“The biggest takeaway for me is the reminder of the truism that golf is the sport most like life, because it is played on an uneven surface and everything is on you. So good and bad bounces — and self-inflicted mistakes — are built into the game. And so much of success in golf, as in life, is about how you react to those good and bad bounces. Do you quit? Do you throw your club? Do you cheat? Do you whine? Do you blame your caddie?” - Tiger Woods and the Game of Life, by Thomas Friedman, NY Times 4/15/2019
Tiger’s recent comeback win at the Masters captured everyone’s attention just a few weeks after the college admissions scandal broke. Both events were game changers and made us re-examine how we view things. From a college counselors’ perspective, there is a connection.
Thomas Friedman pointed out just how masterful Tiger's recent achievement was and broke down why golf is one of the most demanding and difficult sports. In short, it has many factors that come into play, and the ball is almost always sure to take a “bad bounce.” The photograph of a golf course from just 500 feet up will not show the difficulty visible at ground level. The Four elements Thomas refers to—physics, geometry, geography and psychology—all come into play on a golf course. Confronting all four at once is a very challenging task.
Like the aerial photo, many parents also view the college process as an easy-to-understand endeavor; it looks manageable from above.
The recent metaphor of “snowplowing” through problems for one’s children, draws attention to parents who do everything they can to remove all obstacles in their child’s way to ensure their success. They believe that if their child studies the right mix of physics, geometry and geography, they will “master” the academics, get straight A’s and perfect SAT/ACT scores. Add in some volunteer work to show community service and they will plow over all of the other candidates and get to their destination.
But, like the golfer who may have it all together on the driving range, there are things that can get in the way during the game. Similarly, despite all the discipline and hard work that a student puts in for school, they can misstep in their application work. Still, there are clearly times when the college decisions don't make sense. The student may have done everything correctly, presented themselves well, but in a supply and demand situation, other factors come into play.
Applying to school is a lot like golf, which is a lot like life. There are so many bounces, turns and changes. Does the student really understand the differences in the schools to which they are applying? Did they approach a college contact in a way that benefited them? Did they do only what they were asked to do in school, or did they venture beyond those walls? How did they deal with adverse situations (Like when the ball didn’t bounce quite right or landed in the water)?
Those parents who were arrested last month may have had the best intentions for their kids, but in the end, they still cheated. When they doctored up pictures and hired professional test takers, they made egregious errors—they didn’t allow their kids to play the game on their own and deal with the bad bounces.
Thanks to Tiger, we were reminded how difficult the journey can be and that, in the short term, you may not succeed. Life is difficult, college admissions is also a tough process but deserves to be played fairly. Even the best in the world don’t always make the cut. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t be successful sometime down the road.