made you believe you were capable of becoming what you were meant to become, don’t forget it. Bottle it. Screenshot it. Write it down and figure out a way to make it happen. Do whatever you have to do to make sure you can find those feelings again, because there will be times when the only one who can bring them back is you.

Having a goal is the first step. But it’s not the only step.

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Different paths, different people

Maybe it’s a side effect of trying to make it in sport. Maybe it’s a side effect of going to university on the other side of the world… maybe it’s a side effect of growing up. Maybe it’s a side effect of my personality. Realistically it’s probably a combination of all those things, and those things have led me to some great people and incredible experiences. But they’ve also led me to this: the realisation of the things you’re giving up if you want something badly enough. I’ve met some amazing people in every stage of my life. I’ve met a lot of people that I don’t have much time for too, but for every 20 that fill your head with doubts and mistrust there’s one or two that make it all worth it. The trouble isn’t just finding those people though; it’s holding onto them. Because how are you supposed to hold onto people when you know you’re always going to go your separate ways? The US college system is probably the best and easiest example of how the biggest benefit can also be the biggest drawback. Ask anyone who is there now or has been – without wanting to sound cliché, the friendships you can make out there really are special. You practice together, you live together, you eat together, you take classes together; every single day for months at a time. You can’t just come home for the weekend or decide to take a week off. And when you spend that much time with people you are going to get closer than you ever thought possible. But in the college system, what happens after it’s over? When the 4 years are done that phase of life is over, and everyone goes on their own path to be successful in whichever way they want to. You’re all forced to remember that being from countries 5000 miles apart makes continuing the same level of friendship very difficult. Two people can have the best intentions in the world, and skype and facetime and snapchat and the endless list of other ways to interact do make it easier. And there are always friendships that do last and people that do stay in your life forever. If you’re lucky enough to have that, take the time to appreciate it. Because that slow process of slipping out of each other’s lives is almost inevitable in so many cases – unless you get comfortable doing the same thing day in, day out, your life isn’t going to stay still forever. And that’s something I would never want. It’s one of my biggest frustrations – watching people with the potential to achieve so much more settle for what’s easy, or what’s comfortable. I understand why people do it, and I’m in no position to tell people how to live their lives. But don’t sit and complain about how nothing ever changes in the world if you live a life where nothing ever changes. My point isn’t to tell people to stop being comfortable. (I already wrote that blog…) And this probably sounds a lot more depressing than it’s supposed to. I’m not bothered about not having people in my life that are going to drag me down. I don’t want to be around people whose conversations revolve around highlighting the flaws of others; I want to be around people who are trying to make themselves better. When you want something badly enough, you know whether the time you’re spending is going towards achieving it. If you’re not spending the time wisely, someone else is. What do you want most? That quote about people never being too busy for the people that are important to them – I don’t agree with it. The people that are important will understand what your time needs to go on and why it does. Why you can’t go out on a Saturday night; why you want to stay an extra hour at practice. Why you can’t meet them for dinner during the week or why you’re too tired to Skype. Don’t get me wrong it’s hugely important to have time out from whatever it is you’re chasing, and it’s hugely important to have people in your life that give you time out from that. There are still people I would drop everything for in a heartbeat, if they needed me, and if someone has their trust in me, they will always have it. Chasing success, chasing a dream, chasing a life that makes you become what you’re capable of becoming is something worth doing. But don’t expect everyone to hang around to understand it.

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Stop waiting for your turn

So many things in life are down to chance. Some people will tell you that everything is – we have no control over our future (those people still look before crossing the road though…). But regardless of what you believe about fate and destiny and God and all that philosophical stuff, there are without a doubt certain things that we have no control over.

Golfers know that more than anyone. When you spend months doing the right things and then don’t seem able to put one good round together, or the first drive you stripe down the middle of the fairway finds a divot, or you get the wrong side of the draw in every single big tournament in the summer. They aren’t the only times a golfer can wonder why they chose a sport where there are so many factors that influence the result and only a small portion of those are the ones they can actually do anything about. At the end of a football season, the team who performed best will win the league. And the teams that performed worst will go down (we all know Newcastle deserved to stay up). In tennis, whatever external factors affecting the match should have the same effect on your opponent too. And you only have to beat one person at a time… not 50, or a 100, or 200. I’m not saying other sports are easier (but lets be honest can golf get any harder), but I personally think the outcome of most other sports depends a lot less on factors outside of the players’ control.

