Every time I walk down the 18th fairway, wind at my back, sun setting, I am reminded of the good things in my life. As the geese roam the grass and the sky turns pink, I feel at peace within myself and the world. When I am there, I forget the stresses of everyday life with ease. But it wasn’t always like this. Just 14 months ago, I never would have thought that a 6,500-yard municipal golf course in the sleepy town of Groton, Conn. would become my favorite place in the world.
I’ve always loved golf. It’s a sport unlike most others in that it requires two opposite characteristics to be successful – power and finesse. From driving the ball down tree-lined fairways to sinking mid-range downhill putts, there’s something about the extreme difficulty and challenge of the game that has drawn me in since the first time I picked up a club at age 3. And when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring and my family relocated to our summer house in Connecticut, golf remained as one of the few ordinary parts in my life.
Shennecossett Golf Course, or “Shenny” as the Groton locals call it, became an outlet for me during a time where I didn’t have much else to do. Almost every day of the week, I would grab my clubs after school and head over to 93 Plant Street, where I felt some aspect of normalcy in my life return.
Though I’d known the course and played there many times in the summers over the previous few years, I began to love the spot in a way I hadn’t before. From the tricky uphill par 3 fourth hole to the picturesque par 4 16th hole overlooking the Thames River and Long Island Sound, I grew fond of a place for its serenity and beauty in a time of noise and ugliness in our world. While the news highlighted the political division in our society and the ongoing tragedy of the pandemic, golf allowed me to escape the negativity and offered me something I could look forward to every day.
On top of having the opportunity to continue getting outside, golf has connected me with new people––from retired recreational players to a golf team member at a local college. Not only was it nice to meet new people, but just having the ability to talk to people face-to-face during a time of isolation was really important.
Along with becoming a member at Shenny, I also signed up for the Connecticut Junior PGA and had the opportunity to compete against other players at a few new courses last summer. I got to experience what it’s like to play in 18-hole tournaments and, like at Shenny, I met a number of new people as well.
Even more importantly, though, golf allowed me to become closer with my dad. I have really enjoyed the small moments we have had together, walking down the fairways, joking and laughing together. I will forever cherish all of the numerous memories we made together last summer.
When school started up this fall, our family returned to New York and I had to continue remote learning. And even though I felt cooped up in the same four walls of my bedroom, visits to the local driving range gave––and still give––me an hour or two of the day to take a breather and return to some sort of normalcy. Getting the chance to hit a few wedges or even just a breath of fresh air proved to be my favorite time of the day.
But whether it was at my local course, at the driving range, or in a tournament, golf has gotten me through the COVID-19 pandemic. In a period filled with constant stress and negative news everywhere I looked, golf was my sanctuary during the chaos. If it was going to play a quick early-morning round at Shenny with my dad or just getting a chance to say hello to the friendly starters at the pro shop window, golf gave me a break from the world.
In a year of loss, I am so grateful that my family has remained healthy, that we have financial security, and all the essentials in life. But at the same time, I must also acknowledge golf for the special place it holds in my heart.
I’ve always loved the sport. The excitement, the challenge, the highs, the lows, the wins, and the losses. I’ve felt it all. But this past year, golf became more special to me than I could have imagined. It helped me get through the lowest and hardest year of my life unlike anything else did or could have. And to that, I say this: thank you, golf.