It started out when I was a 14 year old freshman football kicker. I played for the freshman football team coached by Mr. Frank Lesniak. My role on the team would feature me practicing field goals on the practice field goals every day, and we would do special teams for 20 minutes everyday as a team. As much fun as I had–and my importance as an extra-point specialist notwithstanding–I choose not to return my sophomore season. I wanted to stick with one of my other passions that was growing deeper with each passing day–golf.
I went from the no-cut football team to trying out for the most competitive team at the Lake Forest High School. I practiced all summer, knowing it was going to be a difficult tryout. I would go to Lake Bluff Golf Course every day to play 9 holes and practice on the putting green for a little while. Tryouts were in early August; my time was there to make the team.
At 5:30 A.M. on that morning, my alarm was ringing. It was time for me to head over to Lake Bluff Golf Course to warm up for tryouts. I went out and shot 93 on the first day. I walked home planning on doing better the next day. I came back the next day at the same exact time, checked in with Coach Del Fava, and he gave me my tee time. The round finished up and my score card read 93 again. We all waited to hear from Coach Del Fava individually.
It was my time. I walked over to hear my status. “We only have so many spots on the team, and I’m sorry to say your scores weren’t low enough, Ave.”
All of my best friends made the JV golf team. I was the only one in my friend group to not make it, and I wouldn’t have a sport to play in the fall. I walked 15 minutes home with my head down. My friends’ parents continuously asked me if I wanted a ride. I just shook my head and kept my feet moving forward. I got home. I marched up into my room. I sat there until I was hungry.
I went on to practice a few days, but my feelings were lost after not making it. I got new clubs the following season, wondering if that would help my game. Tryouts for junior were back in a flash and now I was attempting to make the Lake Forest Varsity Golf Team.
I was excited and knew I was going to make the golf team this time around. I was the first one at tryouts, warming up in complete darkness before the sun rose. This time, I made it through four days of tryouts and didn’t get cut after the first 2 days. I shot 91, 87, 85, 83 in my four rounds. My scores were noticeably better, but now I had to wait again to hear my status. This time it was the Varsity head coach, Coach Jim Matheson.
“How are you doing, Avery? I know how hard you’re working to make this team, but your scores are too high. Tons of people have asked me how you’re doing in tryouts. I really want you to make this team one day.”
Was I going to come back for my senior year and tryout again? 110%.
The majority of my friends made the team again and I went straight to the driving range to practice. There was no quitting in my mind. I can earn anything I set my mind to. The LFHS golf team practiced at Lake Bluff golf club at 3:30 every day; I would get there at 3:20 and leave once the full Varsity team left. I would be at the opposite side of the putting green and the opposite of the driving range, putting my own work based on my own ambition. It became my duty to practice for 2 ½ hours every day until LBGC closed for the winter.
The winter didn’t stop me from practicing golf, though. I drove to Des Plaines Golf Center, an indoor facility, 3-4 days a week. Monday nights after basketball practice, Friday night when my friends were partying, you name it, I practiced then.
Yes, I seriously would leave my friends to practice at 10:30 PM on a Friday night. The golf center wasn’t a bike ride either: 20 miles there, 20 miles home. It became a daily routine–school, basketball practice until 6, dinner, golf, homework. If you want to be great at something, it’s not a seasonal activity. It’s non stop, every month of the year, find your place to practice.
I was ready. I had no doubt in my mind that I would make it this time, my last try. The first day came around and I shot a 78. Yes, 15 strokes better than my sophomore year. 15 strokes in golf is a vast improvement, and I was proud, but I wasn’t done. I was one of the top scorers after the first 18, but I had 2 more days left. The second day was rough. I shot an 81, and knew I had to shoot in the 70’s again to secure my spot. My alarm rung for the last time, my time was here to make the Varsity golf team for the first time ever.
I fired a 78. Again.
Coach Matheson called me over to talk about my status. “Avery, I couldn’t be more happy right now, seeing all your hard work pay off. I’m ecstatic to say you’ve made the Lake Forest Varsity golf team”.
I made the team, I couldn’t have been more proud of myself and all the hundreds of hours I practiced. It was a day that I will never forget. My grandfather cried when he got the news. You can achieve anything if you put your mind to. I realize that’s not some garbage cliche you hear ad nauseam in kindergarden. Does it test your patience? Certainly. Does it take a lot of work? You bet it. Is it all worth it? You’ll never know the answer to that unless you do it for yourself.
I might not have won the state championship in golf, but I set a goal for myself and I wasn’t going to stop until I did it. In the end, I couldn’t be happier to have that behind me.