“Of all of the hazards, fear is the worst.” —Sam Snead
I learned many character-shaping life lessons while on the golf course with my father, Alex “Poplex” Prieto.
Being a family with a passionate love of golf, our vacations often include friendly (yet undoubtedly competitive) golf matches. Even after our 18 holes, the spouses in the family who don’t play—or as we call them, the “golf widows”—end up having to listen to our sports recaps throughout the day.
Golf has been an integral part of shaping who I am. Lessons learned on the green have changed the way I approach challenges, the way I keep my relationships, the way I see life in general. There are many traits a golfer develops on the course that affect not just their skills, but also their perspectives on life.
Whatever level of play a golfer is at, there are basic mental exercises that help one achieve the proper composure when stepping up to the ball. Busy minds constantly buzz with ideas, thoughts and fears. When everything becomes too noisy, we often find ourselves feeling anxious, afraid, or frustrated. To get that perfect timing in every stroke, players must move past these anxieties and reach a certain level of calmness.
Time and time again, Poplex has instructed me to be clear about the shot that I want to take, to visualize the target and commit to it. To gather all my energy and direct it toward creating what I’ve visualized. To strip away all doubt and second-guessing. To be confident about my skills, and to trust in my swing and the power of what I’ve set myself up for.
Off the course, most of these life lessons are useful for personal growth. I begin my mornings with meditation and intention, and those visualizations have helped me start my day with a focused and purpose-driven mindset.
As a daily exercise, we should train our minds for peace and purpose. When we learn to stop living based on people’s opinions and start living on our own terms, we are able to reduce negativity and overcome toxic relationships and habits.
Overcoming negative thoughts and tendencies allows us to access the calm and purpose that lie within all of us. This week, I picked up Jay Shetty’s empowering book, “Think Like a Monk.” Shetty draws on his time as a monk in the Hindu tradition to show us how we can clear the roadblocks to our potential and power.
By learning from the ancient wisdom he harnessed, one can develop the skills and tools needed to break through negativity, anxiety, overthinking and the claustrophobic hold of other people’s expectations.
Shetty urges us to rediscover compassion and empathy to uncover our true passions and purpose. We need to allow ourselves to heal from our past anxieties, fears and pain, so that we can train our mind to focus on what we truly want in our life, without our past holding us back or our ego clouding our judgments.
From Shetty, I learned to take responsibility for my own healing. Closure from the offending party hardly ever comes the way it is needed. Continuing to sit in that hurt and unfinished business only leads to more hurt (and if the struggle is real, seek help from a doctor first).
“Give yourself closure,” Shetty writes. “Ask yourself, what would you have done differently? Ask yourself what answer you can gain from it, rather than waiting for it from them.”
Like in golf, having a clear vision of what you are working toward is an important part of getting there. Instead of dwelling on the past and what you cannot change, connect to yourself in the present and write down your goals for the future.
Shetty advises to get outside, soak in the sun, stretch your legs and clear your mind. Surround yourself with inspirational people who motivate you and help you focus on moving forward.
For me, the best part about playing golf is the amount of natural vitamin D you absorb after a round of 18 holes.
As courses began to safely open during the pandemic, I rekindled my love of golf. My weekend golf mate Malu Gamboa-Lindo shared her photos with newest Philippine golf superstar, 76th US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso. At just 19 years old, Saso became the second teenager to win the tournament, after her 10-foot putt for birdie on the third playoff hole on Sunday last week helped her edge out Nasa Hataoka.
Saso overcame back-to-back double bogeys early in the round to make the playoff (for the golf widows, this means that she fell down to third after leading the tournament, but ultimately rose back up to tie Hataoka for first). She then became the first player from the Philippines to win a golf major. Even if she is half-Japanese, she proudly carries the Philippine flag!
“I was actually a little upset,” Saso said about her poor start. “But my caddie talked to me and said, ‘Just keep on going; there are many more holes to go.’ That’s what I did.”
Saso’s ability to clear her mind of anxieties in order to focus on the task at hand no doubt aided her win.
Golf is a complex game, where the unwritten rules are every bit as important as the “official” ones. Poplex made sure to instill in me and all my golf-loving siblings that the way you show up on the course as a player dictates how you show up in your life as a human being.
Learning to treat other players with respect, even with actions as simple as waiting your turn, has an incredible impact on shaping your character off the course. Cooperation, integrity, teamwork and humility are all important traits nurtured on the greens.
To me, golf is more than just a game; it is a metaphor for life. This means how I play golf is how I live my life, run my businesses, connect in my relationships, deal with pressure, conquer fears and move through my challenges. I improve my approach and score on the golf course by living my life in alignment with who I know I am.
All the valuable lessons I have learned from Poplex, both on and off the course, I shall treasure forever! Advance happy Father’s Day to all the golfer dads out there, including mine and Masakazu Saso, father and biggest support of Yuka Saso! INQ