NOTE: This is part of a series on athletics.covenant.edu with feature stories written by the student-athletes about their time at Covenant. The series is in conjunction with NCAA Division III Week (April 1-7), an annual event to celebrate the accomplishments on and off the field of student-athletes in the NCAA's largest division.
By Josh Wall
(Covenant '19; Men's Golf)
How did I end up here?
These words would often go through my head as a freshman. My journey to Covenant at the time had been a very unexpected, underwhelming one that had its fair share of ups and downs. I was a struggling golfer, bad student, yet very empty and searching for some form of purpose. Let me explain.
I always struggled with my love for golf, as my dad, well intentioned, loved the game and gave me every opportunity to play it, even when the last thing I wanted to do was touch a club. While hard work and perseverance were impressed upon me, there was a definite disconnect between golf and the rest of my life. Golf is a funny game; when you are struggling in other areas of your life, it is almost impossible to play to your full potential. I have always had the ability to hit the ball, but consistently struggled with the mental and emotional side of the game.
I was apathetic toward playing golf in college, mainly because my love for the game had reached a low point from burnout in high school. I toured Covenant my junior year of high school and hated it, so I never seriously considered attending. I wanted to get as far away from golf as possible and reset.
Long story short, Covenant ended up, surprisingly, being cheaper than the other two options available to me. My parents and I agreed that we should go visit again. During my trip, I met the golf coach (then-head coach Jack Belote) and half-heartedly toured the campus. I was not thrilled about going to Covenant, but at the same time, not having much other choice, I relented, and committed. I knew I could at least continue my golf career, even if I was struggling with my love for the game.
My four years playing golf at Covenant has been a roller coaster ride. Freshman year was the low point. All of the problems that were present at the end of high school when I decided to stop taking golf seriously were still very relevant, and my game along with the rest of my life was out of control. My stroke average was 87, well below average for college golf standards. Our team had fun, but struggled to compete. I ended my freshman year on a bad note both in golf and with school.
After contemplating transferring away from Covenant and all of my problems, I decided to return for the next semester. However, I quit the golf team after our pre-season, isolating myself from everyone close to me except for a couple close roommates.
After a terrible couple of months dealing with loneliness, rejection, and profound emptiness, I realized that though I professed to be a Christian, I did not have a relationship with Jesus, and I did not pursue the Lord in any evident way to myself or to others. It had been easy for me to sit around and convince myself that I was a Christian when I was surrounded by so many people who also professed Christ, and my whole life I bought into the lie that I was fine. This realization, combined with some incredibly patient friends and leaders, moved me to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior at Thanksgiving, completely transforming my attitude toward the rest of my life.
This newfound joy led to me actually enjoying golf and, after a long conversation with my coach who graciously let me back onto the team, I managed to qualify for our last four tournaments of the year, including helping the team qualify for the USA South Tournament.
More importantly, I fell back in love with golf. Coach Tom Schreiner challenged me to work on my game, to take control of myself emotionally, which has proved to be my biggest point of growth between my freshman and senior years.
After another challenging season in my junior year in which we only had four golfers for a majority of the year, narrowly missing out on qualifying for the conference championship, we arrive in the present; my senior year.
Thanks to our two new freshman to go along with our four upperclassmen, we have a very skilled group. The talent of our current freshman along with a change in attitude from our upperclassmen has led our program to a change in perspective, and as a result, some success this year. Our team rose to 69th in the national rankings in the fall, the highest in school history, along with our team breaking the school record for scoring (295), and junior Nathan Hawkins tying the individual school scoring record (68). I love our guys, and I love what Coach Schreiner has done to develop our games, and I could not be more excited for these last few tournaments to wrap up my Covenant golf career.
To anyone considering Covenant, know that this atmosphere and campus is not for everyone; it is a great place to see the Lord work, but it can also be a tough place to grow spiritually amidst the crowd.
But all in all, if I had not experienced the love of Jesus from the Covenant College administration, my coaches, and many of my friends, I would have left the school long ago. As I reflect on these four years, I wish I could go back and redo quite a bit of it. But I realize they were necessary to mold me into the person I am today.