What happens when one of the greatest spring traditions in sports is confronted with a year like 2020?
With the COVID-19 pandemic creating health risks across the country and wrecking havoc with the schedules of all major sports, the PGA was forced to reschedule the Masters. Normally played in April, the Masters is the first of the four major golf tournaments and symbolically reminds viewers of the beauty of spring as they see images of the picturesque Augusta National Golf Course.
However, the 2020 version of the Masters was delayed seven months by the pandemic and served as the last of the four majors. With only a few people on the course other than the golfers and their caddies, there was a strange hush over the tournament that fans will not soon forget.
Fortunately, there were a few other amazing moments fans will remember for a long time because they exemplified the skill of the golfers and the excitement of the game.
Dustin Johnson, who entered the tournament ranked as the top golfer in the world, collected his first green jacket as he won the Masters by five strokes. Johnson set the 72-hole scoring record for the tournament with a total of 268, which translates fittingly to a 20-under-par performance in 2020.
Entering the tournament as the second ranked player in the world was Jon Rahm of Spain. Although Rahm faced some challenges during the tournament, he turned in one of the most amazing shots I have ever seen during a practice round played Nov. 10.
Playing the par-three 16th hole, Rahm skipped his golf ball across the water like a little kid skipping stones at his favorite fishing pond. The ball bounced onto the green and began to roll across the putting surface. The ball continued to roll and roll on a sharply curving path across the green before gently dropping into the cup for a hole-in-one. For good measure, the ace came on his birthday.
If you have not seen this shot, put down your paper and go do a quick computer search. I’ll wait.
Welcome back. What a great shot, right?
I’m sure there are some of you reading this staying, but you are talking about golf. Who watches golf? I know there are plenty of people who would rather change the channel, or if they are going to be subjected to golf, they would rather be on the links playing.
I completely understand, but I have been exposed to some great golf over the years. I learned the game of golf from my dad and his relatives and friends. Getting to go along to the course when he played was a big deal when I was young, and if I got to hit a shot or two it was even better.
My cousin worked at Lake Panorama National Resort after attending the University of Nebraska on a golf scholarship. When I was in junior high school and high school I was able to follow him as he competed in the Waterloo Open city golf tournament.
If you had ever seen one of my slices off the tee, you would know I was nowhere near as good my cousin, my dad, my many other relatives and family friends who played.
Still, I love the individual challenge of the game. Much like wrestling, golf is more of a challenge against yourself than against your opponent. Your success is based on your skill and determination.
In addition, golf is a test of your character. You are the primary official responsible for identifying a penalty during your round. C.S. Lewis once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”
Now, I have to admit I have rolled a golf ball over in the rough from time to time to get a better lie. But my appreciation of golf has taught me the importance of acting with integrity in my life.
No one is going to act perfectly at all times. We are human and we are going to make mistakes. The important thing is listening to that inner voice and realizing what you are about to do may not be best in the long run.
Sometimes it is better to take your medicine and get the ball back in the fairway rather than compounding your mistake with another bad shot.
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