Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A really good attitude

This past Sunday, a journeyman golf pro came to the 72nd hole of a PGA Tour event with a three-shot lead.  He had never won much of anything in his career, and certainly not on the Tour, which can itself be a life-changing event for a golfer. But this golfer, Robert Garrigus, made a 3-over par 7 on the last hole, falling into a tie for first, and he promptly lost in a playoff.

Most people would fall apart after such a collapse.  Not Garrigus.  Listen to this (fairly long) description, from a very well-written piece by Geoff Calkins in the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
How do you handle failure? How do you react when you have a bad day? Do you snap at your spouse? Are you short with your children?  If so, you could take a lesson in grace from Robert Garrigus. He had a bad day Sunday. Or, a very good day that suddenly turned out bad.
The man led the St. Jude Classic after 71 holes. He fought off the heat, Westwood and a bad case of food poisoning to give himself a three-shot lead with one hole to play. Not bad for the 377th-ranked player in the world, eh? "I was playing great," he said. And then, well, you know that goalie who let in the soft goal for England? He probably feels sorry for Garrigus today.
"I didn't know how to handle it at 18," he said. "I couldn't calm myself down."  Worse, he didn't know the score at the time. Garrigus didn't realize Westwood had bogeyed 17, so he didn't know he was up by three shots. He wouldn't have tried to bend his second shot at 18 around a tree if he had.  "I would have taken a wedge and hit it out onto the fairway," he said. "It was just stupidity."
In the playoff, Garrigus blasted his tee shot on 18 to a spot -- arrrrrgghhh! -- right behind a tree. His head slumped when he saw where the ball had landed.  "I'm going to come back tonight and blow this hole up with dynamite," Garrigus said.  His ensuing par putt to keep him alive in the playoff lipped out. The crowd applauded in quiet sympathy.
That is when a remarkable thing happened. No, Garrigus didn't throw his clubs. He didn't snap a volunteer in half. He was utterly gracious. He thanked fans for coming out on such a hot day. He signed autographs. He gave at least five different interviews.
"I've seen a lot worse than this," he said, and maybe this is the moment to explain what that means.  Eight years ago, Garrigus sat in a motel room, watching television, when a commercial for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center came on.  "I knew I had to go," he said. "I was too good a golfer to be throwing it all away. Garrigus was smoking marijuana as much as 10 times a day back then. He figures he spent at least $70,000 on drugs. His mother was an alcoholic. He was headed down that path.  After 45 days of rehab, he got his mother and checked her into the same place.
Now, Garrigus is sober, married and expecting his first child in September.  "I like my life," he said. "I like it a lot better than it was before."  So, no, Garrigus wasn't happy that he botched a golf tournament. But act like a jerk? What exactly would be the point of that?
Garrigus explained to everyone who asked how he blew it on 18. Then he signed every autograph for every fan. When officials finally drove him to the clubhouse, one of the fans yelled out, "Be strong, Robert!"  "I play golf for a living," Garrigus said. "I'll be OK."
Not a bad role model, I'd say.

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