By Tommy Rush
Even though I’ve not played in over a year, I have always enjoyed playing golf. My father bought me a set of junior golf clubs when I was six years old. We lived in Troy, Alabama and our backyard was adjacent to the University’s Football practice fields and the University’s Nine Hole Golf Course. When I was in Junior High School, I loved to hit golf balls and practice chipping into hula hoops on the practice fields. I even built a sand trap in our backyard and practiced hitting from the sand trap for hours at a time.
I will never forget the day, Mike Griffin, the head golf coach for Troy State saw me and actually walked into my yard to give me a few pointers for hitting from the sand traps. I remember the lessons like he shared them with me yesterday. I was so impressed by Coach Griffin’s interest in me and his encouragement that day that I was literally consumed with a passion for golf during my Jr High and High School years.
Under Coach Mike Griffin, Troy University’s Golf Team won three National Golf Championships. They were runner-up several times and during his twenty years as coach, the team appeared in the NCAA Division II Golf Championships 19 times. The impact that the coach left on me when I was a kid was big. Even today I’m writing about it, and I think about the things he shared with me every time I see a golfer hitting from a sand trap.
The last time I saw Coach Griffin was at a Shoney’s Restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama. When I recognized him, I walked to his table and introduced myself. He actually remembered me and we talked about the sand trap practice session he gave me almost 25 years earlier. When he asked me what I was currently doing in life, I shared that I was a pastor. He said, “So you’re helping people get out of life’s sand traps now.” Once again, Coach Griffin left an impression in my mind that I think about often. I actually have a small bronze figurine on my desk of a golfer hitting from a sand trap. It reminds me to never allow the sand traps of discouragement, setbacks, conflict or anxiety to keep me down.
Both in golf and in life, it’s important to know how to get out of sand traps. It really doesn’t matter how good a golfer or how good a person you are, we all end up in the sand traps from time to time. Sand traps can be a score-devastating experience for a golf game. They can be pretty devastating in life, if we don’t listen to people who want to help us learn how to get out of them. Everybody can use the help of a good coach when dealing with a problem.
I will always remember Coach Griffin’s telling me, “Great Golfers don’t get frustrated in sand traps. They know in the traps, they have a little less control and a whole lot less power on the ball.” He instructed me to envision where I wanted to drop the ball and then to focus on a spot in the sand behind the ball and swing to the spot, lifting the ball and sand out together rather than just hitting the ball out.”
You may feel like your in one of life’s sand traps today. We’ve all been there. I can still hear Coach Griffin say, “Focus on the place you want to be, take a good swing, lift the ball rather than hitting at it.” The Psalmist said, “I waited patiently for the Lord, He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit and set my feet on a rock.” Psalm 40:1-2