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Dealing With Disappointment

Monday, July 8, 2019

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“Almost.” – Tom Watson, American golfing great

According to Neil Oxman, who has caddied for Watson since 2003, Tom uttered this word absent-mindedly while they were at a tournament in Crater Lake, OR in 2009. To what was Watson referring?

The week before, Tom had been poised to win his sixth Open Championship at the ripe old age of 59. It would have been his 9th major win and his first in 26 years. Golf commentator and two-time U.S. Open Champion Curtis Strange, who was covering the tournament, said that a win by Watson would have been “the greatest sporting victory of all-time.”

I remember watching the Open live that year, rooting as hard as I could for Watson to pull off this remarkable achievement. As he stepped onto the 18th hole in the final round with his recently replaced left hip, all Tom needed was a par to be declared the “Champion Golfer of the Year.”

Watson striped his drive down the middle and stood just 189 yards from the hole. Torn between an 8-iron and a 9, Tom chose the longer club and hit it flush. Too flush, as it turned out. His ball landed on the front of the green, ran past the hole, and off the back. Needing to get up and down in two to win outright, Watson three-putted from just off the green and then lost a three-hole playoff to Stewart Cink.

Devastated, Watson looked Cink in the eyes, thrust out his hand, and offered him warm and heartfelt congratulations. And then, instead of retiring to the safety of the clubhouse to lick his wounds, Tom stood throughout the awards ceremony, his head held high with a sad but broad smile on his face. What a class act!

It is said that Watson learned this type of grace from Jack Nicklaus, who won a record 18 majors, but also finished runner-up 19 times. In fact, Tom had twice bested Jack in head-to-head competition at the Open Championship at Turnberry in 1977 and at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 1982. At Turnberry, Nicklaus said to Watson, “I gave you my best shot, but it wasn’t good enough” as the two men walked off the final green arm-in-arm. Similar words were exchanged at Pebble Beach five years later. True sportsmanship at its best!

My friend, how do you handle life’s disappointments? Do you whine and complain? Do you bitterly blame fate, someone else, or perhaps God Himself?

Why not follow the examples set by Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus? Instead of making excuses, they simply accepted the good with the bad…and tried even harder the next time.

“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” Job 2:10 (NKJV)

• Rev. Dale M. Glading, President

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