StoryCorps: “Play the ball where it lies”

Natalie Holland and Donald Holland

Natalie Holland and Donald Holland


StoryCorps is an oral history project that records the life stories of people from all backgrounds and beliefs. Each year the StoryCorps MobileBooth visits cities and towns across the country to record the stories of the people who live there. They came to Birmingham in 2019.

Natalie Holland learned to play golf from her father, Donald Holland. They still remember that first golf lesson in the backyard when Natalie accidentally hit Donald in the head during her first swing. In their mobile booth interview, they talk about how lessons learned from golf carry over to other areas of life.

Donald Holland (DH): I remember in high school you were so eager and so excited about golf, you had to take your golf clubs to school.

Natalie Holland (NH): Yep.

DH: And then you went out for the golf team.

NH: Yep. And you remember there was no girls golf team?

DH: No girls golf. Right.

NH: So they had to make room for me, so I ended up playing on the boy’s team. And I guess I’m thankful for that. Of course, the guys hit first. And then of course they always had to wait for me to hit second. So that was one of the things that sort of always stuck with me, you know, wanting to play from where the guys play from. So, it taught me to play a little harder and be a little better, more aggressive.

NH: So what’s been your greatest memory of golf?

DH: One of the things that moved me about golf, believe it or not, was you. I enjoyed seeing you play. And I loved taking you out when you were little. I thought the world of you. I thought you were pretty and I thought that you had all the right movements for a golfer.

NH: I think you probably challenged me more than anybody. Probably talk more trash than anybody. And I think you probably pushed me harder than anybody to just try different things or just to give it my all. You know, I think anytime we go out it’s always a lesson and I think, growing up, I’ve had a few lessons from some pretty notable people. But I think my greatest lessons probably have come from you.

NH: What has been your greatest lesson that golf has taught you?

DH: It’s a lot like life, in my opinion. You know, you never give up. You’re not going to be good every day. But my life lesson is to never, never give up. And I like golf for that reason because it’s a lot like life is to keep going even when the odds are against you.

NH: Umm, you don’t necessarily always know, what your shot is gonna be. But I think, of course, you have to obviously play the ball where it lies. Which means you, as it relates to life, you have to sort of take it as it comes. You know, you’re gonna have certain circumstances, there are gonna be hazards or obstacles, challenges… But you, I guess one thing you’ve taught me, there’s always something in the golf bag that’ll get you to the green.

NH: And I know, with your battle with prostate cancer… I think with golf, I think we can take this and sort of apply it, to the things that we have to go through in the next phase, in the next journey of your life. You know, I think we have to just tee it up. You gotta tee it high, tee it low, and just rip it and let it go. You know?

DH: Exactly, and that’s what I plan to do. You know I might have to lay it up.

NH: Yeah.

DH: I might have to lay it up twice before crossing the water. But nevertheless, I’m going to cross the water and I will get to the green.

NH: Absolutely. Something in that golf bag to get you to the green.

DH: There’s something to get me there.

NH: I wanted to take time to tell you how much I appreciate you for introducing me to the game. It’s meant everything to me.

DH: And you’ve made me feel real, real proud and I’m glad to have you as a daughter. You mean everything in the world to me. I love you very much.

NH: I love you too, Daddy.

Donald Holland’s prostate cancer was briefly in remission — it has since returned. In an effort to raise awareness about prostate cancer, Donald and Natalie Holland are currently putting together a golf tournament in his honor. Their full conversation is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. This series was produced by Michelle Little with editing by Michael Krall.

MUSIC CREDIT: “City Hall” by Vienna Teng

FACILITATOR: Melissa Velasquez

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