Thursday, April 18, 2013

All Things Considered....

I am not a golfer.  But for a few trips to the Hillsborough Country Club - quite possibly the single most euphemistically named establishment in the world of golf - with my good friend Doug Carroll the Summer of '81 (when Doug taught me the game I think in part to give me something to think about OTHER than the death of my father) I have never played the game.  Not quite thirty-two years removed from that summer I cannot envision the circumstances under which I shall ever play again.  

While I do not play it and rarely watch it, I spent a significant portion of my Sunday evening sitting in my den with Margaret's dad Joe and her Uncle Mike watching the conclusion of this year's Masters Tournament from Augusta National Golf Club.  As someone who knows so little about the game that if you had asked me at 3:00 pm on Sunday afternoon the first name of either Adam Scott or Angel Cabrera, I would have answered "Mister" and been done with it, I quite enjoyed watching the end of the tournament in the company of two old golf junkies.  I learned quite a bit about both of the players who battled it out for the title just from listening to Joe and Unc talk about them and from watching them in action.  It was quite compelling stuff. 

Scott played the final round on Sunday in the group ahead of Cabrera, which meant that when Scott drained a long birdie putt on the 18th hole to take a one-shot lead over him, Cabrera had a depressingly great view of what had just transpired from his vantage point in the fairway.  Scott celebrated.  His caddie celebrated.  What appeared to be several thousand people gathered around the 18th green celebrated too.  And in the midst of this maelstrom all Cabrera did was stick his second shot to within three feet of the hole, setting up a short birdie putt to tie the match and force a sudden death playoff.  

After having victory snatched out of his hands by Cabrera's heroics on the final hole of regulation, Scott won the tournament on the second hole of the playoff.  One of the great cliches in sports applied with full force and effect on Sunday evening at Augusta:  Adam Scott won the Masters.  Angel Cabrera did not lose it.   Mere moments before Scott drained a fairly sizable putt for a birdie and the win, Cabrera had come within an eyelash of holing a chip shot from off the edge of the green for a birdie.  Had he made it, Scott would have putted seeking to tie the score and to force a third extra hole.  

Often in sports as the pressure mounts and the hour grows late the best athlete quivers ever so slightly.   In a "do or die" setting the victor may not be the one who performed the best but - rather - the one who performed less poorly than his or her competition.  That was most assuredly not the case on Sunday night.  As the pressure mounted both Scott and Cabrera raised their games.  Great stuff.  Simply great. 

As was the performance all weekend by the fourteen-year-old Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang.  The youngster was penalized a stroke on Friday for playing too slowly.  If you opt to scour YouTube looking for the video of his tantrum in response to that penalty, then you shall be searching in vain.  He never complained.  He never whined.  And he never flinched.  He did not win but he accomplished what he came to Augusta to do, which was compete in all four rounds of the Masters.   And why was I not surprised at all -when he was interviewed Sunday night in the company of Scott and last year's winner Bubba Watson and he spoke English as if he had been born and raised in the United States.  Better actually.  

Watching him talk about his weekend in Georgia and the experience of playing the Masters, I flashed back to when I was his age.  At fourteen, my signature achievement was that as an eighth grader I played the role of Oliver Twist in the school production of "Oliver!"   A performance so well-received by the way that in the thirty-two years since no one has ever requested that I, again, sing in public....

....consider yourselves fortunate.  Damn fortunate in fact.

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