It’s hard not to like Bryson DeChambeau, the PGA Tour’s newest, most interesting young player. But I liked him more after I read this passage from an article at golfdigest.com. It reminded me a lot of something I’d written in The Wrong Side of the Ball.
Here’s what Bryson says …
At SMU, DeChambeau did not excel in his first two seasons. His Christian faith sometimes added to the frustration. “There were times,” says his mother, Jan, “that Bryson would call home after a tournament he didn’t do well in and wonder, ‘Why is God doing this to me? I practice harder than everyone else.’ ” As a sophomore in 2014, he was ready to quit the game. “I was severely depressed,” DeChambeau says. “I was shooting 75s and 76s and becoming just a terrible, awful person to be around.” Schy came to Dallas and threw him another book, The Handbook of Athletic Perfection, by Wes Neal, a faith-based treatise. DeChambeau read it and had a realization. “I saw that I had made my golf score the center of my life,” he says. “That was my problem.”
Soon after, DeChambeau played in the Western Amateur at Beverly Country Club in Chicago. He noticed that for the first time, he wasn’t too nervous to eat breakfast, wasn’t jittery on the first tee and didn’t curse after a bad shot. When an opponent sank a long birdie putt on the 18th hole to eliminate him, 1 up, Bryson offered congratulations and shook hands with all the officials. Feeling anger coming on from the loss, he called Schy. “When Mike answered I just got this overwhelming sensation of well-being,” he says. “I got so emotional, all I could get out was, ‘Mike, I get it.’ I finally understood it’s not about winning, it’s how you behave in every situation. Bad shot, good shot, that’s an opportunity to show my grace and character. I realized that if I do my best in every moment, that would include preparing for a golf shot totally. The paradox is that by making the golf incidental, my golf would be its best. That’s when my life took a different course.”
The next year, DeChambeau won his rare double [winning the NCAA championship and the U.S. Amateur Championship in the same year].
And here’s what I wrote in Chapter 9 of The Wrong Side of the Ball …
It happened one summer in the late 1990s. After many years of wandering far away from God (I’ll spare you my checkered and complicated religious past), and still conspicuously single, I started seeking higher meaning in my life. This led me back to church, to a “born-again” experience, and suddenly, unexpectedly, inner peace on the golf course.
The result was I started playing the consistently best golf of my life, breaking 80 about half the time. It wasn’t because God had suddenly improved my swing or started supernaturally guiding my approaches to greens and my putts into holes. It was simply because I was more relaxed on the golf course than I had ever been. I realized that I had put far too much of my self worth into my golfing ability. Bad rounds or even bad shots had begun to feel like little personal tragedies. But “coming to Jesus” and the meaning it brought me put golf in a much better perspective.
I’ll be the first to admit that this sudden surge didn’t last forever. After that one glorious summer I settled back into a more “normal” mid/low-80s range of scoring. I’m not sure why the improvement didn’t last longer. But I do know it wasn’t a change in my swing that caused it, but rather a change of heart.