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Leadership at Any Age

Last week was the Masters Golf Tournament. I love watching the Masters.  Each year I enter a lottery for tickets. Haven’t gotten lucky yet. In 2016 I was fortunate enough to go to the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club. It was amazing – but one sees so much more when watching it on TV. Somewhat like going to a pro football game. Great atmosphere – if you don’t mind paying $50 for parking, $10 beers, $6 dogs and $75 for poor seats.

The official start of the Masters is the Par 3 Contest on Wednesday – a 9-hole event. It is a semi-competitive, very social event that started in 1960. The golfers include children, and even parents, as caddies so that it stays family-friendly. Never in the history of the Par 3 event has the winner of that event also won the Masters on Sunday afternoon. What this tells me is even though it is family-friendly, people who compete at the professional level always want to win.

The Part 3 Contest has been on ESPN since 2008 but I’ve never seen it as it is during the day. Last Wednesday my best friend, now retired and still a golfer, called me and told me that the Contest was being replaying on ESPN that night and that I MUST watch it. I’m glad I did.

One of the threesomes were the young studs of golf, Jordan Spieth – 24, Rickie Fowler – 29 and Justin Thomas – 24. Spieth won the Masters in 2015 at the age of 21. He shocked the world. Also playing together were three old guys you’ve undoubtedly heard of:  Jack Nicklaus – 78, Gary Player – 82 and Tom Watson – 68. This means the both Nicklaus and Player are older than these young studs put together!

Just more than 70 golfers played in the Contest but the cameras stayed on these legends. Watson had won two Masters, 1977 and 1981. Player won three times – 1961, 1974 and 1978. Jack Nicklaus didn’t make the cut in his first Masters try in 1959. He came back to win, however, six times – 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975 and 1986. In all he played in 45 Masters and made the cut 37 times.

I grew up watching these legends play. The first time Player won I was in the second grade. At 82 he stays in shape by doing 1,000 sit-ups/push-ups a day. Yes, a DAY!  Do yourself a favor and go to YouTube and watch some of his workouts. Most of us have NEVER been in the shape he is today. Still a Leader at 82.

Jack’s age is catching up with him. He doesn’t walk as quickly as he used to . . . but at 78 I won’t either. In 1962 he watched a video of himself smoking on the golf course in the U.S. Open. He never smoked on a golf course again. Why?  It set a bad example for kids. That is Leadership.

Watson’s story, too, is one of Leadership. In an interview in 1998 with Sports Illustrated he divulged that he had a problem with drinking – a problem he needed to overcome. I first learned about this problem while watching an interview on Feherty. Please watch this 2 minute clip with Tom Watson and Feherty:  https://www.golfchannel.com/video/feherty-how-tom-watson-saved-me/

Watson was able to help Feherty only because he had been there and had seen the signs. Leadership.

During the Par 3 contest it became evident that the ‘old guys’ could still play!  In fact, Tom Watson was challenging for lead with Nicklaus right behind him. Player was just a couple strokes back. When all was said and done Tom Watson won the event. This 68-year old senior citizen had beaten all the young studs of golf. Nicklaus was tied for 4th. Player tied for 10th with Spieth. Very cool!

But, as Paul Harvey would have said, here “is the rest of the story.”

After all three of these Masters championship had hit their tee shot on #9, Jack Nicklaus asked his caddy if he would like to hit one. His caddy was his 15-year old grandson. On the grandson’s practice swing it was evident that he played golf. His grandson hit his shot just past the pin. It slowly backed up toward the pin until it dropped in the cup.

A hole in one!  His first hole in one ever. Tears came to Nicklaus’s eyes. The announcer asked Jack, who had, again, been in 45 Masters events (12 of those he came in first, second or third) what his favorite Master memory . . . ever. With tears now choking him up he mumbled – “this one.”

Leadership comes at any age. We have to remember this – especially as we get older.


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