While I’ve “experienced” my fair share of golf, I rarely watch it on TV. One exception however, is the back nine of the Masters, particularly if it shapes up to be a competitive, close leader board or if an interesting story or narrative has developed throughout the week.
This year’s Masters certainly had a compelling narrative as Sergio Garcia entered the final round on top of the leader board. It was the type of narrative from which, like a train wreck, you can’t avert your eyes. After bursting onto the world stage in 1999 after dueling with Tiger Woods as a teenager in the PGA Championship, Garcia was anointed one of the world’s best players. The “experts” claimed that with unlimited potential, he was destined to win multiple major championships.
But golf is a fickle game.
So there was Sergio, on top of the leader board after 73 straight major tournaments without a win. The mantle of the “Best Golfer to Never Win a Major Tournament” hung heavy on his head. The narrative of the 2017 Masters echoed loud and clear. “Let’s see how Sergio collapses this time.”
That’s exactly what everyone was thinking as Sergio stood over an 8 foot put on the 18th green that, if drained, would secure his first major tournament win.
All of the “fans” and “experts” who had been so judgmental in criticizing the fact that he had yet to win a major had seemingly gotten their wish.
But what those judgmental “fans” and “experts” didn’t understand and probably never will, is that regardless of whether that putt went in, Sergio had already “won.”
The fact is, there isn’t a golfer - pros, amateurs and hackers alike, dead or alive - who hasn’t stood over an 8 foot putt and fantasized about taking that putt on the 18th green to win the Masters while the whole world was watching.
But unlike all of those fantasizing about it, Sergio was actually doing it!
At the end of the day, it really didn’t matter whether he hit that putt. He’d already achieved a dream that only a handful of players have ever achieved. That qualifies as an enormous win in
every sense of the term.
Can’t we as sports fans or sports writers celebrate that? Or does absolutely everything about sports have to revolve around the notion that it is winning and only winning that matters and
anything less is meaningless?
The most fundamental rationale for participation in sports is that it teaches a wide array of character traits such as teamwork, persistence and personal responsibility. That it is the process of participation that results in benefits for the participant. But watching this year’s Masters and the narrative surrounding it brought home once again just how twisted the culture around sports has become when it is the end result (winning) that has become far more important than the process of education and learning life lessons through participation. We’ve lost sight of and appreciation for the fact that it is the journey and the life lessons you learn along the way that is far more important and meaningful than the final score of any game.
In short, our entire win at all cost sports culture needs a recalibration. We all need to chill out. These are simply games. We should enjoy them as such.
Which brings me back to my golf “experiences.” And it is why I am offering up my personal golf mantra and philosophy of “Self Actualization Golf” (SAG) for all of you duffers and hackers who are hitting the links this summer. In SAG, scores don’t matter and pars, bogies, birdies and eagles are ultimately, irrelevant. What matters is whether you “feel good about your game”. Whether your take away from your round is one good shot, a few laughs, enjoying beautiful weather or the cold beer(s) at the turn, as long as you find something to enjoy about the experience you have achieved a major victory.
Sergio ended up winning the Master’s green jacket and he’s no longer the Best Player to Never Win a Major Championship. Good for him. But he didn’t need to win that green jacket to, in the grand scheme of golf history, have “won”. He’d already done that.
While he is no longer the Best Player to Never Win a Major Championship, there will be another golfer who upon whom the “fans” and “experts” will place that heavy mantle upon. And in our sports’ win at all cost and nothing else really matters culture, that mantle will be heavy.
But rather than place that mantle on a player on the PGA Tour, How about this?
Give it to me.
I’ll gladly wear that mantle. I’ve played my fair share of golf and have yet to win a putt-putt championship let alone the Masters. But I’m okay with that because Self Actualization Golf is
where’s it at. As long as you feel good about your game, you have won!