How the Masters Exposed My Distracted Life

golf ball on turf grass

The Masters golf tournament has always held a special place in my heart because my dad played in it as an amateur in 1984. Augusta National Golf Club is historic, beautiful, and arguably the most peaceful golfing landscape in the world – although Pine Valley would give it a run for its money! I’ve been a patron at 3 Masters, including Tiger Woods’ thrilling come-from-behind win earlier this week. But what stands out writing this post a few days later isn’t so much the most unbelievable sports accomplishment I have ever witnessed — and to be sure, seeing Tiger hit his tee shot to 3 feet on 16 was exactly that!

But as I reflect on my time at August on Sunday, what strikes me most is how alive and fully present I felt all day. This depressing reality sunk in just a few hours after the experience was over, as I had to admit to myself that I’m living a distracted life.

Let me explain further. As many know, Augusta National Golf Club does not allow patrons to have cell phones or any other digital devices on the grounds during the tournament. So as my friend and I strolled into line at 5:20 a.m., I began hearing sounds I have grown unaccustomed to hearing: birds chirping, conversations, and the sounds of lawn mower engines. The conversations around me were give and take, characterized by complete sentences, pauses, and responses. My friend and I joined in and talked about various topics ranging from his job, my church, and of course, the Chicago Cubs.

I think it was only around 6 a.m., as the sun was coming up, that I first reached into my pocket to snap a picture. With nothing but my car keys there, I wondered aloud to my friend how many times I would do this over the course of the day? Sadly, I lost count by 7 a.m.

The day to come was in many ways sensory overload. The smell of the damp mowed grass, the sounds of the quiet chatter of excited patrons anticipating what could happen later in the day, the sound of the trees as the wind brushed through the leaves making them sound like approaching rain drops. Without the weather app, Instagram, or text messages, I was aware of everything, even my vain desire to grow the number of my likes. As the hours passed, my hand returned regularly to the outside of my pocket as if to remind myself that none of this could be captured on a device. Even there I began wondering why this repetitive habit had such a grip on me? Why the desire to overshare everything?

The conventional advice is that I need social media for this blog, for Hoffer Plastics, and for keeping in touch with friends. But what’s the cost of all that? More aptly, what would have been the cost if my phone had been on me last Sunday at Augusta National? Would I have noticed the way Tiger walked towards his marked golf ball on 15 with a slight uptick of posture, exuding confidence, just moments after his competitor had sadly dumped his third shot into the lake in front of the 15th green? Would I have noticed the small turtle swimming in the 16th pond moments before Tiger would hit the most clutch golf shot I have ever witnessed in person? Would I have felt the extreme jubilation in my heart, my buddy’s left hand grabbing my shoulder, or seen the joy in the random stranger next to me, as Tiger walked to the 16th green?

Most assuredly, I would have missed some of those moments with the distraction of having my phone out trying to capture the moment for posterity.

Later in the day the extent of my distraction came further into focus. After witnessing Tiger putt in on 18, after hearing the most deafening roar I have ever heard, and after driving back to our Airbnb, my friend and I decided to relax with a glass of wine a few hundred feet from the beautiful Augusta river. No longer detached from our cell phones, there we were with them once again in our hands. As we talked about the day, I worked on a post that was attempting capture all that we had experienced that day. I can’t remember what exactly my friend was talking about, but before I could hit “post,” it finally dawned on me how much of a problem living a distracted life has become.

I don’t want to go on living a distracted life, so I am going to do something about it.

I invite you back on Monday when I share what that is. Until then, however, pay attention to how much attention you are giving digital inputs. Are they distracting you from what is in front of you? Is the cost worth it?

Only you can be the judge.