I wrapped up an excellent year in the Golf League on Friday afternoon. Not that anyone seemed to notice.
“Excellent” is a relative term, of course. But by my standards, it’s hard to argue with “leading the League in low-average net” and “leading the B-Flight in Total Match Points garnered” during the season.
This is rarified air for me. I’ve managed to play a role on winning teams in the past. But to lead the League, personally, in any scoring category – well that, frankly, has never ever happened before. Not once, in the 20+ years I’ve played in the League.
I credit the acquisition of some new “game improvement” irons for much of this season’s accomplishments. I love my new Cobra Rad Speed irons, and the proof – as they say – is in the pudding.
All that said, I have to admit it annoyed me a little (OK, a LOT) when my two League-leading performances garnered exactly $0 in prize money as we wrapped up the season with our final match and meal. Probably a dozen other guys secured monetary rewards for their individual feats during the match and the season. But Yours Truly? Nada. Zilch. Zippo. The ol’ Goose Egg.
I have no real beef in this matter. The rules are the rules – including those that say the League provides pay-outs for 1st and 2nd-Half Wins, but not Total Season. Still, my ego admittedly took a beat-down as I watched many others claim their prizes during the season-closing ceremonies.
And there’s a lesson in that for me, I think. My reaction seemed almost hard-wired – a knee-jerk response to an imagined slight. I took offense at the lack of recognition, and it pretty much spoiled my evening on what was otherwise a beautiful autumn day.
As it turns out, Jesus addresses this very tendency – this defect of character – in the lesson he offers disciples in Sunday’s gospel passage. Our tendency is to think highly of ourselves, simply because we’ve done our duty. Jesus puts it this way:
“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? …Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?”
So it is with me, I realized, in my role as a Golf League player: The whole idea is to win a team championship, not individual accolades. And on that count, my “personal bests” actually did wind up making a difference this season: We were “in the hunt” for the trophy until the final week – and wound up securing 2nd place on the year.
But I also acknowledge that it’s a tough lesson to learn. In fact, I can kind of imagine the Lord smiling as he witnessed my heart melting just a bit…once I’d had time to reflect on my post-match tirade (which only my dear wife had to witness). Jesus didn’t strike me down for my ill-tempered reaction. Rather, he offered me a lesson in ego-taming – right there in the closing verses of the gospel passage:
“When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
An insight worthy of further reflection, perhaps – and not just on the links…but whenever my overbearing ego shifts (unbidden) into high gear.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.