“Come here… a’salam aleikum, what’s your name?

“Aman.”

“Aman, I’m M. What’s your handicap?”

“17.”

“Where are you from? India? Your swing is flawed. At this age, unless you are a one or two handicap, you have no potential in this game. You see these guys in America hitting the ball 280-290 yards, they have potential. They will play in the college golf scene. If your handicap is only 17, you have no potential. And you’re already 16? That is bad. Who is your swing coach? Change it.”

That day changed my life. A random stranger, who I had no connection with, told me I had no potential in the game of golf. He said I was wasting my time. I’ll never forget his name, face, appearance, the cigar that he was smoking or the smell of the fumes he was blowing directly in my face. I was 16 years old and had only been playing golf for a year and a couple of months. I didn’t know how to reply.

I felt defeated.

That night, I remember breaking down at the dinner table and telling my parents that golf wasn’t for me. I believe the days that ensued were the devil’s attempt to convince me to abandon all hope.

“Look Mama, maybe there is no point for me to try,” I said. “What if there is a chance that he was right? I’m playing in my first tournament tomorrow and I really don’t want to go out there and embarrass myself. It will only prove everything he said is true. Everybody else in this tournament is so good and I have only been doing this for a little over a year now.”

“Aman! Nonsense. Forget about everything that man said. So what if you have only been playing for a little while? Go out there and go for it.”

“Yeah Aman,” my brother chirped in. “Your goal tomorrow is not to shoot a certain score but to go out and finish the round. You never have to see him again, and although what he said might hurt now, it is not true. Don’t let yourself believe it. Just go out there and finish the round to get over this experience.”

The tournament did not go as planned. I shot a miserable score and finished dead last. On the drive back home, the negative seeds that M so eloquently planted in me threatened to spring back to life.

I thought maybe I should just throw in the towel on the whole college golf thing and cut my losses. There is no visible way around this. I started too late and I am too far behind. Perhaps, this is where my story really ends.

For months, those thoughts kept running through my mind. I now consider March and April of 2015 the darkest times of my life. I was a very unhappy 16-year-old. In hindsight, I realize that many negative seeds attempted to sprout within me, tempting me to give up.

But I did not.

I fought.

And here I am.

God qualified me.

Today, I am a college golf player who has played in multiple tournaments. A player who works harder than anyone else. I do not look for approval from anybody except Jesus. And, I already know what Jesus thinks of me: I am to die for.

The thought of those two months come back to me very frequently, but they have a very different effect on me now than they did back then. When an image of M springs to mind, it reminds me of how far I have come. It reminds me of what I have overcome in my personal life. It reminds me of all the hours I have put into the sport, and of God’s never-ending grace, love and mercy.

I do not deserve anything I currently have, but I have them anyways. The darkest days of my life brought forth the brightest days of my life. I just had to patiently sit through the night and lean on my never-ending source: Him.

Do not give up on your dreams. God never gave up on you.

-Aman Ailani

Aman attends Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He is a sophomore player on the Falcons’ men’s golf team.

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