Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Great Character

              For some of you this article may not be of particular interest. But before you check out and move to something else, hear me out.

I’m delving into sports, specifically: golf. Stay with me! I’ve made no bones about the fact that I love sports. Like many other guys growing up, I played all sorts of sports. As a healthy, red-blooded American boy I played baseball in Pee-Wee League and Little League before my family moved to Europe. Football was all backyard stuff until I played a year in high school and a year in college, plus a couple of years in the Marine Corps. Basketball was there too, but it was not my favorite, partly because I was much shorter than all the other guys growing up.

While in Europe I learned to play soccer in France and ice hockey in Norway along with speed skating and skiing. I’ve studied Martial Arts over the years and have generally enjoyed myself in whatever sport I was engaged in at the time.

But for a game that I can play throughout my lifetime and which presents new challenges every time I step up to the first tee, golf is the winner, hands down!

My step father took me out to play my first round when I was ten. Even though I had very little understanding of the game I was familiar with names like Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, and Tony Lema to name a few. I believe my step father liked Tony Lema mostly because Lema had served as a Marine in Korea, only a few years after his own service in World War Two.

Jack Nicklaus came on the scene in the early 60s and wowed fans for decades, establishing himself as arguably the best golfer ever. Tom Watson emerged in the early 80s and carried the mantle of greatness for a time. Then we saw Tiger Woods (born Eldrick Tont Woods) burst onto the golf scene and absolutely dominate the game like no one else ever had. Today, twenty years after Tiger captivated the world of golf, a young heir to the throne of golf stardom has made his mark in a most convincing manner.

Jordan Spieth is taking over the golf world with a workman-like approach to the game. He is not charismatic like Tiger, nor flamboyant like Tony, nor sagacious like Jack, nor folksy like Arnold, nor aloof like Ben. If anything, he might be more closely likened to Tom who captivated the hearts of golf fans around the globe with his freckle-faced, sandy-haired, awe shucks, boyish manner. But Jordan is more than that.

Jordan has a maturity about him that is both surprising for someone so young, and refreshing in a world of sports figures that believe they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. This young man plays with intensity and drive. But he is also the consummate gentleman, very much like the Southern Gentleman, Bobby Jones. Just prior to the Masters’ in April, Jordan was being interviewed by a sports reporter who commented on Jordan’s obvious humility which the golf world had been quick to notice. The reporter asked him to talk about this humility, to which Jordan said, “Me speaking about humility is very difficult because that wouldn’t be humility.” As one sports writer put it, “Jordan Spieth is the man I want my future son to be. Not only is he one of the greatest golfers on the PGA (Professional Golf Association) Tour right now at the age of 21, but he is also one of the greatest all-around guys you’ll ever meet” (taken from an article by Harrison Lee).

While a sophomore at Jesuit High School in Dallas on a work grant program, he was awarded the Joseph M. Murphy Memorial Scholarship that helped fund his tuition at the school. In his junior year he hand-wrote the following letter to the family that set it up, dated September 8, 2009. “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Murphy, My name is Jordan Spieth, and I am currently a junior at Jesuit. I appreciate all the help you have offered to Jesuit. Thank you for the Joseph M. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Fund. I have received this due to the work grant program, which allows us to work for our tuition here at Jesuit. I have made many new friends due to this program, and I feel it is a great way to help out my family. I play on the Jesuit golf team, and I am ranked the number 1 junior golfer in the country. My dream is to play professionally and win the Masters. Because of your scholarship fund, I am able to strengthen my academics as well as my golf game at Jesuit in order to get one step closer to achieving my goals. Thanks again for your kindness. Sincerely, Jordan Spieth.”

As I mentioned earlier, he is only 21 years old and has won three tournaments this season alone. Of those three wins, two of them are what are called Major Championships. In April he won the Masters in Augusta, Georgia. And today he topped the field of contenders by managing to win the U.S. Open in Chambers Bay, Washington.

Even after winning his second Major in a quest to win the Grand Slam of Golf (the British Open in July, and the PGA Championship in August), during his post win news conference, he spoke very little about himself, directing his remarks toward his fellow golfers and how well they all played.

He’s already establishing himself as a great golfer. But for me the thing that shines through in this young man is his great character.

Remember: Character matters!

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