But, here’s the thing. Too many golfers use exactly that as an excuse not to control the things they can control. So the person who won could get on all the par 5s in two? Go work out how you can hit the ball 20 yards further. The selectors picked somebody for a team ahead of you? Make sure you get in through the automatic spots. (Trust me, it’s less stressful). Nobody has told you which putting skills tests to do? Go and find them out for yourself. Make up your own. Not everybody who pretends to be an expert is actually an expert; there are things you can figure out by yourself.

Maybe it’s because when we’re younger, we get things handed to us. I’ve been incredibly lucky with all the support I’ve received over the years from all kinds of sources, but that isn’t an automatic formula for success. Some people have to find that support themselves much earlier, and even if you do have it there comes a time when you realize that there’s certain steps you have to take on your own. You can’t just sit around and wait for the people or the money or the coaches or the success to come to you, and you can’t expect all the people that support you to automatically know what you need from them. You have to take time to figure out what works for you and what other people can give you. Build relationships, and trust, and recognize when you need to hold on tight to someone or something. But don’t be afraid of moving on from things. Don’t be afraid of looking for more. (You might lose a few people, but turns out they aren’t meant to be part of your future anyway…)

Anyone can say they want to be the best in the world, but you can’t expect that to come along and hit you if you keep doing the same things everyone else is doing. There’s no point having goals if you don’t have a plan. If you want success, in anything, step up and find a way to get it. Be brave; take risks; ask questions. Work hard. Stop waiting.

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Almost, but not quite

People aren’t always (ever) what you want them to be.
I think this could be one of the most frustrating things about growing up. Knowing, somewhere, this person has a side in them that’s perfect for you. I don’t just mean perfect for you as in boyfriend/girlfriend I could spend the rest of my life with you, I mean perfect as in helping complete some little piece of your life that might be a little bit incomplete. It’s not always significant, and more often than not you can cope just fine with that bit of incompleteness.

But have you ever met someone, or got to know someone, and known there’s that compatibility in there? Sometimes it’s just browsing their Twitter for a few minutes. There’s just something that resonates with you. Something that makes you want to go to a bar and sit and drink and just listen to them; to their stories, their experiences, their knowledge or their jokes. You want to ask them questions about what their goals are in life, what political party they stand for and what character trait makes them angrier than any other. But you can’t do any of that because they aren’t quite that person that you need them to be. Almost, but not quite.

Maybe it stems from social media- you can feel like you know someone that you don’t actually know at all. And when you remember that you get a little bit lost because it’s like having a friend in school who suddenly moves to another country. Peoples lives are already set; they have their plans and their routines and you’re not supposed to be the one that disrupts that. Don’t break the norm, people don’t like that….

But there’s that little part of that person, or people, that is something you need, or that little something you like. It might be a classmate who keeps asking the questions you’re thinking of too. It might be the adult who has all the knowledge you want but doesn’t think you’re worth sharing it with. It might be the guy with messy brown hair who knows just what to say when you’re feeling down, but goes quiet for weeks on end. The cool girl from your gym who tweets the lyrics from a band you thought no one else knew. The friend who always comes to you for advice but keeps making the same mistakes anyway. The person that is there for you when no one else is, but treats other people like shit.

The point is, most people have good in them. And sometimes you can see that good when not many others can… and maybe they don’t even want to see it themselves. That’s when it’s frustrating. Unfortunately, that little bit of them that you think is in there isn’t always a reflection of who they are. Just because someone has good in them, doesn’t mean it outweighs the bad. Sometimes it does. But you can’t force out the parts that you want; the parts that you need. Maybe I just read into things too much and I see things that aren’t always there. But when you expect things from people, more often than not you’ll end up disappointed. You can’t make a person into someone that they’re not, however much you want to. Almost… But not quite.

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