Golf With My Brother and Missed Tee Shots: Lessons in Life

by Lance Gunkel, CFP®, CFA, Managing Director | April 6, 2021

As a kid growing up in Bismarck, my brother Jason (our Chief Investment Officer) and I were able to golf for free every Tuesday and Thursday during the summer so long as we teed off in the morning. At that age it was just the motivation I needed to get up and out of bed. 

For years we’d golf twice a week and I had become – at least in my own mind – a respectable golfer.

I decided to test my skills by entering a youth tournament when I was 12. I was in a group with three other kids my age, and at that time in my life it heightened my nerves. I desperately wanted to show off that I was good and could fit in with these other young golfers. I teed up my ball and prepared for my first shot: whiff. I completely missed it. I was rattled now, so I tried again. Whiff. I’m now on the tee box hitting 3: what a start!

I did eventually hit the ball, but I had a terrible round. I was rattled, and my nerves got to me for the entire 18 holes. I was mad and nobody in my group wanted to talk to me, and who could blame them?

After my terrible first tournament, I thought about all of those rounds I played with Jason. He had (and still has) such a nice, smooth stroke and plays very well. I’ve learned much from Jason over the years, but what he taught me on the course is that it doesn’t do any good to focus on all the mistakes, missed opportunities, or bad decisions of the past. Jason kept a calm demeanor, learning from his prior mishits, but not obsessing over them. Instead, Jason thought about and planned for the next shot, all while keeping a fun and happy mood.

I try to draw upon this lesson in other areas of my life today. Not every decision will be a good one, and we will miss opportunities. This is true in family life as well as money matters.

How can I best approach this next opportunity?

  • If it doesn’t turn out perfectly, that’s okay – I'll have another shot, so I'll focus on improving.
  • No matter what, I won't obsess over past decisions.
  • I'll enjoy the time spent with others around me. Even if we're facing a struggle, we'll enjoy the moment we're sharing.

Here’s to hoping your next shot is your best shot! If it’s not, smile and remember that at least you’re not still standing on the tee box hitting three.