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  • by Grace Yatawara

Grace Yatawara: Golf lessons for life

Seven years ago, I would never have thought that the game of golf could change my life so drastically.

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Golf is a game with no referees, which means you are your own referee. This can be difficult sometimes, but it is important to call penalties on yourself in order to protect the integrity of the game.

A few years ago, I was playing in a qualifier and I chipped the golf ball, accidentally hitting it twice. I could feel the contact both times, but neither of my playing partners saw it. My stomach dropped when it happened and I knew I had to say something. I called the rules official and was given a one-stroke penalty. Ultimately, I did not qualify for the tournament.

Rather than being disappointed, I was actually proud of myself for being honest and true to my character. Two years later, I won the same tournament. Golf is not a game that you can just pick up and play; you have to work hard to get better. You may think you know what hard work is, but you don’t know until your older sister drags you to play golf with her for at least four hours per day all summer long.

Believe it when I say that you do not want to go to Camp Lily! Over the course of that summer I went from shooting a 62 on nine holes to shooting in the mid-40s. At 11 years old, I realized that you cannot expect good results unless you work for it. Perseverance is the quality that allows a person to continue to try to do something despite obstacles.

This past summer my perseverance was truly put to the test when I got a 10 on my second hole in a tournament, then doubled the next, and bogeyed the next. I was 8 over par after four holes. I just wanted to give up, but I knew I couldn’t. Instead, I redirected my thinking, realizing that I was a better player than that and finished my next 14 holes even par to shoot 79.

This type of perseverance cannot be taught in school; it comes from experience. Tournaments where I was not happy with my results are the ones that fueled my determination to work harder and ultimately helped me attain a scholarship during my junior year of high school to play golf at East Carolina University. Some life lessons cannot be learned in a classroom or from your parents, and require life experiences. Golf has taught me integrity, work ethic and perseverance, shaping me into the person I am today.

Grace Yatawara is the daughter of Civitan Chanaka Yatawara. A senior at Salisbury High School, she won the 1A/2A state golf championship in October. Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson honored her this week by proclaiming Nov. 17 as Grace Yatawara Day. She wrote this essay for a speech to the Salisbury Rotary Club earlier this fall.

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