What I Strive to be on the Golf Course

Like all golfers, I want to play well.  To date (August 8, 2009), the best score I’ve posted on my GHIN scorecard
is 81 and my handicap has fallen to 11.9.  Since I’ve been playing for only 2 years, I’m pleased with this…but
not satisfied.  I will continue to work on my game and I will strive to lower my handicap.

However, I don’t feel that my score or my handicap reflects who I am as a golfer.  Being a true golfer is much
deeper than how well you score…at least in my opinion.  

I recently read an article entitled “The 50 Greatest Golfers of All-Time and What They Taught Us” by Guy
Yocum.  This article originally appeared in Golf Digest in 2000.  In the article, Frank Tatum was quoted as
saying …

                   “In my book a golfer is someone who:
                   * appreciates the privilege of being able to play the game;
                   * respects its values and traditions;
                   * respects the game's rules, and plays accordingly;
                   * handles success with charm;
                   * handles failure with grace;
                   * adds something positive to the experience of those with whom he or she plays.”

A couple of these statements really hit me…

A golfer respects the values and traditions of the game.
A golfer handles success with charm.
A golfer handles failure with grace.
A golfer adds something positive to the experience of those with whom he or she plays.

These are 4 characteristics that I feel are at the heart of a true golfer and these are the types of things that I
strive to emulate on and off the golf course.

However, where can I look for a role model to assist me personify these ideals?  I can look back historically and
see how Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson handled themselves.  Heck, we even got
a glimpse in real time of how a true golfer behaves during the good times and bad when Tom Watson competed
for his 6th Open Championship just a few weeks ago.  He handled his success with intoxicating charm and he
handled himself with the utmost class when the playoff didn’t turn out anywhere close to the way he wanted it to.
He appeared to be in control of his emotions, respectful of his playing partner, and appreciative of the media
and the fans.  Furthermore, when the wheels started to fall of the wagon he remained gracious and respectful.  
He handled himself with dignity and seemed to be sincere in his congratulations of the champion, Stewart Cink.  
Frankly, I was more than a little bit impressed.

Another historic example of how a true golfer behaves is the late Payne Stewart.  Remember his epic winning
putt in the US Open at Pinehurst?  This pose is immortalized in pictures and a formal statue of that moment
stands on the grounds of that historic golf course.  However, do you remember how he approached his playing
partner and closest competitor after that winning putt?  He walked over to Phil Mickelson, looked him dead in
the eye, put both hands around Phil’s head, and congratulated him relative to the fact that Phil was about to
become a father for the first time.  In that moment of ecstasy, Mr. Stewart added a positive experience to his
playing partner that the world will remember for a long, long time.

For sure, there are many other examples of class acts on and off the golf course.  These are just a few
examples.  However, I find it really hard to find blatant examples of this type of sportsmanship among the
modern golfers.  What I can recall are the superstars of today throwing clubs after bad shots and cursing and
throwing tirades after unfortunate things occur on the course.  I’ve seen clubs being broken, balls being thrown,
and, oh yeah, I’ve actually seen someone spit in the cup during an actual round of tournament golf.  Wow!!!  
That is low class, low rent, despicable, and disrespectful to the game and to ones fellow competitors.

Being a positive person, I won’t dwell on these negatives and I won’t name names.  I will simply say that I hope
my children don’t learn to behave like these golfing heroes of today.  I hope they see Tom Watson’s class, they
see the highlights of Payne Stewart, the read about Bobby Jones and Byron Nelson, and they watch the replay
of the 1977 Open Championship and see Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson walk off the 18th green on Sunday
arm in arm after their epic battle.  More importantly, I hope that I can learn to emulate the behavior of these
historic golfing heroes and, in turn, pass along their class and dignity to my children.  This is my ultimate goal
for my golfing game.

But breaking into the 70’s and becoming a single digit handicap isn’t too far behind!!!!!