Part 5 – Some surprising twists and turns in my life, with many valuable lessons ahead of me….
Before I went off to college, I played golf almost every day at the club where my father was a member. I did not play many tournaments, but I had developed into a great club player. During that summer of 1992, I played in my first U.S. Amateur Qualifying, which was held at my Dad’s club. Since I felt so comfortable and confident at the club, going out and shooting a 70 was fairly easy for me. Also, during the morning round I had my father on my bag and he did a really great job of keeping me calm. He just kept reassuring me that it was a walk in the park. Then, the moment of truth: the second round. My father had an appointment to go to in the afternoon, so he could not caddie for me. That meant in the second round I had my younger brother, who really did not know much, on my bag. I remember asking my father if he could postpone or move his meeting to another time, but he could not. I look back now, and I do believe everything happens for a reason. The second round did not feel good at all, neither physically or mentally…. I was just enough off to shoot a 79 and shoot myself out of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur. I knew I was in trouble as I spent the tournament with my mind distracted, thinking about the first week of school and maybe missing classes.
Soon after the tournament, I was off to college (Long Beach State on Scholarship). I played well for the first two years, but by the time my third year came around, I was pretty much done. I was physically and mentally worn out, and I had no one to mentor or guide me in any way. I was on my own. I worked hard on my game, but I did not work smart. I thought I knew better than everyone else. I took lessons with a few different people, but I did not stick with anyone long enough to get the results I needed.
Then, in my third year of college, I stopped going after my dream of being a professional golfer altogether. I studied to become an accountant. I never stopped practicing my game, but I did stop playing competitively.
Up to that point in my life, I had never had a proper girlfriend, or someone I truly cared about and cared for me. So, when I met a girl in college, it was a whole new experience for me. We meet in my first semester and became friends. In our second semester we started dating. She was a sweet person, very down to earth and she liked me for who I was. I did not try to impress her too much – I wore tee shirts that were 10 years old, and was very forthcoming with her that I was more of a sportsman than an academic. My girlfriend was a straight A student and she helped me out a lot in school. She was really the only person I had to turn to in college. I made a few friends here and there, but most of my time was spent either with her or playing golf.
When I decided to pursue a career in accounting, she did not have much input one way or the other. Looking back, her focus was on herself, her grades and getting through the courses. Unfortunately, neither of us was particularly supportive of the other. I did my best to try, but it was hard for me to be there for someone else when my golf prospects were in such a mess and my maturity level wasn’t there yet. Still, it was good for me to share life’s ups and downs with another person. Up until that point I had gone through life keeping a lot to myself, and having someone else to bounce stuff off of whether it was positive or negative was an improvement, and she brought some consistency and stability to my life.
By the time I was 21, I knew that being a professional golfer was out of the question. Professionals do not shoot in the high 70’s and even the 80’s on a consistent basis, which is what I was doing. This was one of the toughest things for me to accept, because since I was a child I had dedicated my life to golf, and I had always worked hard on my game. I just never worked smart. With the loss of my golfing dream also came the realization that I really had to fend for myself for the first time. My father was going through some financial challenges, and I had only a fixed amount of money to last me through college. I remember sleeping on the floor at my great aunt’s house and living on $20 a week.
But at heart I was a sportsman, not an academic, and deep down I knew school was not for me. However, I also knew that I had to get my degree in accounting if I were going to be a CPA. When I started taking my upper division accounting classes, I had to study hard, and did not have a lot of time to study for my other classes. Fortunately, as well as my girlfriend who helped me with writing my papers, I also made one good friend, Paul Gao, a Chinese student who was really smart when it came to finances and accounting. He really helped me with my studies, and got me through quite a few of my accounting classes – I even got B’s in some! And even though I struggled with my classes, I did make it through in 4 and ½ years with an Accountancy Degree in December of 1996. I was fortunate enough to land an internship through a professor of mine, who got me my start in the accounting world. After my internship, in the spring of 1997, I went on to a temp job in Mission Viejo. And finally, in December of 1997 I landed my first full time job with a CPA firm in Santa Ana, Ca.
My girlfriend and I were married in June of 1997, and she really had her heart set on going back to live in Michigan, because that was where her family were. During my process of looking for a full time job, I looked at a couple of places in Michigan, and almost got the jobs. Even though I did not get a job there, she was set on going there. At the same time, she knew about my dream of moving to Palm Springs, where the golf courses were. We had just gotten married, and we were already headed in opposite directions. Even though I was not in a good situation, I was committed to trying to make the best of it. Fortunately, she was not interested in having any kids while we were in California.
The reason that I am sharing all of this is to help you understand that we all have stuff going on in our lives. Some of it is good, and some bad, but the key is to see the lesson in all of it and to learn, grow, and move on. Back then I was quite naive, since I had never been with another person, and I really did not know what I was looking for. The first person to come along that liked me for who I was – an uncomplicated guy who loved golf – I liked her for that. Getting married at that time was not the best decision, but it was a great learning experience for understanding the kind of person that I really needed in my life, and the type of person that I needed to become.