Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
Last night, as I thought about my senior speech, I bowed my head to pray. I thanked God for two specific things. First, for the life of an amazing man and his family. Second, for this platform and the opportunity to unfold his beautiful story. It inspired me, and I feel I ought to spread that same inspiration to you as well.
So here’s where the story began. Kevin Hansen was the PGA Teaching Professional at Hayward National Golf Club five minutes outside my home town in Wisconsin. He let every junior golfer play for free, as long as they took two practice swings between each shot. I took the bus to Hayward National every day after school with my two best friends, Ally and Kevin’s son, Jack. I was nine years old at the time, and Kevin became my golf coach for the following seven years. I started to address him as “Pro”, which is another word for “Coach” in golfing terms. There’s really only one way I can describe Pro, besides the fact that he could always make you laugh, is he had an extraordinary way of making everyone he was in contact with feel like they mattered.
Words can’t describe how great of a coach he was. He always knew just what to say. His famous line was “you’re not your golf score.” Meaning, it doesn’t matter whether you shoot 72 or 92, you’re still the same person walking off the course as you were walking on.
As I got to know Kevin better, I found that he was a pro at a club in Guadalajara, Mexico. In 1996, he began to coach fifteen-year-old Lorena Ochoa, whose expectation of herself at this young age was to be the best golfer in the world. Thirteen years later, she retired from the LPGA in her 158th consecutive week as the number one golfer in the world. This incredible story taught me how far confidence can go.
Another thing that I learned about Pro was that he had been fighting cancer for several years. The extraordinary thing about him was that you would never know this unless you saw a doctor’s report, because he had such a positive outlook. He always had a smile on his face and he was confident in his ability to stay strong even after he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
My mom, my sister, and I drove down to the hospital in Minneapolis to visit him. I was terrified. I didn’t know what I was going to encounter on the other side of those hospital doors. I reluctantly walked in and was greeted with a room full of smiling faces. I was engulfed in an atmosphere of hugs, hopeful conversation, and positivity from Pro and his family. I often flash back to the vision of myself in that room. It reminds me how far positivity can go. It can move mountains. It can fight cancer.
This world lost Coach Hansen on January 25, 2017. The way he lived his life with such an optimistic and selfless attitude is what defines him in my eyes, not his 55 short years. Like he taught me, it’s not about the end result. It’s not the tournament. It’s the hard work and dedication that goes into it.
I can still see the image of Kevin’s wife, Rosa, at her husband’s funeral service, coming up to hug me and asking me how I was doing. Rosa taught me to be grateful. Don’t ask God why, instead thank him for the good things in life. I also learned to never take things for granted. If I could go back, I’d write down everything Pro said to me on those 8 a.m. Friday lessons, because he always knew what to say.
When I won my first big tournament my freshman year, he cried. I asked him why, and he responded, “Gab, I used to cry when Lorena won and laugh when she lost, because I knew she would win a lot more.”
Pro, I hope I’ll be making you cry more happy tears up in heaven. Thank you.