Playing golf around home is different from playing while traveling. There’s much more familiarity with the courses. Echo Falls has been a course played each summer. After having played somewhere so much it’s challenging to remember the first time I played Echo. It’s a unique course winding itself through a neighborhood not far from my hometown of Woodinville. Because the course is pretty spread out, it isn’t conducive to walking. Normally while playing we ride instead of walking the golf course. The normalcy of riding in a golf cart makes things easier on the cerebral palsy. There isn’t a debate inside my mind about whether or not I could walk the course. Also, having played many rounds there, you know what you’re getting yourself into. There becomes a comfort level when each hole is visible in the mind before play begins.
Along with trying out to make the basketball team in junior high. Golf was the only other sport I attempted to play in school. Echo Falls was the course we played during tryouts for high school golf. Almost every time we play the course, small reminders seem to surface from that day of tryouts. It was a challenging round, and even without the ability for a spot on the team, the experience was good. If my best round of golf had surfaced on that day, it still wouldn’t have been good enough. However, golf continues to be my favorite sport of participation. One of my biggest memories from that day is feeling like a deer in the headlights. It was another step in understanding cerebral palsy was holding me back. Many friends around me had the ability to play the game well. Most of them playing for the high school they attended. Though I had a good understanding of the game and good technique. The rigidity brought on by my disability wouldn’t allow muscles the freedom of movement to become a good player. The failed tryout on that day didn’t discourage my love for the game. My work at a local golf course continued along with the joy of playing.
Today the golf course and environment don’t feel so daunting. Many times, I’m playing Echo Falls with my brother or a friend. The rounds out there are enjoyable with the absence of a stressful tryout. The course seems to have the ideal amount of challenge. It contains one of the most difficult par-4s you will play in the 17th hole. Echo Falls ends with an island greened par-3, which would be challenging at any point of the course, but seems especially so as the final hole. Echo Falls can sometimes wear you down with its challenging holes. Then at the end requires a good golf shot in order to land the ball safely on its island green. For me, the final hole is very challenging. Most rounds of golf will sap away my strength, between battling cerebral palsy with the impact of it on my golf swing, there is fatigue by the end. It makes the final two holes of Echo Falls even more challenging. Usually the final couple holes of any round become a struggle to the finish. It’s rare to maintain my strength throughout the entire round of golf. So, these two finishing holes become extremely challenging. There have only been a couple times my shot on the 18th carried safely onto the green. Most golf rounds at Echo Falls end with my golf ball plunging into the water. Still, the times playing the course are fun.
On this day, we played in the morning. On a mid-August day with warm sun lighting the way. Normally Echo Falls is an evening round. Playing morning golf around home has been a rarity. The change has been fun. We wove our way around the golf course hitting a mixture of golf shots. There are many shots at Echo Falls where the carry of a hazard is demanded. These shots that must be hit in the air have always been difficult. It’s one characteristic making Echo Falls more challenging in my younger days. Those carries had always caused me to shy away from playing the course. However, with my added strength and stability much of Echo Falls looks different to me. The anxiety felt approaching many of the par-3s has subsided, as my ability to hit shots higher and further makes those holes more successful. A few tee shots requiring balls hit in the air have also become doable. Echo Falls has become more enjoyable with a stronger game. It’s interesting how more strength and stability can change a golf course for the golfer. I now look at Echo Falls as a place to concentrate and play instead of simply attempting to survive.
There is always a comfort level with being home. Playing golf courses that have been played since childhood can be envisioned in your sleep. As strength changes those courses tend to look different over time. Not the layout of the course, but how it is played. Cerebral palsy plays a large role in changing the dynamics of golf. Instead of settling and allowing the disability to win the battle with my body. The decision was made to fight against the deterioration CP could inflict. One major reason for working hard in the gym to reverse the symptoms of my disability was my love of golf. It became clear years ago that cerebral palsy could affect my muscles to the point golf could no longer be possible. My love for the game my father gave me and I share with my brother wouldn’t allow me to give up on fighting my disability. Today, instead of playing Echo Falls with more struggle than as a teenager, it’s more comfortable and exciting. If we refuse to succumb to challenges, life can become better in ways we couldn’t imagine. It would have never occurred to me, 20 years later the shots that caused so much anxiety during a tryout would become some of the most challenging and fun shots to hit. When we put in the work to change, the world around us can change too.