It sounded like a small explosion. That was the first hint that my dream was dying. I was standing on a driving range in Florida. Because I am completely and utterly obsessed with golf, there is no place I would rather be. It makes no sense, but I’ve stopped trying to rationalize it.
As much effort as I invest in golf, I’ve never really had any expectation that I would be an outstanding golfer. So when I’ve had the chance to play with some of the world’s very best golfers, like Luke Donald and Jason Day, it was not the slightest bit discouraging to see, up close, just how much better they are than me. I fully expected them to be as amazing as they are.
All my life I have been far more obsessed with how far I could hit a golf ball than with making low scores. I was an extremely short hitter as a kid, and much of my adult life has been devoted to making amends for that weakness. I’m still not an exceptionally long hitter, but I have probably added 40 yards to my average drive in the last four years. Those gains have fueled the (surely irrational) dream that perhaps I could add another 40 yards over the next four years, in which case I would be a long driver.
Thirty seconds later I heard what sounded like a second explosion. I hit the ball I had teed up, and watched with pride as it flew almost to the end of the range. Only then did I turn around to try to identify what the source of the explosive noise was.
This is what I saw, more or less.
I didn’t yet know it, but hitting next to me on the range was Jeff “Critter” Crittenden, one of the world’s longest drivers of the golf ball. This is a guy who has won long driving contests with balls that travel well more than 400 yards. I have never experienced anything like it in my life. I watched in awe. I knew at that moment that, no matter what I did, I would never be a long driver. There was no point in even pretending after seeing Critter hit the ball.
Eventually I worked up the courage to talk to him. It turns out he is not only a nice guy, but also knows a ton about the golf swing, and has a nice array of trick shots. He even gave me some advice about how to hit the ball farther. If you ever want to hold a golf-related event, I can’t think of a better guy to come do an exhibition. (Well, maybe I’d rather have Tiger Woods come do an exhibition, but Tiger would charge twenty-five times more than Critter!)
Just be sure to warn the attendees that their dreams will be crushed.