August 18th, 2009
08:45 AM ET

Dear President Obama #211: The zen of being teed off

Reporter's Note: President Obama prefers basketball, but is known to golf now and then. I prefer napping in a hammock, but have been known to use a sofa. We all have our strengths. Today’s letter to the president…

Y.E. Yang of South Korea wins on Sunday at the U.S. PGA Championship in Chaska, Minnesota.

Y.E. Yang of South Korea wins on Sunday at the U.S. PGA Championship in Chaska, Minnesota.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I read with great interest the news of Tiger losing the PGA Championship to the 110th ranked player in the world. It’s fascinating how Y.E Yang roared up from nowhere, how Tiger faltered, and what will be just as exciting is watching how Tiger will come back. Because you just know he will.

I’ve never been much of a golfer. I go a couple of times a year, and play in the low ‘80’s. If it gets any hotter than that, I quit. Ha! (Old joke, I know. Truth is if I break 100 I’m perfectly happy.) Nonetheless, I used to golf with a guy who was really quite good. Carl’s only problem was when he was bad.

If one of Carl’s shots soared into the woods, or bounced into a pond, or…as I once witnessed…slammed into a tree with such force that the ball came to a stop a good thirty yards behind him; Carl would start to boil. First some muttered cursing, then some vicious swipes at the ball, more mistakes, louder cursing, a thrown club, and finally a lovely chain-stitched net of profanity cast over the hole, his clubs, the day, and the original founders of golf, long dead in their graves. It did no good that I, John Candy-like, cheerily ambled along proclaiming of even my most abysmal shots, “Oh, that’s alright. That’ll play!” It’s a wonder I never came home with Carl’s 7-iron wrapped around my neck.

Then one spring Carl was a changed man. The basics of his game, always solid, were pretty much the same. But his response to bad shots was revolutionarily different. Now, when his Titleist caromed into the rough, or burrowed into the sand like a prairie dog, he did not even flinch. He surveyed the damage, picked a club and played on, usually with a fine recovery. I asked him if perhaps aliens had visited his neighborhood and left a pod in a backroom, because he was clearly not the same guy. (See: Body Snatchers, Invasion of…)

“No,” Carl said. “I just read a gold book that said everyone makes bad shots. What matters is the shot that you make next. Put aside your anger, disappointment, and frustration and get busy getting back on course.”

Simple advice. I’ve thought of it many times since. Thought it might be useful to you under the current pressures you are facing, or at least the next time you go golfing. As always, if you need a fourth, give me a call.



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Brennis

    Thanks for encouraging him.....somebody needs to personally tell him you are doing the best you can with what you got.

    Brennis, San Diego

    August 18, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  2. John Strumolo

    I am a retired hospital pharmacist, now living in New York and in Las Vegas. I am constantly seeing more and more people losing their health insurance due to lose of employment, especially in Las Vegas. Something must be done regarding health care reform quickly. Its an issue that must be addressed this year and not next year or years later on.

    August 18, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  3. Vicky, Ottawa

    Tom, Your dedication is admirable - letter writing is such a lost art, and yours are so funny. The golf analogy is seemingly fitting. Perhaps some of the rules of golf etiquette would be helpful, and I hope the rules for a ball in motion which is deflected or stopped are not needed. I wish you all the best with your deliberations about health care reform or health care insurance reform. I know that many Americans view Canada as a socialist country, due to our universal health care. The term "universal" is is a bit of a misnomer though, because not all procedures and treatments are covered, and differ from province to province. Some procedures have to be paid out of pocket, and there can be lengthy waits. However, families don't usually have to worry about the costs of highly expensive surgeries or treatment, and wait times are often managed on a priority basis.

    August 18, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  4. Norma Labno



    I look forward to your letters each day and read them virtually everyday
    and everyday there are nuggets of wisdom I, and I hope many of us,
    will heed!

    I love that Carl "got" that it wasn't the bad shot he made, but his
    reaction to it and the next shot. (As I've been hearing so often – he
    put the past into his past which left him with a fresh future!) In this
    case, it was the next shot that was important!

    I need to learn to do that and am very appreciative of your advice; and
    hope the President will "take heed!"

    It's what he does next and then next that I'll be looking at – not the
    past 5 minutes!!!

    Thanks Tom!

    norma from nevada

    August 18, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  5. Lee

    Hi Tom – I really am enjoying these "letters" – as Erica Hill (I think) blogged last night – you achieve rock star status with your intelligence, humor and wit. This letter especially caught my attention because of the next-to-last paragraph – more people need to heed that advice!

    "Rock On" – Lee

    August 18, 2009 at 11:36 am |