The most embarrassing moment of my life (that I can remember, at least) was at a golf country club south of Lisbon, when I was about thirteen years old. Sometime after his second marriage, my dad had developed a passion for the sport, and so every fifteen days when he had custody, we used to go down to Quinta do Peru and have lessons with a former professional who had retired as a golf teacher. These junior lessons produced some very exciting prospects who practiced every day with their parents; but with golf being a sport in Europe reserved for the middle and upper classes, these weekends were the only time I’d be able to practice. Somehow, I always felt I didn’t quite fit in to the demographic there, the kid from across the river who’d never played before, and who probably followed football more than golf, which tells a lot about you amongst certain circles.
It was with great excitement that my dad told us he had signed us up for the junior golf tournament at the club. This was a pleasant surprise, and with it being my first tournament, I did not expect anything in the slightest. But I should’ve. I don’t know if it was the competitive edge to it, or simply an urge to show these snobs the power of an up-and-coming working-class enthusiasm for the game, but I played the best golf of my life, letting the ball do the talking. My memory of that day is one for the romantics: the sun was out exhibiting the lavishly cut grass in all its glory, and a nice cool breeze had a slight say in the game. All in all, it felt like a nice walk through the woods that I was happy to be included in, the first actual round on my own around the course and a big opportunity to simply focus on playing my game. The ball rolled freely and golf never felt so good. The smell of freshly-cut grass still brings me back to those simpler times nowadays. Being that young, I only managed to focus on one thing at a time, which worked perfectly. Nowadays, when I raise a gold club above my head, a thousand different thoughts rush to my brain – and the ball doesn’t lie.
When we finished our round and returned to the club house, I was pleased with myself, but the thought of winning it never crossed my mind. They named third place, and then second. When they announced the winner, I was stoked to hear my name, but at the same time instantly dreading the moment I’d have to get on stage. The big moments in a teenager’s life – if only the dramas of adult life were this simple.
When I finally got up there, I had the cup handed to me by my beloved teacher. It was awkward, to say the least, for the cup had a lid on it which went flying out of my shaking hands when I tried to grab it. Embarrassing enough, but sure, I thought the job was done and was ready to leave the stage with a contently timid smile – until they handed a microphone to the teacher. He went on to say a few words, and there I was beside him, nodding my head, scanning the eyes of the crowd of the club house, who looked at me as if pondering whether or not I’d make it as the next big thing in golf. I did not. What I did do was sweating profusely when the microphone was handed to me. My mind went totally blank. I can’t quite remember half of the muttered speech because your brain has defence mechanisms which work in blurring these memories out. I managed to blurt out a shaky ‘Thank you’ to my family and coach and then quickly escaped to blend into the crowd once more. Later on in life, golf would be lost amid other passions and distractions. One thing I would go on to conquer though, was my fear for public speaking.