Now, I do not say this to brag. Golf is certainly not my forte. Rather I say this because it is to be a best ball tournament. And those of you who know anything about golf will know that such a setup eventually allows most any member of the team to get lucky and actually contribute an occasional shot or two, and to do so without necessarily being a drain on the team the rest of the time.
In truth, these days, I only play golf for the fellowship anyway. You see, I learned long ago that I am simply too much of a perfectionist to take golf seriously. I have just accepted the fact that a good day for me will be finding more balls in the woods than I actually lose there.
And thus, I enjoy playing golf with my own more casual rules. This usually allows for at least one mulligan per each nine holes - and even more if the situation warrants!
“A mulligan”, as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulligan_(games) aptly informs us, “happens when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action. The practice is also sometimes referred to as a ‘do-over.’ In golf, a mulligan is a stroke that is replayed from the spot of the previous stroke without penalty, due to an errant shot made on the previous stroke. The result is, as the hole is played and scored, as if the first errant shot had never been made.”
Obviously, this practice is disallowed entirely by the strict rules of golf. But, as most casual golfers readily agree, in everyday recreational play, mulligans actually speed play by reducing the time spent searching for lost balls. They also reduce frustration and increase enjoyment of the game, allowing the average player to "shake off" a bad shot more easily with a second chance.
Accustomed to such play, I myself can barely fathom playing a tournament by strict rules. Even worse, imagine having to shoulder the entire scoring load alone. The pressure would probably be unbearable. Yet professional golfers do all these things week in and week out.
Gordon Dabbs is a gifted communicator of the Gospel. On pages 169-170 of his recent book, Epic Fail: Gaining Wisdom from Failures of Biblical Proportion (Abilene, Texas: Leafwood Publishers, 2013), he shares the following illustration:
For pro golfer Kyle Stanley, 2012 looked to be off to a perfect start. Stanley had never recorded a PGA win, but in January, it looked like that was about to change. At Torrey Pines in San Diego, Kyle held a four-shot lead going into the eighteenth hole on the final round.
Challenger Brandt Snedeker had almost no hope of winning. The only chance for Snedeker would be a complete meltdown by Kyle Stanley. On this fateful Sunday afternoon, Stanley quickly went from being anointed a rising star to pulling off one of the worst collapses in golf history. On the par five eighteenth hole, Stanley would take a triple-bogey eight.
Stanley's historic meltdown was sealed when Snedeker beat him in the ensuing playoff. The young pro had pried defeat from the jaws of victory. Afterward, when Stanley was asked what happened, he replied, "It's not a hard golf hole. I could probably play it a thousand times and never make an eight."
During the first of four rounds of golf, Stanley had dominated the eighteenth hole, but, when the championship was on the line, he shot an eight. Kyle Stanley's collapse is a reminder that it's not how you start that matters, but how you finish.
I love this story. It speaks to me on so many levels. And the lessons it offers are numerous… From Stanley’s perspective, one might say, “Remember that it is important to finish any given task as well as you begin it.” Or perhaps, “Be careful because pride always goes before a fall.” But from Snedeker’s perspective, the admonition might well be: “Never quit. Remember that anything can happen!”
In all of this, as Dr. Dabbs well makes the point in his book, there is a reason that the Bible records the stories of men and women who were both “heroes and zeroes”. We can learn life lessons from the stories of the Bible's greatest failures as well as we can from its greatest successes!
Thus, the Bible openly and honestly records the stories of men and women whose lives collapsed in sin and shame as well as those who served long and well. The biographical stories of people like Jezebel and Judas, whose lives did not have happy endings, become for us an invitation from God’s Word to learn and grow from our own similar failures.
And one thing is for certain. Kyle Stanley is not alone. All of us will experience the pain, the shame, and even the sorrow that accompanies failure. But that is ultimately actually alright; because sometimes we have to fail in order to succeed.
Just ask any successful athlete, or coach, or entrepreneur, or scientist, or politician, teacher, or writer, or minister, or parent, etc… Setbacks are a part of life. And every one of them is an opportunity to take stock, to evaluate, to learn, to adjust, to adapt, and eventually then to succeed.
For, even though we are human, and are destined to fail, with God's help and a willingness to grow, we can resolve to fail forward. And, as if to prove this point, Kyle Stanley did just that!
As Paul Harvey used to say, here is "The Rest of the Story". The very next week, on February 5, 2012, Stanley overcame an eight shot deficit behind 54 hole leader Spencer Levin at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale for his first ever PGA Tour win!
In doing so, he shot a bogey-free 65 for a final round one stroke victory over fellow golfer Ben Crane. Moreover, the eight shot comeback win was tied for third in the largest final round comeback by any winner in PGA Tour history!
Talk about failing forward! That pretty much epitomizes the concept! More importantly, it gives me hope for the next time I mess up. I trust it does the same for you.
SOURCES: Dr. Dabbs’ book is available at Christian bookstores everywhere, as well as most prominent online booksellers. Dr. Dabbs’ blog can be found at: http://gordondabbs.com/. Prestoncrest, the church where he pastors, can be found at: http://prestoncrest.org/about/ministers/gordon-dabbs.