I have been very fortunate over the past 30 years or so of coaching to be able to look back on some truly magical memories. Experiences that will stay with me forever.
Right up there at the top of those memories was the very first time I had the chance to go to The Masters at Augusta.
I was working with US Open champion Graeme McDowell at the time. It was the Tuesday practice day before the tournament was about to start and we drove along the main road bordering the course and then turned left into Magnolia Lane.
The mythical Magnolia Lane, literally feeling like I was entering into another world.
A world that had been shaped to stories of Augusta from when I was a youngster tuning into the TV broadcast with Peter Alliss and Henry Longhurst on the BBC.
The Masters was always a curtain-raiser to the dawn of another golfing season of potential possibility.
The experience was special as we drove up the fabled lane but it was about to get so much better.
As the courtesy car pulled up outside of the clubhouse, the very first person we met was Arnold Palmer.
The word legend these days has been battered into pointless oblivion but here was indeed a man who you could say was the very reason the word was first created.
I can vividly remember the incredible warmth the man radiated.
Shaking hands with everyone with a smile and a genuine interest in others. A very rare quality these days.
Arnold always loved to play the game right up until the end of his days and I am sure he would have been looking down with a smile on his face when he saw this year’s curtain-raising Par 3 competition.
At one point the Par 3 tournament leaderboard had three very familiar names on it.
A certain Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player with respective ages of 68, 78 and 82.
Watching on TV, it was incredible to see the intensity and passion these three greats brought to the tournament.
They were not there to make up the numbers. They wanted to win.
The best moment of the day came on the final hole when the tradition was kept of the caddie of each player hitting a shot.
Up stepped Jack Nicklaus’ 15-year-old grandson, Gary ‘GT’ Nicklaus Jnr.
Looking like someone who comes from a unique golfing dynasty, he took the club in hand, went through an efficient pre-shot routine and then with a masterly turn and swish, dispatched the ball onto the green.
It grabbed, held and then spun back all the way into the hole! Cue pandemonium and not a dry eye in the house, including the Golden Bear himself.
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 4, 2018
To see these magical moments and to reflect on the absence of Palmer had me thinking just how precious each opportunity to play the game is.
We may not be at The Masters ourselves but it is very easy to become complacent and fall into the trap of thinking there will always be another game to play.
Well, at some point the sad fact is there won’t always be another opportunity. The good news is we don’t know when that will be.
We can just turn up for another game, or we can recognise the unique opportunity this day provides.
Not this day for what it may or may not mean in the future, but this day here and now.
Are you going to play the same old game talking about the same old tired subjects, or could today be the opportunity for some genuine conversation that makes you feel good?
Do you walk the same old course, or do you appreciate what you see as though looking for the first time?
Far from being sentimental and maudlin, this frame of mind actually creates the ideal foundation for you to play your best game.
Appreciation of what you actually have as opposed to what you may get in the future is a great way to create the best state of mind to allow your best golf to emerge.