Last week I took a couple of days of vacation and we went golfing about 20 miles away as a mini-vacation. I took up golfing almost exactly a year ago and have been playing about four times a month. The course we play at is pretty challenging, but like my partner Jack says—if you can play Bella Collina with its uneven lies, huge hills and rippling greens, you can play anywhere.
So, we decided to play at two of the Top 100 Golf Courses in the U.S.—Pelican Hill Golf Club (North and South Courses) in Newport Beach, Calif.
But this column is not really about golf, but rather about the amazing couple we played with on our second day. And how all four of our lives were changed forever.
It’s always a bit unnerving when you play golf as a twosome, as you never know who you will be matched up with. On most golf courses, you are matched up with another twosome, having no idea if your skill level is similar. Our first day, we were matched up with an older couple from San Diego. Neither were in good health, the man drank a couple of Bloody Mary’s instead of eating lunch, and their scoring was questionable. Needless to say, when we came to the course the second day, we were holding our breath as to who would be our golfing partners.
On that second day, we were matched up with another couple, Nick and Debbie. Nick approached us first, as we were sitting in our golf cart. He was fit, had a distinctive New Jersey accent and a big smile. Right away we hit it off with him. He looked at me and said his wife Debbie would be relieved to know that we were playing with another couple, as she always dreaded when she was the only woman in a foursome.
Then Debbie approached us. Again, she was fit, had that engaging Jersey accent, but was kind of reserved and quiet. She told me she has been playing golf for more than 10 years—so I warned her that I was just a beginner (wanting to set expectations in case I was not having a good golf day). Turns out Nick and Debbie had just completed a 3-day golf camp in the San Diego area and were apprehensive about how they would now play, after 3 days of a golf instructor “messing with their grip and stance”!
I noticed right away that Nick and my partner Jack hit it off. As we finished up each hole, the two of them would stay behind on the green chatting. In fact, their conversations got longer and longer as we moved through each hole, and it got to the point that I was a bit annoyed. So, I said something to Jack.
Then he told me what they were talking about. Debbie had just completed four months of chemotherapy for cancer treatment after several serious surgeries. Jack couldn’t remember what kind of cancer it was, but Nick was confiding in Jack about how he was feeling, how difficult it had been to tell their six children about her illness, and how much he loved his wife. This extended golfing vacation was to allow them to spend time together doing something they both loved—golfing together. Jack could relate—he lost his wife of 47 years, Bonnie, to pancreatic cancer about four years ago. Once Jack told me that, I said to myself, “You never know someone’s story.”
So as Nick and Jack were chatting during golf, I decided to make it easy for Debbie to open up to me. I shared with her about Jack’s diagnosis of melanoma and that he had just completed his second of eight infusions of Keytruda that week. As I told her about Jack’s fantastic and positive mental attitude, she started to talk to me. By the end of the round, we invited Nick and Debbie to come to our house for wine and dinner on Saturday before they flew home Monday morning.
We were so excited to have Nick and Debbie come to our house. We both realized that our being matched up on the golf course was kismet (fate). When they arrived, it was as if we were lifelong friends. We had an amazing evening of wine, conversation and upscale pizza. (Nick is Italian, so we took him to our favorite San Clemente Italian restaurant Brick Woodfire Cuisine for authentic, handmade pizza.)
As the evening progressed, Debbie and I had a chance to talk privately and she made a few comments about her honest worries about her surgery, her chemo and her health. I took the opportunity to share with her how Jack’s positive attitude and almost effervescent commentary about his own health and prognosis really fueled his energy, and I believe his recovery. I told Debbie that both Jack and I were big believers in being positive and how saying only positive words and having only positive thoughts really does make a difference. I could tell by her reaction that this made a difference for her.
As they were leaving our home, we all hugged each other and talked about when we would come to visit them in New Jersey during our next visit to the East Coast. Debbie whispered to me, thanking me for giving her such a positive message about her future.
The next morning we received a text from them: “Karen & Jack … it feels like we’ve known you for decades. Hard to believe it’s only been ~72 hours. Thanks again …”
Next time you notice someone not having a good day, remember: “You never know someone’s story.” Ask questions and show empathy.
When you are feeling sorry for yourself, or negative feelings are going through your head, remember: you are sending negative energy into the universe. Why not send positive energy and thoughts out there? They will work harder for you.
The next time you have the opportunity to make new friends or meet new people, just think, you might be making lifelong friends and having an opportunity to make a positive impact on their life!