41: Living the Dream

41: Living the Dream

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

Living the Dream

Follow your passion, and success will follow you.

~Arthur Buddhold

The name jumped out at me from the list of tournament scores in a national golf publication. It was printed in teeny-tiny type, and I caught it only because I’m in the habit of scanning the mini-tour results for past and future tour stars.

I didn’t expect to see his name in italics, and it stopped me in my tracks and made me smile.

Darryl Staszewski.

I stared at the letters until they blurred, feeling pangs of nostalgia as I thought about an old high school friend and the paths we chose in life. I felt admiration for Darryl, and maybe a little envy, too.

Staszewski, a graduate of St. Francis (Wisconsin) High School class of ‘74—my class, my friend—had tied for seventh place in an obscure mini-tour event somewhere in the Northwest. He won $216.

Big deal, you say?

It is, if you knew Darryl twenty-five years ago. As a high school freshman, he stood probably four-feet-ten-inches, and couldn’t have weighed much more than seventy-five pounds. By his senior year, he had sprouted to five-feet-six-inches and tipped the scales at about 120, soaking wet.

Naturally, he got teased about his size. His buddies, especially, were relentless with their wisecracks. He took it in stride, mostly, but I’ll never forget the day I snatched his driver’s license out of his hand and loudly announced, with no small amount of glee, that Darryl was required to sit on a platform to see over the steering wheel.

In terms of teenage insults, I’d hit a 350-yard drive. Darryl laughed with the rest of us, but I noticed tears of humiliation welling in the corners of his eyes. It was the last time I ever teased him.

Darryl was a pretty good athlete, but he obviously was too small to play football, and after freshman basketball—he looks like a waif in the yearbook team photograph—he didn’t make the squad as a sophomore.

So he turned to golf.

A left-hander, he swung in slow motion and barely managed to hit the ball out of his own shadow. He practically buckled under the weight of his golf bag. He didn’t make the varsity team until he was a senior, and then only as the sixth man on a five-man squad, perhaps as a reward for his perseverance. Darryl played in few actual matches.

Back then, a few of us dreamed about becoming professional golfers, but we were eighteen and full of silly notions. Instead, we went off to college or to work, got married, had children. Ultimately, we fulfilled our destinies in golf: We became weekend hackers.

Except for Darryl Staszewski. He had the determination, the courage and the focus about which the rest of us only talked. Maybe the teasing he had endured made him tougher. Maybe he just wanted it more than we did. Maybe he just had more talent than we did, and it simply took a while to surface.

Not long after we graduated, Darryl moved to California to work on his game. Eventually, he became a club professional, and at some point in the late 1970s, I lost track of him.

Twenty years later, I was in the media tent at the Greater Milwaukee Open when somebody tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and there was Darryl Staszewski—a lean, athletic six-footer.

He was living near Seattle, but was in town on vacation and had barely missed earning a spot in the GMO field in the Monday qualifier. We chatted for a while, and he gave me his phone number, saying it would be fun to get together and play a round if I ever got up to the Northwest.

And then I forgot about Darryl again until I found myself staring at his name in a golf magazine. It really doesn’t matter whether he won $216 or $216,000, whether he finished seventh on the Cascade Tour or won the U.S. Open.

You see, Darryl is living the dream.

~Gary D’Amato
Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul

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