Sometimes places have a special spot in our life. Many times, it seems to happen without much attention being paid. It wasn’t too long ago that one of the most difficult times in my life crept up. Maybe eight years ago now, it was challenging just to leave home. For months, the house wasn’t left without someone else to travel with. It was dark, but there was this place, tucked in the mountains. A relatively new resort at the time with a peaceful golf course. When people get into these places of hopelessness, it’s difficult to know what might help them out of that place. Sometimes they might find a relationship inspiring them to hope again. Or maybe a job opportunity takes them to a new place with that fresh start. They might go away traveling for months or begin their journey through education. Whatever it might be, the goal seems to be reinstalling hope where it has been lost. The Prospector golf course did that for me, during a summer that changed my life. We would make the hour and a half drive each week up into the mountains to play Prospector. To this day, it was the truest form of an escape I have ever felt. Whatever pain was going on at home, couldn’t follow me up to Suncadia.
During that time, it felt as though cerebral palsy was emotionally eating me alive. It had taken extra years to battle my way through college. Upon getting my degree, I thought getting into some kind of job would be feasible. But, every attempt to become gainfully employed was coming up empty. The hope from college had disappeared, that my life could be reflective of everyone else. You graduate from school and get a job, then start working your way into a successful career. It just didn’t seem to be working out that way. So, as friends around me found jobs, girlfriends, and promotions. It felt more and more stifling to understand my life wasn’t turning out like it was planned. Cerebral palsy made my life different from the people surrounding my world. After years of living with my disability, it still hadn’t been accepted to any degree. So, following the realization that fear had gripped me to the point of not leaving the house, it was time to get help. It was becoming apparent that something just wasn’t right. So, I went to seek the help of a psychologist who had been there years before.
As things began slowly improving through work with David and support from family, activities started feeling good again. It was still difficult to handle the chaos of the Seattle suburbs, but once out of town, my mind and emotions experienced freedom. The world slowed back down again and clarity of thought returned. It helped to be surrounded by the two most important people, which provided the support to find myself again. And the game of golf that has often filled my life during times of struggle provided the backdrop. Those weeks driving up to play Prospector allowed me to process my challenges. There was usually hardly anyone else on the golf course, as we would play in the middle of the week. So, no one was adding any pressure to the pace we chose in making our way around the golf course. There was something about that peace of being alone in the mountain air, on one of the most interesting courses I’ve played. The experience each week eventually had me feeling hopeful again. Dreams began taking shape inside my emotions and the belief they could be achieved. It’s been said, “we find strength in our moments of weakness,” and that summer proved the statement true.
The simple act of playing golf provided the achievement to push me through. Prospector in no way could be described as an easy golf course. The course has hosted qualifying stages for national golf tournaments like the US Amateur. It was designed by Palmer and winds its way through pine trees of the Cascade mountain range. My first time playing the golf course was during the spring of that healing summer. Driving home, my mind was in a daze from the course I had just encountered. Most everything about the experience shocked my emotions seemingly down to my core. The fear and depression, which had been running through my veins for months had been replaced with something different. During our drive home, my brother inquired about my thoughts on the golf course. For the first time, following a round of golf my reply was, “I have no idea what just happened,” and it was far from negative emotions. Looking back on those feelings today, that round of golf seemed to snap me out of the sadness becoming such an accustomed feeling in my life. Prospector challenged me to think about something other than hopelessly feeling sorry for myself. It was an awkward feeling during that time.
Going back to play golf at Prospector the following week only intensified those feelings of challenge and comfort. Driving home that following week didn’t leave me in the first-time daze. It had me thinking about how excitingly unique the golf course really was. The features and undulations were like nothing experienced on other golf courses. No two holes appeared similar to the eye, which causes a fresh feeling around each corner. When every hole provides a unique test all to its own, golf becomes more fun as the day unfolds. There really doesn’t leave much time to think about other things, which I needed in that space of life. Prospector seems so distinctly designed with bunkers and hazards lurking around every corner, your concentration becomes required on each shot. Activities are great when they challenge a person just the right amount, while continuing to evoke excitement to take them on. After leaving the grounds following our second trip, my love affair with the place truly began to grow. The visions of holes began taking shape in my minds-eye and I couldn’t wait to return again.
It gave me something to look forward to when nothing else was working. At home, I continued running scared from life. Hiding out in my childhood home with emotions of harm from the world outside. All social activities had been cut out of my life, except those with my immediate family. My friendships had all basically disappeared, while talking to very few people on the phone during that period. Fear had never gained such a hold over my life. For about six month wondering outside home on my own wasn’t an option. It felt like everything in the world was out to hurt me, even down to foods I ate, or surfaces I might come into contact with. Life had turned into an absolute suffocating jail, but there was something about that mountain air. Things began breaking when going to meet with David could be done independently. Following the session, the family would meet up, and up into the Cascade mountains we would travel. For some reason, Suncadia was the place where nothing was going to be harmful. After thinking for years about the reasons why that place felt safe, there still seems to be no really good answer. But, I’m thankful it was there to help, with a family willing to sacrifice their afternoons, traveling up there to play.
As golfing came to a close in the fall, things were onto a better path. Friendships came back into my life that had disappeared. The ability to leave the house on my own returned. Hope was beginning to restore itself. My work with the psychologist continued to bear fruits of success, as we continued our work on the acceptance process. Cerebral palsy has always been challenging to look at in my life. The disability has often been left in denial as something causing things to be worse instead of better. Wondering through the pines that summer while chasing around the golf ball, that perception began a tedious process of change. The overriding goal of David inside our work each week has been turning cerebral palsy into something positive. Making the disability into something positive, used to help not just myself, but also other people. Nine years later that journey continues, but we get closer. Before that first summer the thought of cerebral palsy being something positive never occurred to me as possible. The loss of hope had me struggling for a few years before finally reaching out for help. That summer, my life began the slow process of being put back together.
Prospector has become more important as the years have passed. Each summer the journey up into the mountains gets made half a dozen times. Some years more often than others and it doesn’t always include company. Heading up to play golf at Suncadia has often been a solo venture. As life can become complicated, Prospector still serves as an escape. It has become the place I go to truly clear my head and gain perspective. Every time, the holes remind me of everything that took place that summer. It helps me remember how many challenges have already been overcome and provides the comfort that more challenges can be worked through. The course always helps restore any hope that may end up lost along my way. From the first time playing there, Prospector has felt comfortable and safe. My hope is we all find a place we can go that makes us feel safe. In one of the darkest parts of my life, the course was there, with its peaceful quiet, mountain air, and family to lend a helping hand. That summer was a blessing, never to be forgotten. Remember, we often find strength in our moments of weakness.