On Day 2 of the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf Member Highlight, we return to Dani Swaggerty as she tells us about what golf and the Girls Golf program have done for her. [Read Day 1]
What life lessons have you learned from the game?
Golf has been an awesome classroom for me! Since golf is so mental (duh, right?), I believe the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the game is keeping your emotions steady through the good and the bad and not allow the stress of competition overwhelm you. Have you heard “stay positive?” Yeah, I’ve changed that to “stay cool” because I can feel my anxiety soar when I’m trying to find something positive in some situations—you know when you’ve hit OB and can’t find your ball or you hit into the water for the second time or can’t wait to get to the range to fix your shanks, or you’re so close to breaking 80 or you’re stuck on answering a question on your calculus IB math test.
This lesson is also true for when things are going well. When I was at state this year, I started on the back nine like I did last year. Well, the first hole is over water and last year I dunked my very first tee shot. This year, with more confidence and experience, I not only parred that first hole, but followed up with another par, then a birdie. But then I could feel my body getting all peacock mode as I walked to the fourth hole and my tee shot went OB. It took me another hole to recover, but a lot sooner than previous years.
How you handle yourself is a great testimony to your character and who people want to be around and knowing there will absolutely be a lot of positives along the way. Louise always tells us to “light up the room when we enter, not when we exit” and to remember the jumps of joy you experienced from your good shots and let those motivate you when the hops aren’t so high. But, keep your emotions steady, always act like you deserve to be there, keep conviction on every shot, and one swing at a time.
Another big lesson is staying true to yourself and to be happy for others. It’s so easy to say “I’m not better than so and so” or be jealous of someone’s success. You’ve got to get over that if you want to improve your game and yourself. My mom played basketball in college and has coached forever and the one thing she preaches is “the only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday.” This message carries into anything you do. You can learn a lot by watching others, but only take the lessons and in the portions you need to be better–she says, “life is a buffet.” She’s my fortune cookie. LOL
I’ve also learned that you cannot get “there” all by yourself. You need to surround yourself with positive influence of [female] role models and mentors and friends. And the more successful you become, there will be more people that want to help you. You know what you need and when you need it. It’s okay to express that and always with gratitude. Knowing you’re not being selfish has also been a lesson I’ve learned over and over (guess that means I haven’t learned that yet LOL). Louise has us do a “golf universe” exercise where we draw a circle in the middle with our name, then branch to all the circles of those in our life. With each circle we list what we need from that person. It’s a very eye-opening experience and you learn a lot of what you need and what you expect from those in your support system to grow. Sometimes it’s hard for those to hear how they affect you, but two-way communication is always a good thing.
I’ll share another lesson (there are so many!). Louise always coaches us that if we get into trouble, not to make it worse—don’t be a hero. When I was at the high school region tournament this year, I was even going into the ninth hole, a situation I had never found myself in, and hit my second shot into the right rough. I didn’t have a good shot to the green, over water, so I punched out to the fairway. I bogied that hole, but it could have been a lot worse if I had tried to go for it. I did birdie the next hole, so I was back to even. That was a true life test of resilience, not to mention the first time breaking 80. My dad doesn’t come to many matches, but when I got home, he had a cake with “7” and “6” candles. Celebrating is good, but only after you get the job done and not in a showboat-y manner. Oh and be sure you shake hands with your playing partners (with eye contact) after a round! Not only does that show character and appreciation, but it’s a thanks to their unspoken push in your journey to be better.
Bottom line is that golf has given me true value, influencing my life on being a work-in-progress rather than a completed project, and knowing one can never achieve perfection. Like life, golf presents an opportunity to take advantage of learning from your mistakes rather than your ability to be better than anyone else with a purposeful plan to meet clearly defined goals. I have not only gained a sport to play for the rest of my life, but gained lots of great friends for a lifetime.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the five E’s and the foundation lessons I’ve learned through Girls Golf. Girls Golf has empowered me to discover my confidence and perseverance and yes, to dream BIG. And I’ve embraced “If you stumble, make it part of your dance.” Goals are definitely not reached in straight lines. Keep enjoying the round—there are a lot of holes left to play! And keep a fresh mentally and not let golf burn you out. I’ll show you my artwork sometime or the dances I’m learning for the recital or the robot we programmed in engineering class or let’s just hang out and go catch a movie.
Come back tomorrow to learn more about how Golf and the Girls Golf program impacted Dani’s life.