John Renslow: You can love David and Goliath
Five stones were gathered to take care of Goliath many centuries ago. But, one Rocco fell short of knocking down golf’s giant. After four days of grinding it out to win our country’s national championship, Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods (golf’s good giant) were tied at the top of the leaderboard. Rather than extra innings or “sudden death,” these two warriors faced off the next day for one more 18-hole round to determine a winner.
The epic battle was filled with heroic drama. Rocco, at the age of 45, could become the oldest champion in over a hundred years and, as if taken from the Red Badge of Courage, Tiger was playing through a knee injury against doctors orders. Salvos were fired from both sides, yet each endured. After 18-holes there was still no winner.
It would require one more hole, one more engagement. This would turn out to be too much for one Rocco. An errant drive handicapped the eventual runner-up and Tiger’s confident second shot landed close to the cup where he completed his victory on the 91st hole.
Many had hoped for an upset. A win for Tiger can seem like old news. Plus, we’re a nation of underdog supporters. We love it when David knocks down the giant, even if the giant’s a nice guy. What would be good for the game: The perennial champion and world renowned celebrity or the beloved veteran looking for his first trophy in six years? Do we have to choose?
No. We can appreciate what the game draws out of the players, regardless of the outcome. We can acknowledge the heart of a champion and the accomplishment of the over achiever.
As an Oakland Raider fan in remission, I didn’t even like to watch the 49ers on television. For us, our favorite teams were the Raiders and whoever was playing the 49ers that day. Then along came a guy named Joe. Philosophically, there was no change in allegiance, but watching Montana was like viewing art. He was cool under pressure, systematic in the dissection of his opponent, and rose to the occasion for his team. Niners fan or not, it was pleasure to witness a true sports giant.
Michael Jordan, Reggie Jackson, Martina Navratilova, to name a few, also possess what I call a “champion’s heart” that goes with their world class genetics. There is something inside of them that drives them beyond mere mortals. They reach the pinnacle of their profession, have no economic concerns, and yet they continue to strive for more, keep “pushing the edge of the envelope.”
However, most of us have more empathy with the underdog. Our DNA notwithstanding, we have worked hard and reached beyond our grasp, but we won’t get the call from Sports Illustrated or Glamour magazine. So, we sit up and take notice when someone (or team) without the physical tools positions themselves for a major victory (like the ’69 Mets or the ’80 US Hockey Team).
The game of golf has been called a microcosm of life. How does one handle stress, adversity, misfortune, or success? Over the course of 18 holes it is likely that these or other circumstances will occur and you can learn a lot about someone. So, congratulations to both Tiger and Rocco. For all of us, as golfers, this is encouragement to play a little more, practice a bit more, hit the gym more frequently, or even take a lesson. Because, we all have our own giants to tackle.
John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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