Intro to Playing Through

I missed the boat… Barely

Hey there, I’m Jonas Ellison, chief and sole-editor of Playing Through. Let’s cut to the chase. You want to know what you’re going to find in this publication. Well, let’s tackle that first.

Playing Through is a collection of stories and life-lessons in and around the game of golf. As far as I can tell, no one out there is doing it the way I want to do it.

Stories and lessons... If you know golf, you know how rich the game is with these things. But you also probably understand how little of these things are being shared out there. The nature of online content around golf is limited to swing instruction, product reviews, and historical facts about the game.

Sorry, I’m putting myself to sleep just thinking about it…

I want to go deeper. I want to mine the game for all of its lore and legends and dig into the sub-culture. I want to show the game of golf as the ultimate life-transformational tool it is.

Golf is a microcosm of life. Even though you may be playing against your best buddies for pocket change, it’s really just you. Through an average round of golf, we are provided with ample opportunities to meet face-to-face with our ego, our shame, our anger, our joy, our connection to other people and with nature. In golf, we can’t tackle our opponents, block their shots, or illegally record their practices (although it would be a hell of a lot more interesting if we could, I suppose).

I can’t think of any other game like it.

In Playing Through, I want to write my way through the game and express how it has shaped me as a human being and how it continues to do so. I want to tell tales of hilarity and shared humanity. I want to show golf as being accessible to all people — not just old, rich, lame white dudes. (I grew up on welfare and the game worked for me.)

You’ll read about the dude I used to play with who liked to pick up rattle snakes and play with them as we waited to hit our tee shots (you know, just to pass the time). You’ll read about my stops at the oldest bar in Nevada and tall tales with the local ranchers/golfers. You’ll read about how breaking a windshield with an errant shot taught me a lesson about integrity and decency. You’ll read about how I worked at the club in Chicago that the movie Caddyshack was based on.

And that’s just from the past. Who knows what stories will occur in the future.

Now you’re probably wondering who the hell I think I am to take this task on…

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My backstory with golf

I discovered the game of golf when I was 12. At that time in my life, my mom was battling breast cancer. She was turning to alcohol to numb the pain. And my extended family of dysfunctional, hurtful, drug-addicted criminals were closing in on us. It was unraveling all around me.

Golf was my escape. By hopping on my bike — one hand on the handlebars, the other on the handle of my pull-cart — in 15 minutes, I could be transported to another world at our local par-3 course. The solitude of the game was an emotional salve — a Shangri-La where I could step away from the pain and focus my efforts entirely on chasing that little white ball around a beautifully manicured oasis.

When I was 16, my mom lost her fight. Golf saved me. It was my catharsis and it kept me out of trouble. I met solid people through the game — people who cared about me and saw my talent. It gave me hope.

Golf was my world. That par-3 course had an exceptional junior summer program. For a couple hundred bucks, we juniors got free range balls, group lessons, and greens fees after noon. My friends and I would meet there at sunrise and leave when it was dark. We shared countless Mountain Dews and hot dogs between marathon rounds of summer golf.

I went on to play on the high school team. I was no all-star — not quite good enough to go on tour — but I got into the business at a professional level after graduation. I called the golf course my office for 10 years as a club professional giving lessons, running tournaments, and managing the shop.

Me at the Olympic Club, San Francisco — Circa 2006

I walked some of the most beautiful real estate in the world during that stage of my life. I met celebrities, statesmen, and even my future wife through the game.

And then I got burned out.

When you’re a club pro, you work. A lot. And most of that work is done on days that most families have off — weekends, holidays, summers, etc. As I got to the stage of my life where I wanted to have a family of my own, I saw visions of myself in the future, at the golf course working while my family was hanging out at home. I knew I’d hardly see them if I followed this path.

In the end, it was a tyrant boss, the yearning for a family life, and a newfound love of writing that sealed the deal. I left the profession 5 years ago and have only played a few times since.

I don’t miss the business, but I miss the game every day. It’s a strong part of my history that’s etched into my soul. It’s a game that I want play with my daughter as she grows up. One that has taught me so, so much about life. From honor to etiquette to gamesmanship, healthy competition, self-improvement, dealing with failure (a lot of this), and much, much more.

Here’s to many future adventures

This publication has given me an excuse to reconnect with the game (at least once or twice a month).

So, whether you’re a golfer or not, I hope you’ll follow the publication, read my stories, and spread them around. I’m not sure how regularly I’ll be posting here, but I hope at least once every couple weeks. Thanks so much for being a part of this exciting new project of mine.

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