After earning a landscape degree at West Virginia University, Doug Myslinski entered the golf course industry though the construction discipline with the highly respected Wadsworth Golf Construction Company. He built his first course, Diamond Run Golf Course in Pennsylvania, with Gary Player. He became senior designer for Jacobson Golf Course Design and created Thornberry Creek Country Club, Hunters Glen, the Club at Strawberry Creek, The Broadlands, and Morningstar Golf Club in Wisconsin, and Vista Links in Virginia.
One of the most important things I’ve learned in business is a moral lesson: one truly should never judge a person by a first impression.
I was in the Kansas City Airport with Rick Jacobson after an all-day site visit, awaiting a flight back to Chicago. Before we went to the gate, Rick and I, exhausted, sat down for a quick bite to eat in the airport bar, an outdated sports memorabilia shrine and eatery.
We overheard a couple sitting next to us. They sounded similar to the old television series couple Edith & Archie Bunker, except this Archie didn’t say much. The woman must have asked her husband twenty questions, answered them, elaborated on them, and then rephrased them in a twenty-second span. The husband said not one word, nor did he need to.
I don’t remember too much about the one-sided tongue lashing, but I do recall her asking if he took his ten medications (many of which, I speculated, had to be taken as a direct consequence of her). She was afraid maybe his food was too spicy or maybe he wouldn’t digest it well or maybe the bread was too starchy and stale. I’m sure she truly loved this man, but the only thing Rick and I thought was that he must be a glutton for punishment.
We finally boarded our plane. Rick and I wearily slithered into our assigned seats, which were rows apart. I closed my eyes for about ten seconds, when I opened them to see a sight which couldn’t have been worse had Albert Pujols been hitting me in the forehead with a baseball bat full of five-inch nails. It was the wife! And guess what seat she had?
Within the first ten seconds she’d given me–her new seatmate–countless questions, comments, suggestions, and orders.
I am normally the lucky one that gets the open seat next to me. Not this time! I had no choice but to engage in a conversation, as every trick in the book seemed to bounce off this woman like a rubber ball on concrete. I even tried the old “turn my back to look out the window and act like I’m looking at something interesting on the tarmac” trick, but this lady was determined!
She told me she was of Jewish faith and heritage. Her youth had been spent in a small village with her brother and parents, but her dad was a soldier in World War II – he fought all over Europe.
“We did not hear from my father for several years during the war,” she said. “When we finally received news, it was word that my father has been killed in battle.”
She was a young, Jewish teenager when, during the war, German troops attacked her village and captured her, her mom, and her brother.
“I was aware of my fate then they took me. The soldiers separated my brother and me from our mother. It was the last time we ever saw my mother.”
The woman went on to tell me that she and her brother were locked in a room with many other Jews for several weeks, where she waited for what she feared would be their death. They were given very little food and almost no water, and there was just enough room to sit down in the extremely crowded space.
“My brother and I survived only on fear and our hope to, somehow, escape,” she told me. “My brother finally reached a breaking point and decided he had to do something. He kissed me goodbye and slipped by the German guard as he opened the door. I heard commotion and chaos, and could only pray.”
So many bad things happened to this young girl during the war that she could not have possibly anticipated what happened next. “I knew a bit of German. Each day I would say a word or two to the guard. One day I asked the guard to set me free. To my surprise, he slid the door open a bit and turned his back,” she told me. “I don’t’ know if he was tired of hearing me cry, or he felt sorry for me, or maybe he respected the fact I spoke German, but I went through the door and didn’t look back.”
The problem was that her home and city were destroyed, her mother and father were dead, and she did not know if her brother had survived his escape attempt. She had escaped to the shocking sadness of no one and nowhere.
The army helped her find a foster home where she grew up and awaited the end of the war. She did not mention much about it, so I could only imagine it did not bring her any joy to discuss it. She did say that she received some type of education, got a job, and managed to meet her husband. As soon as they could, they moved to the United States in hopes of living a better life – and they found it.
“Two years ago,” she continued, “I received a letter from my brother! Can you believe he’d survived and somehow managed to find me in America?”
She was tying to get him documentation so he could move to the U.S. I sure wish I could have been there for that reunion.
So my story is really not about the game of golf, but had I not been with Rick in Kansas City making a construction visit, my life would not have been changed by someone I originally thought was going to make that airplane trip the worst ever. Instead, she made it the best!