Audience of One
UNCUT is not a religiously-affiliated organization and solely works to highlight the individual experiences of student-athletes. Each student-athlete has a different background, and we want to highlight their humanity in whichever way means the most to them.
As an athlete, our world revolves around sport. That’s just the way it is. It’s what takes up most of our time in a day with early morning lifts, to 3-hour practices, travel, eating, you name it. We have to think about it all the time because we are involved in it all the time. We are always working towards that next big thing. For me, my time at the University of Wisconsin has revealed how easy it is to get lost in it all. To lose a genuine purpose or the positive motivation that made you want to start the work in the first place.
I am a walk-on on the golf team. Literally, since I can remember, I wanted to be a Badger. I come from a family of golfers. My dad is a professional and played at the University of Illinois (booooooo!), my mom was a Badger, my uncle was a Badger, and my grandfather coached them both while they were here. I wanted to share in this Badger legacy that my family had created, and I wanted to stay close to home. It was a dream come true to be given the opportunity to be a Badger.
This sport really does run through my blood. But in high school, I found myself on the tennis team, bypassing the opportunity to play golf because they were in the same season. I only say this because it sheds light on how little experience I had playing competitive golf when I came here. Don’t get me wrong, I was surrounded by the sport every day of my life and played often but was very much behind in major aspects of the game.
Starting college was so uncomfortable for me. I am a huge homebody, so even though I was moving only 20 minutes from home, I had a hard time leaving. I was starting golf at the highest amateur level with no expectations, but a ton of them all at the same time. I red-shirted my freshman year. My family and coaches made it clear what little was expected of me in this first year, but I subconsciously put a lot of stress on myself. And, this stress wasn’t just coming from my poor performance in golf but everything else that I was having to adapt to. I remember feeling so out of place. My happiness and emotions were all over. I truly felt empty, like something was missing. I had these goals that I was working hard towards, and a sport that was supposed to fill me up. But, this drive that I had was to make sure that I could make these people proud that believed in me so much.
"I remember feeling so out of place. My happiness and emotions were all over. I truly felt empty, like something was missing."
So, let’s rewind 4 years…I would love to say that I followed Christ. Because that’s what I would say when someone would ask me; I would answer with a very confident “yes”. I went to a Catholic grade school growing up where I learned about Jesus, church and religion all the time. I went to church like I was supposed to, prayed when I needed God for something and was kind to other people. I really didn’t think there was anything else and I really didn’t want there to be anything else. Through high school, my faith was put on the back burner. And this emptiness and need for deeper fulfillment that I was feeling?? I knew it needed to be Jesus.
Looking back on my freshman year of college, it is no coincidence that my roommate happened to be thinking the same things. We attended an Athletes in Action (AIA) meeting together that year, and when I tell you this community was life-changing, I mean it. This group and the Jesus love they were teaching was the starting point to my growth and still to this day. It was the beginning of learning about a relationship with Christ in this newfound way. It didn’t mean I had to do certain things or perform a certain way to be accepted. He died on the cross for me, for my sins, because He loves me and He forgives me. This unconditional love is earth-shattering.
Freshman year went by and I continued to invest in my faith. This change of heart was carrying over in my life, but not my golf. These truths from God were all through my mind until I got to the golf course. My game was trending but still, to be honest, not good. I was anxious, negative and just harsh on myself. But still, everything was trending.
The summer after my sophomore year, I went to the Ultimate Training Camp (UTC). This camp is a week-long sport camp put on by Athletes in Action where this idea of blending your faith and sport is introduced to you. Five different principles are taught, and then the campers are put through a 20-hour long competition that lasts over the course of 2 days (yes, you read that right). It consists of all different sports like ultimate frisbee, basketball, swimming relays, volleyball, kickball and tug of war, just to name a few…and about 4 hours of sleep.
This competition absolutely broke me, in more ways than one. It broke me to a point where I knew I couldn’t do this alone; Jesus was the only way. Physically it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But through the whole process, I found a new purpose to play the sport I love so much. It wasn’t about working so hard to perform for the people I care about, or even to prove to myself that I can do it anymore. I started to understand a new gratitude in God for allowing me to play golf, and it made me want to work that much harder. My golf rounds turned into times of worship and an opportunity to glorify Him. This change of heart lifted so much stress and anxiety that I had in my golf game off of my chest. I began to play so free because I knew, whatever score I shot or when I made those bad swings, I was still loved, saved and forgiven by my Lord and Savior. It didn’t matter what kind of score I posted, He is proud of me just the same.
"But through the whole process, I found a new purpose to play the sport I love so much. It wasn’t about working so hard to perform for the people I care about, or even to prove to myself that I can do it anymore."
I remember some of my first rounds after camp, I didn’t even know it was possible at the time, but I loved the sport even more than before. This was the coolest thing about it all. Sports are supposed to be loved and appreciated. It is so easy to forget about this when we don’t want to get up early for lift or don’t really feel like practicing the full 3 hours that day. But finding that bigger purpose and the answer as to “why” you continue to work so hard changes everything. For me, this motivation required me to look upward.