Brothers and sisters, I do not consider my- self to have attained this. Instead I am sin- gle-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead.

I have been playing golf for almost 30 years and the game is still a total mystery to me. It truly is a metaphor for struggle, a metaphor for life.

I was playing in Hawaii with my family once. I knew that I had to lay up around 130 yards away. I got the appropriate club, set up, took the club away, made sweet contact with the ball, watched it majestically soar to the exact spot to which I was aiming, and possibly for the first time in my golfing career, hit the shot exactly as I had dreamed of hitting it.  There is no feeling quite like hitting the ball precisely how the game was designed. I went up to the exact spot I saw the ball descend to the fairway and…nothing. Gone.

I hit the ball in the middle of the stinking fairway and it disappeared into oblivion.

Similarly, I was playing up at Notre Dame’s course in South Bend. I was on a par five. I had to lay up in order to get over a creek which blocked my path to the green. I am once again 130 yards out. I get the appropriate club, set up, take the club away and, poof, hit a chili dipper, shooting on a curved parabola to the right. The ball flails helplessly toward its watery grave. As it twists right it hits the ground and improbably bounces left. It hits the left side of a bridge and ricochets back to the right. It hits the other side of the bridge, kicks back to the left and hits the bridge a third time and caroms safely into the fairway thirty yards from the green.

A perfect shot ends in disaster. A disastrous shot ends pretty well. Golf is life!

After thirty years, I wonder why I even bother to get the clubs out and try again.

What keeps me coming back? Simple. The search for competence.

We as human beings desire a challenge. We enjoy the urge to master something new and en- gaging. We search for competence.

The first thing we need for competence is exertion. And exertion means that you have to change your mindset. If success means doing something that is easy and succeeding, then you will not get very far in any given field. One of the things that keeps me coming back to golf is that it is so blasted hard. If it were easy or if my goal was simply to have a

good time, I would have probably given up the game long ago. As the quote goes from the great movie, A League of their Own, “the hard makes it great.” But, when something is diffi- cult you need another change of mindset, stick- ing to something even amid frustration. This is where grit is needed. Mastery is painful.

Just like hitting a golfball, success in school, success in life, is a balance between getting a bit better every time and not being overwhelmed and defeated by what you are trying. In general, I think we can shoot a bit higher. On the other hand, it is possible that things go beyond what someone can do, or some of us may need some extra help.

The key to competence is finding that sweet spot between being overpowered by a task and making it too easy. That balance is often difficult. But when we find that sweet spot, when we do some- thing hard and accomplish it, there is no better feeling, no better motivation.

Just ask Fr. Kevin

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