If I ever qualified as a golfer, then what I am now is a former golfer.  When people ask me why I quit, I tell them that golf costs too much money and takes too much time to feel that bad when I finish.  Nevertheless, there is a great gift that being a former golfer has given me. 

Having played the game poorly has given me a great admiration for those who play it well.  I just finished watching Jordan Spieth hole out a shot from a sand trap on the first hole of the sudden death playoff of the 2017 Travelers Championship Golf Tournament.  Having visited my share of sand traps in my unceremonious golfing career, I marveled that Spieth could make such a difficult shot under that kind of pressure with that many people watching his every move.

What Spieth did brought to mind a story I read recently about pro golfer Ben Crane.  HomeLife magazine (September 2016) tells of the remarkable golf shot which Crane made while playing in a golf tournament at Torrey Pines in 2016.  Some commentators referred to it as the “golf shot of the year.”  His drive on the 15th hole landed directly behind a tree.  To the amazement of all watching, Crane hit his next shot around the tree, onto the green, and into the hole for an eagle. When his friend Angela Thomas-Pharr later asked about the shot, Crane described the strategy that he and his caddy apply in such situations.  Their acronym for addressing such challenges is OTE – Opportunity to Excel.  Rather than focusing on the problem, Crane pictures difficult circumstances as opportunities to excel.

Another athlete who recognized an OTE when he saw it is former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.  Earlier this year Watson quarterbacked Clemson against Alabama in one of the most exciting College Football Championship games ever.  After trailing the whole game, Clemson finally took the lead in the fourth quarter, only to see Alabama reclaim the lead with just a couple of minutes left on the clock.  Just before Clemson took the field for its final drive, Watson told his teammates, “Let’s be legendary.  Let’s be great.”  They did just that by driving down the field and scoring the winning touchdown with just one second left. 

As I reflected on Crane’s approach to challenging golf shots and on Deshaun Watson’s approach to winning drives, I realized that for every OTE there is also an equal opportunity for OTC – Opportunity to Choke.  OTC’s are opportunities to give up before even trying, or opportunity to wilt under pressure while making an attempt.  Winners see extreme challenges as OTE’s.  Losers see them as OTC’s. 

When you think about it, life works that way, too.  Think of the “ball behind a tree/two minutes left in the game” situations which life can bring.  Challenges surface at work, at home, with extended family, with personal finances, with other personal relationships, with health, and with the difficult situations which come from living in the crazy world in which we find ourselves.  Each difficult situation is either an OTE or an OTC.  You and I get to decide which it is, and how we decide goes a long way in determining the ultimate outcome. 

But what if viewing that “ball behind a tree/two minutes left in the game” life situation as an OTE borders on the ridiculous because the situation appears impossible?  Then see it as an OFGTE – an Opportunity for God to Excel.  The prophet Jeremiah expressed that truth when he said in Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah Lord God!  Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm!  Nothing is too difficult for You….”   These words of Jeremiah remind us that for God all of life is an OTE.

Jerry Long

Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He may be reached at gotigers73@att.net.