Travelers Championship

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Golf Got Me Past My Divorce

July 17, 2013

Unlike prior stories that have appeared in this column, my life didn't end up in peril because of a debilitating disease or some harsh twist of fate. Rather, it was my inability to deal with common difficulties. Many have undoubtedly handled stressful jobs and failed marriages with more aplomb, and so it's with pain and shame that I remember the nights I contemplated if life was worth living.

I'm by nature a private person, and so I was reluctant to even share this, but my best friend and swing coach, Matt Christian, said that if I reached just one man like me, I might save his life.

I quit golf when I started law school and didn't take it up again until I graduated. My wife and I were living in a small apartment in Los Angeles with our newborn son, Luke, and the constant pressure and deadlines of being an associate at a large firm were unlike anything I'd faced before. Golf was supposed to be my outlet, my small dose of sunshine away from my commute between two climate-controlled cubes, yet the game only added to my anxiety.

The closest public course was usually a six-hour round, and the range was two stories of hitting bays with worn-out mats that sat on concrete. I was always angered by the amount of time it took to play, or even just drive there. Instead of relaxing I was usually checking my phone for work emails.

That I couldn't devote the proper time to play to my potential was so upsetting. Drinking scotch, I discovered, was the only thing that would chill me out. Then my wife was offered a job in Austin. This sounded like the answer to all that ailed me. Her family was there and could help with the baby, the cost of living was cheaper, and there was lots of great golf.

A depressed lawyer is a depressed lawyer no matter what town he's in. In Austin I struggled taking my second bar exam, networking and finding a job. I was playing more golf but not enjoying it. Mostly I would pound balls at the range, working out my frustration. My drinking got worse, and this, of course, led to marital problems.

I wanted to show my wife that I could be the husband she wanted, so I quit golf, again. We'd had one unfortunately memorable episode on Easter Sunday when I played golf and stayed in the club's bar drinking instead of coming home to help with Luke's egg hunt.

Quitting golf for a year didn't solve anything. One night, my wife told me she had filed for divorce. Soon I would be left to fend for myself in a town where I had no family and friends. I felt ugly and unlovable, with no future.

The only thing I had was golf. When I moved into my new place, the first thing I did was install a net and a hitting mat.

I also developed close relationships with the members and staff at Falconhead Golf Club. Several individuals I had misjudged as gruff turned out to be kindhearted souls who were truly there for me.

And funny, this game that was so frustrating soon felt natural. I noticed that the really good players never got angry at bad shots but took them in stride and enjoyed the challenge of the recovery. I got down to a 5-handicap. I took this even-keel approach to work and started performing better there, too.

Recently I met a fantastic woman, Alexis, who loves my passion for golf and is taking up the game. Even better, Luke, now 5, has a great little swing, and it has become what we do on our weekends together.

I still struggle with anxiety, and sometimes I still drink too much. Whenever I'm tempted to dwell on the negative side of life, I take a deep breath and think about golf. I'd rather be on a golf course than on a beach in Maui. Most specifically, I think of a future that holds many rounds with my son. I will never quit golf again.