I learned golf from women. Vickie McClure, PGA teaching professional, taught me mechanics, but Connie Frances Rich taught me the game. Ms. Rich lived alone in a stark white house behind the driving range of Santa Rosa Golf and Beach Club in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. I scarcely saw visitors, so my friend Josh and I paid her visits often. We worked together as cart boys, shagging bags and scrubbing clubs to earn tips. We were teens, and neither of us knew anything much about golf; we knew little more about life, so Ms. Rich took us under her wing and downloaded wisdom concerning both.
Ms. Rich’s short game was only matched by her love for the game’s purity – old school and proud of it, having grown up in Depression era America. She gave the golf pros trouble about anything that infringed upon the sport she’d played since her youth, a game into which she admitted that she would’ve turned pro after winning both the Georgia and Texas women’s amateur, but “there was no money in it in those days.” So, she made money, and lots of it.
On one particularly hot Gulf Coast afternoon, Ms. Rich invited me into her home for lemonade. I inquired about a notebook on her desk, which afforded her opportunity to unfurl memories in my direction. “This is where I keep records of my stocks. This page, this is when I bought Coca-Cola stock when it premiered. This is original GE stock. Here’s Ford.” It didn’t mean much to me at the time, but now I realize how appropriately named was Miss Connie Frances “Rich.” But that didn’t matter. I just loved to play golf with her; occasionally she tipped me $5, and sometimes she gave me $10 for washing her car. I adored her, and often resisted the tips.
After work, or occasionally during work when she’d tell the pro that I was to accompany her for her round (she was the informal pro, and everyone knew it), I’d tag along with her onto the links. “Stand up for Jesus,” she’d bark as I slouched over a putt. A new believer, she was talking my language. “Don’t be timid. You have to accelerate to celebrate,” she’d order as I softened my pace of approach as my wedge or putter neared the ball. “You have to accelerate. Be confident or you won’t make anything.”
Not long after, I shot my personal best on what was then the back nine, a five-under-par round of 31. I was floating along the course, sinking everything in sight, doing the bull dance, feeling the flow. Her words rang true in my mind as the ball continually rattled around in the cup, “Accelerate to celebrate.” I took $30 off the members with whom I was playing and went back to work.
Seventeen years later, as I cleaned out my office today, I found a piece of stationary with the letters CRF stamped onto the front of the tent card. I won’t reveal the contents of the note, except its end: “Keep the Spirit and remember you must accelerate to celebrate.”
I needed those words this morning. If anything, this week has been an exercise in endurance, facing resistance in ways that are nothing short of depleting. The words of Stephen Pressfield from The War of Art harmonize with Ms. Rich’s wisdom: “Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master the fear and we conquer Resistance.”
In other words, accelerate. Look at your goal, your call, your dream, and accelerate. Persistence breaks down resistance.