Friday, April 24, 2015
Friday, April 17, 2015
|Jordan Spieth's Thank You Note|
I've long believed that because of its nature the game of golf provides a lens through which the interior character of individual golfers is revealed. Even in team events like the Curtis Cup, the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup and their various spin-offs, collective success or failure is the cumulative product of individual performance rather than the result of a collaborative effort.
In golf there's no equivalent to baseball's relief pitcher or football's field goal kicker. There are no time outs that allow for a pep talk from the coach or a cooling off from the intensity of competition, no switching from offensive to defensive squads.
Further, golf doesn't have "opponents." From the first tee shot to the last putt, golfers are contesting, against each other to be sure but, ultimately, against the golf course and the theoretical abstract that Bobby Jones described as Old Man Par. Golf is a sport that's played in solitude, at once terrifying and comforting, simultaneously opaquely invisible and utterly familiar. As a result, golf provides a playing ground where individual character is built and where it's starkly tested. Last week Jordan Spieth took that character test for the second time on Augusta National Golf Club's hallowed ground and he passed with flying colors.
Much has been written recently about Jordan Spieth as he's transitioned from one of a number of Young Turks on the PGA Tour likely to make a charge at the Cultural Icon slot Tiger Woods has vacated to his current position as leader of the pack.
While Nike gambled that Tiger's heir apparent would be Rory McIlroy, that turned out not to be the case, at least for the moment. The green jacket slipped through the grasp of the world's top-ranked golfer for the 4th time.
Spieth's four-day, record-making tour de force around the Augusta National track -- a wire-to-wire win that hasn't been accomplished for a generation -- was certainly impressive and had most of us who love the game cheering him on from behind the physical and virtual ropes. I confess that by Sunday afternoon when the young guy from Dallas made the turn I was holding my breath every time he hit the ball.
And when he gave back that shot that would have taken him beyond Tiger's record and claimed his own green jacket with a score that kept him even with the Big Cat, I momentarily lost sight of the fact that Spieth has achieved the goal he'd set for himself six years earlier. Jordan Spieth was rightly competing against Old Man Par, not the mythos of Tiger Woods. That's why he explained his victory as "this is the way I should be playing."
Much has been made in the electronic press about Spieth's financial success, beginning with his new house, implicitly posing the unasked question: What does a 21-year old single guy need with a $2.7 million gated mansion? Then, in the wake of his Masters victory, a new wave of press commentary focused on his increased value, driven, I sense, by a thinly disguised envy of the spike in earning power his triumph in Augusta has generated.
Spieth's understated Twitter response to the endorsement and sponsorship bonanza that has predictably followed his Masters win -- I'm enjoying the business side of golf -- lets me know his feet are firmly on the ground.
|Jordan Spieth's selfie from the NYC Empire State Building|
Spieth seems to manage the stress of competition by staying in the moment and working to deliver the best he has rather than wasting his talent and energy flailing and scowling and prowling and growling. He demands from himself an extraordinary level of excellence, and then he delivers it with an intensity that's a bit unnerving, while managing to remain both polite and affable.
It's not unseemly to enjoy the fruits of success and Jordan Spieth clearly enjoyed his madcap VIP romp through New York City during the week following his Masters victory. Maybe he danced until dawn with a beautiful blonde model but I rather doubt it. He's been dating the same girl since they were both in high school. Maybe he popped champagne corks as the night turned to day in a bacchanalian romp at a a Soho disco but we didn't get any pictures from the golf paparazzi -- and surely they wouldn't have missed an opportunity to document some even marginally rowdy behavior from this guy who seems to epitomize the American ideal of young manhood.
Spieth's selfie from the top of the Empire State Building says it all for me. Alone, on the top of the world, the 15-year old boy smiling out from the man's body, wrapped in the symbol of a goal achieved, enjoying the solitude of his moment.
What's next for Jordan Spieth? My crystal ball tells me more of the same, but perhaps a kinder, gentler, more reasoned and measured version of athletic stardom.
Friday, February 6, 2015
|Tiger Woods, Deactivated or Finished?|
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Tonight I'm breaking that compact. To my sorrow, France -- that nation that provided the intellectual synergy and enlightenment that inspired the American Revolution, the culture that set the 20th century standard for sophistication and inclusion, that place where fine food is a taken-for-granted basic human right, where street vendors ply their trade with a panache that escapes ordinary folk elsewhere, the nation that has suffered and resisted and survived occupation, a place I have visited again and again, and a place that I love despite the haughty scorn I endure when I attempt to communicate in French (I long ago gave up and turned to the more universal language of American Express) -- has joined the ranks of jihadi's victims.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
|Alma Barnes, Me & Bonnie Bell (left to right)|
We were all monitoring the long-range forecast and the sun was predicted to make a brief appearance between two winter storms marching across the continent. Still, after several days of cold rain I wasn't too surprised when I arrived at the golf course to find that our number had dwindled to three: Alma, Bonnie, and me.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Saturday, December 20, 2014
My list of undone tasks is way too long -- pay bills, change the parrots' papers (a healthy parrot poops every 15 minutes, around the clock and there are five healthy parrots in my life happily pooping in concert), shop for stocking stuffers, get the guest room comforter off the shelf and into a duvet cover and onto the bed.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
|Ben Martin's putting clinic at Shriners Hospital fort|
Children-Greenville, SC. Photo credit: Scott Chancey,
The 24-hour news cycle has made it possible to follow, almost shot-by-shot, the search for a crazed cop-killer in Pennsylvania and the attempt to liberate a cafe packed with terrified customers being held hostage in Sydney by a crazed jihadi, or was he?
Have I omitted something? Probably. It's been almost too much to absorb. Am I getting desensitized to mass violence? Or am I, in the golf season interregnum, just more attuned to the 24-hour news cycle blood and guts filler?
Let's get back to golf, the sport with a social conscience, played by folks at all levels who have the capacity to forge bonds and partnerships, friendships and economic alliances that transcend the divisions of race, religion, and political ideology.
To achieve that refocus, allow me to share with you three of my current favorite golf cameos:
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
|Sam Adams, Essentially Golf|
I met Sam Adams through the Google+ Golf Community (if you love golf and aren't a member of the Community you're missing an opportunity to connect with others who share your passion) and discovered that while we've never met Sam's living and teaching golf within about 30 miles of my home base. As our conversations unfolded I also discovered that his approach to teaching draws on his friendships Mickey Wright and Harvy Penick, golfers I admire enormously.
Mickey Wright played on the LPGA Tour from 1955 to 1969, was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1964, has been named all-time top woman golfer by both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine, and penned Play Golf the Wright Way, a book I return to again and again as I continue to refine my relationship with this pesky, humbling, befuddling game that so engages me. I was more than a little impressed when Sam shared with me that he's actually played a round or two with her.
My son Wes introduced me to Harvey Penick and his little red books several years ago when he tucked a couple of the volumes into my carry-on bag at the conclusion of one of our golf matches and said, You'll enjoy reading these on your way across the country at 32,000 feet. Wes was correct. I've read them all now, but my favorite is For All Who Love The Game: Lessons and Teachings for Women. Although he's best remembered as Ben Crenshaw's coach (it's said Harvey continued to provide guidance to Crenshaw from his deathbed), like my current swing coach, Tommy Pendley, Harvey Penick had that rare capacity to nurture the golfer who lives inside many women and his writings speak to me and inspire me.
How could I go wrong with a guest post from a fellow South Carolinian who's learned his trade from these two golf luminaries? I couldn't. So here's Sam's guest post on the wisdom and the inspiration he gained from Mickey Wright and her coach, Harvey Penick: