I was sitting at my computer pondering what to write about. I glanced up at the calendar in front of me. On this cold February day, the picture of a scenic desert golf course with its green fairways and great view caught my eye and made me long for warmer days. Seriously, I won’t complain when it gets hot this year. I know I say it every year, but I mean it this year. As I looked at the picture, I read the caption below it. The paragraph was about golf, (it is a golf calendar) but there may be more meaning there than just about the game of golf.
It reads, “’What is the most important shot in golf?’ is a question that comes up in most golf conversations. Ben Hogan (a golf legend) believed that one’s whole round depended on the initial tee shot. On the other hand, Harvey Penick (another golf legend) contended that a two foot putt counted just as much as a 300-yard tee shot. Willie Oog (I don’t know who he is) thought both sides were wrong. Conceding that both sides had made interesting arguments, he pointed out, ‘the most important shot in golf is always the next one.’”
So the most important shot in golf is always the next one. You hear this same sentiment, in various forms, quite often from sports figures. In football you’ll hear, “We can’t look ahead to the playoffs in a few weeks. Our most important game is the next one coming up this weekend.” Or, in basketball, you might hear the coach say, “We’ve got to get over the big victory tonight and get ready for our next game.” Because coaches know, even though the players and fans often don’t, that the most important game is always the next one.
In other words, they know that it’s not last night’s victory, or the possible playoffs next month, it’s what is in front of the team right now that’s most important. Of course, it’s important for the team to learn from past games, and to prepare for what may be coming down the road. And overlooking the next opponent can often lead to defeat.
Get ready, here comes another ‘how sport relates to life’ analogy. Often, we’re so consumed with what happened in the past, or with what may happen in the future, that we may pay little attention to today. But it is important how I am going to handle the opportunities, or obstacles, that are immediately in front of me. In golf terms, I don’t need to be thinking about that shot I hit in the woods a few holes back, or that lucky birdie I made on the previous hole, while standing over a five-foot putt for par. I can’t be thinking about that long tee shot over water that will be coming up the next hole. I need to concentrate and put my effort in that five-foot putt. Because it’s my next shot, my most important shot.
One of the great Christian writers was Oswald Chambers. His devotional book, “My Utmost for His Highest,” is considered a classic of Christian literature. The book has given inspiration and guidance to thousands since it’s publication in 1935. President George Bush said he read devotions from the book daily while he was in office. Chambers was a Bible school professor and lecturer. The daily devotions were actually gathered and complied from lecture notes and letters by his wife, after his death. Born in Scotland, Chambers traveled to the United States and to Japan teaching in Bible schools in 1906 and 1907. He then became principal and main teacher of the Bible Training College in London, England, for four years. His amazing life journey came to completion when be became a chaplain for British soldiers during World War I in Egypt. There he died from complications following an emergency appendectomy in 1917 at the age of forty-three. Chambers was asked once during his travels what he planned to do next. His response was simple and to the point. “Trust God and do the next thing,” Chambers replied.
Trust God and do the next thing. I’m pretty sure that Oswald Chambers didn’t play golf, even though he was from Scotland. But if he had, he would have thought the most important shot in the game was “the next one.” While we remember and learn from the past, and plan for the future, our lives and that future will often be determined by that “next thing.” We’d better give it our best shot.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]