, Corbin, KY


March 26, 2013

My journey to God via the golf course

CORBIN — “Talk to God and listen to his casual reply”

—John Denver


“I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.

 —Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) in the movie Caddyshack


My road to golf and to Clay Hamrick was a spiritual one.

December 2011 caused me to face my two biggest fears: surgery and prostate surgery in particular.

My father died a painful death from prostate cancer at age 59. My worst fear was the blockage that landed me in the emergency room that year. The doctors drained 17 pounds of fluid from my bladder. I was lucky to be alive. Then, I had to face my next biggest fear: surgery.

I help people who receive large sums of money and I’m an expert in structured settlements. Although I’m known for lottery winners, the vast majority of my clients are injury victims and many big cases come from medical malpractice.

I’ve seen people go in for routine surgery and die. I’ve seen others come out in wheelchairs. Although statistically, the overwhelming majority of people who have surgery come out fine, I’ve spent 30 years with the ones who don’t.

I made it from age 5 to age 52 without being in a hospital. Suddenly, I did not have a choice.

Then, I did something I had not done in a long time. I prayed. And got an army of people, mostly from my Facebook page, to pray along with me.

Prayer gave me the peace and the courage to face the surgery.

Which did not go well.

Although I have 12 years of Catholic education and once served as president of my church council, I had fallen away from organized religion years ago. Being in a potential life or death situation changed that tune immediately.

On the day of my surgery, my fiancé took me to see a priest to hear my confession and give me last rites in case something went wrong.

Something did go wrong. Because of a scheduling screw-up, I was prepped for surgery and waited for eight hours, only to be told to come back two days later.

On the second try, I was the first person taken to surgery. I had a very rough night, which included a bad experience with an unpleasant and inexperienced nurse.

Getting into it with the nurse was a traumatic experience.

I love nurses. My late mother was an operating room nurse for 27 years, and my family and friends endowed the Ollie McNay nursing scholarship at Eastern Kentucky University after her death.

It’s impossible for me to not see my mother in every nurse I encounter. I treat them with the respect that Mom deserved and didn’t always get.

After that horrible night, I tried to call family and friends to get me out of the place. It was very early in the morning, and I couldn’t find anyone.

Then, the shift changed and my guardian angel arrived.

In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey had a guardian angel who was an older, prissy man named Clarence.

My guardian angel was an a mid-20s nurse assistant from Nicholasville named Crystal Hamblin.

Once Crystal and the registered nurse she worked with, Sydney Napier Thigpen, came on the scene, life got better.

Crystal and I immediately became (and remain) friends, and she walked me through some deep breathing exercises. She changed my gown and made me feel human again.

I realized that little things are what life is all about.

Sydney and I hit it off right away, too. Syd has the work ethic and concern for her patients that reminded me of my mom. Because of a blood clot and other issues, it looked like I may have to be operated on again, but Crystal and Sydney were my angels. They found a resident and a bunch of other nurses, and with several intense efforts, they broke the blood clot. A few days later, the urologist told me I did not have cancer. I was in horrible pain and missed out on Christmas and New Year’s, but I had plenty of reasons to celebrate.

Having so many people praying reminded me that prayer is a universal language. Prayer had been missing from my life for years, and I was reminded of why it is a tenet of every faith in the world.

The Christmas season gave me time to deeply reflect.

I wanted to play golf again. I had stopped about a decade earlier as I decided I was too fat to play. I was not in the physical condition to play nine holes.

Surgery made me determined to take better care of myself. And to find a golf instructor.

I feel like God’s hand led me to Clay Hamrick.

Clay and I are different ages, with different body sizes and distinctly different political views. However, we immediately became close friends.

Clay is well-educated and extremely well-read. Like myself, he is an intense competitor and has an incredible work ethic.

He is one of the best golf teachers I have ever encountered, especially with young children. Unlike most instructors, he is not just a student of the game, but a student of life.

Golf is not about striking a ball with a club. It is about all those things in our psychological makeup that allow us to play the game.

Clay understands this. It did not surprise me when he said he had been working on a book and gave me a manuscript.

I was stunned at what he had written. I started reading it in the parking lot of his golf course and could not put it down. I told him that his book was not about golf, it was about psychology and spirituality. Golf was just the mechanism to advance his theories and thoughts.

I asked to be his co-author and help him organize the book into 10 chapters, like the Ten Commandments, and coach him in his writing the way that he has coached me in golf.

He agreed.

I’ve taken 80 golf lessons with Clay, and thanks to his instruction and coaching, at age 54 I play the best golf of my life. Being on the course brings me a sense of inner peace, fun and accomplishment that I have never felt in a sports environment before.

When you read “Life Lessons from the Golf Course,” which is released on April 9, you will be touched by Clay’s tremendous insights and passion, but you will see how the skills he is teaching translate to every aspect of life.

This book is a chance to learn about golf, but also learn about being in touch with yourself and with a higher power.

The power of prayer got me to Clay Hamrick.  This book will be the answer to many people’s prayers. It will make them better golfers, but also better people.

I’m proud to be part of making that happen.

Life Lessons from the Golf Course is currently available on Amazon and will be in bookstores everywhere starting on April 9.

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