Or let this be the day when ‘I got my swing back’
One of my favourite movies is ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’ – I love absolutely everything about it: the director (my #1 actor/director of all times, Robert Redford), the actors (I believe Matt Damon is one of the best in his generation, I love Will Smith to pieces, and I see Charlize Theron as the new Sharon Stone, with more style and finesse – if that’s possible), the photography and, most of all, the message. I first watched the movie long before I was entertaining any ideas about competing, long before I broke my first target. You know how a movie can impress you with one scene the best – and my ‘Legend’ scene was the one when Matt, after being 12 under par, at the beginning of his second 36 hole run gets the ‘See the field’ speech from Smith and then… while Will Smith is still talking everything blurs out and it’s only him and The Field… then even the field somehow comes closer and closer… in focus… Then, when he hits the ball – it is a perfect move, efortless and beautiful. And you hear Smith’s smile: ‘Yup, he got his swing back!’
And that’s exactly what happened to me today: I got my swing back! It is hard for anyone to understand what such a thing means, unless one had walked in these shoes…
I am unsure how to explain – for a while I have been trying too hard to break those orange targets. I still had fun (lots) and I was enjoying every moment on the range. But for some unknown reasons I wasn’t feeling what I used to feel. I was breaking targets, I even broke some very good scores – but something was missing. Like Bagger says: ‘Well you lost your swing… We got to go find it… Now it’s somewhere… in the harmony… of all that is… All that was… All that will be…’ And that’s exactly how it was – I lost something and I had no clue how to get it back.
Then – yesterday it started to click and… today… I’ll let Bagger Vance one more time to explain, he does it so much better:
‘Put your eyes on Bobby Jones… Look at his practice swing, almost like he’s searchin for something… Then he finds it… Watch how he settle hisself right into the middle of it, feel that focus… He got a lot of shots he could choose from… Duffs and tops and skulls, there’s only ONE shot that’s in perfect harmony with the field… One shot that’s his, authentic shot, and that shot is gonna choose him… There’s a perfect shot out there tryin’ to find each and every one of us… All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way, to let it choose us… Can’t see that flag as some dragon you got to slay… You got to look with soft eyes… See the place where the tides and the seasons and the turnin’ of the Earth, all come together… where everything that is, becomes one… You got to seek that place with your soul Junuh… Seek it with your hands don’t think about it… Feel it… Your hands is wiser than your head ever gonna be… Now I can’t take you there Junuh… Just hopes I can help you find a way… Just you… that ball… that flag… and all you are…’
I learned just last year that what he’s describing is The Zone – and, for the ones who have experienced it, it is probably the most amazing feeling you can have. The beauty of the moment is indescribable. All I know is I still dream about that calm and out-of-this-world feeling.
It wasn’t a full zone what I experienced today, but it was a type of zone (I wonder how many they are…). Today I somehow managed to let the perfect shot to choose me. Instead of searching high and above for it, I became calm and I let it come to me. How I did it – I don’t know. I know before handicap I had a determination to be soft and smooth and all the targets I broke were pure smoke (with a few exceptions). Was it effortless? No, I had to work (that’s how I know it wasn’t THE Zone, that one is pure effortless), but I worked with confidence and determination. I worked with joy, knowing what I was doing and what I am supposed to do.
And then the Doubles event came – and I had an amazing moment there. We started after 7 PM, the light was awful and I was still sooo happy about finally getting the ‘click’ in handicap that nothing could have bothered me. We took the line, I called for my first pair and I had 2 very good first posts. On post 3 I suddenly remembered how last year I shot this event with Mark Edmondson – a legend of trap shooting, untimely passed away on June 20th. And I will always remember the feeling I had when I got on the line, realizing I was going to lead a squad of amazing trap shooters, me, a brand new shooter with barely 3 years of experience against their decades of excellence. Not only that, but the next day I was to receive the ‘Mark Edmondson’ Award for the most improved shooter in doubles – an added pressure on me. And I will always remember his smile and his pat on the shoulder: ‘You’ll be fine, just have fun. So I tried and I actually managed to pull off one of my best scores today, winning the event in the preliminary. Imagine my profound surprise when, next morning, for the actual Championship Event – who’s walking the line with me? Same squad, same Mark Edmondson and his friends. Now the pressure was tripled – now they knew I can do it, I had to do it – again! Same smile, same pat – and after the first round, when I shot a not so impressive 43 he looks at me and tells me in a matter-of-factly tone: ‘I know you can do better – how about you do it?’ Somehow, from his tone and attitude, all I gathered was no shame but an amazing strength – and I broke an amazing 48 on the second round. He was happier for my score than I could be. And that evening I found out we were two ladies with the same score and it would be a shoot-off. As luck would have it the other Lady was Cheryl Stiby, a good friend of Mark and a wonderful person herself. Mark came to both of us before the shoot-off and told us to make him proud. Then, at the end of 3 hard rounds of shoot-off, he hugged both of us and said we made him proud, indeed.
And back to today, a year later – I am sitting on post 3 and all these thoughts come through my mind in a flash… and I am suddenly flooded with a swirl of emotions… and in a panic, I am looking for an idea on how to channel all this energy into something positive. I cling to the first one that comes through my mind: I am shooting these targets for him, for Mark. And although I did not calm out, there is a change inside that makes me focus and smoke the next 50 targets. I lose the edge of all the emotions exactly when I got them (on post 3) and the relaxation brings also a sudden calm. I am happy and I am still sad at the same time. But I know I can do it because I know there are a few people out there (walking here, on Earth, or up there, in Heaven) that believe in me.
Or, as Bagger Vance put it so eloquently:
‘Yes you can… but you ain’t alone… I’m right here with ya… I’ve been here all along… Now play the game… Your game… The one that only you was meant to play… Then one that was given to you when you come into this world… You ready?… Strike that ball Junuh don’t hold nothin back give it everything… Now’s the time… Let yourself remember… Remember YOUR swing… That’s right Junuh, settle yourself… Let’s go… Now is the time, Junuh…’
For all of you out there looking for a lost swing: you are not alone… just play YOUR game… and let it come back to you. Now’s the time…