As young athletes, we dream of playing on the biggest stages of our sports and following in the footsteps of those we cheered for when we were just young boys and girls.
I wasn’t any different.
When I was eight years old, I told my dad I wanted to play on the PGA Tour one day.
Naturally, we do whatever it takes to turn those dreams into a reality, right?
Well, just a few months ago, I had the opportunity to turn pro and play on the PGA Tour developmental circuit.
It may surprise you to find out that I turned down this amazing opportunity.
But make no mistake, I’ve never forgotten what I told my dad all of those years ago. Once I set my mind to something, I’m the type of person that goes after it with everything I have. And my dream hasn’t changed either.
But I came to an important point in my life where I asked myself: “Why rush this?”
I graduated from high school a semester early and stepped foot on a college campus at the age of 17. I wasn’t even an adult yet and already dealing with the college experience.
The decision to turn pro early felt very similar to that situation.
But this time, I really felt like I needed to slow down on this one, you know?
Back then, I’ve always thought to myself that I would do it differently if I could do it all over again. So, this is me doing it differently. This is me taking my time to finish what I started here at SMU.
And I’m here to make the most of it.
One of the many reasons for my decision was a valuable lesson I learned during college — the importance of patience.
During my time at SMU, I had to deal with two nagging injuries in my left and right shoulders, respectively. It was the first time in my career that injuries had forced me to take a lot of time off.
And there’s a big difference between taking a break to rest up a bit and enjoying life as opposed to being forced into that position.
I’ll be honest, it was hard for me.
You start to lose track of your why in a situation like that. Why did I pick up a golf club in the first place? Why am I still pushing myself each and every day to be the absolute best that I can be? Why do I still have all of these goals and aspirations?
You become fixated on results and just going through the motions each and every day at practice doing x, y and z to get better.
You kind of lose sight of that original love that got you into the sport in the first place.
Those injuries forced me to take a step back and remind myself of why I love golf. It was never about the results. I fell in love with golf because I loved the process of it, like something as simple as practicing—you know, the little things.
The results were nice and everything, but my real reason for going out there every day was of different nature.
All of that opened my eyes and showed me what I was really missing out on when I was sidelined. And trust me, once I was able to come back, golf appeared in a new light to me. It felt like I was a kid again going out there and playing for the right reasons.
It was in that moment, literally, that I fell in love with the sport again. And as odd it sounds, those injuries may have been the best thing that ever happened to me.
You see, golf is not just a sport to me. It means so, so much more.
As a kid, I was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. I was in the 1st percentile in height and weight when I was eight years old.
I grew up loving all sports, but I learned pretty quickly I wasn’t going to be big enough to play football, basketball, or anything like that. It was just something I had to come to terms with and accept early in life.
It was out of my control.
But then I started going to the golf course with my dad, just to watch him play and hit a few balls. I was there really to hang out with him at first, but something started to change after a few trips.
I started to like the sport.
It wouldn’t be long after that I started to love it.
Whatever you put into the sport of golf is what you get out of it. That’s something I’ve always admired about the game. It’s your own hours—everything is on yourself. There’s no team aspect, and it’s solely whatever you as an individual puts into it. I fell in love with the grind, and the rest is history.
Oh, and yeah, I did end up growing. Since we caught everything early on, my doctor was able to prescribe the right treatment to get me back on track.
I’m still only 5-foot-9, currently, but considering the way things could have turned out, you won’t hear me complaining.
Deciding to finish my degree and return to SMU is a decision I would make over and over again. I’m incredibly happy with where I’m at right now.
The growth hormone deficiency and my injuries were just some of the many hurdles along the way. But through those experiences, I’ve grown both as a player and a human being. And I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.
At some point, you just want to see things through to the finish line. I feel like I’d be cheating myself if I didn’t finish what I started.
Besides, the extra work is going to put me in an even better position for my dream when all is said and done here at SMU.
By that time, no doubt, I know I’ll be ready.