If the title of this post confuses you, hopefully it will make sense when you finish reading this.
Sometimes in life, you don’t have to win to be victorious. A win is a wonderful thing, especially when talking about sporting events. Still, sometimes just battling to the end makes one a winner.
Especially when he’s overcome many adversities.
This past weekend was our county amateur golf tournament. It’s a wonderful tournament with upward of 150 golfers each year. Winning the championship on this course is quite the accomplishment. Especially if it’s somebody other than the person who has pretty much dominated this tournament for more than a decade.
Neil is a long-time friend of mine. Years ago we used to sit around on Sundays during the winter and watch the Colts (my favorite team) and the Saints (his favorite team). Those days were filled with pizza, breadsticks (from Pizza Hut) and conversations about many things.
Golf was often the topic.
A passionate golfer, Neil once promised me if he ever made it on tour and reached the Masters, I’d get to be his caddy during the Par-3 tournament during the week leading into the Masters, which I always assumed would guarantee me being there to watch the actual tournament, too.
Though he didn’t make the tour, Neil’s always been one hell of a golfer. He hits the ball a country mile, has some of the best putting I’ve ever seen and usually stays calm when pressure hits. And he’s one of those guys who plays with focused abandonment — in other words, he’s not afraid to take a massive chance.
Alas, all the talent in the world usually isn’t an even battle when life intervenes.
Neil will be the first to tell you he’s battled some demons. He’s had many adversities in life that he’s had to overcome. These adversities aren’t little petty things. He’s had to battle some serious stuff.
Many of us always wondered when these adversities would win — or if they would?
I always tried to bet on Neil. I never was willing to give up on him. I’ve had long talks with him and have tried to give input where I could. But he’s made his mistakes. And he admits it. He knows it.
He kept battling.
Many of us cheered for him. We hoped. We hoped some more. In some cases, people really put themselves out for Neil.
A few years ago, things seemed to be coming together. He held the lead at the County Am. Could this be the tournament that helps him straighten life? Many people would look at this tournament and wonder why it would mean so much to somebody. After all, it’s just a County tournament.
It’s much bigger than that. For golfers in our area, it is the Masters. It’s the U.S. Open. It’s our “major.” And Neil was leading it and looking good in the process.
He missed his tee time the next morning.
When it happened, people said “That’s Neil.”
Despite regretting how things went down, I remember talking to him that weekend. You could see disappointment in his eyes in missing that tee time. Almost like it was major missed opportunity. That might have been something where some people might have thrown in the towel.
Neil kept pushing forward and has since turned a new leaf.
This year, the tournament came around and he was in it. Boy was he in it. In fact, he held a 1-stroke lead with five holes to play.
And focus? Wow was there focus.
After falling into a tie at the top, he drained a twisty 20-plus foot putt on Hole No. 16 to keep things tied.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
He got a bogey on 17 and 18 to eventually lose by two strokes. His tee shot on 18 went out of bounds and you could almost hear a collective sigh of the crowd following.
It wasn’t that people were cheering against somebody else — it’s that they were cheering for Neil. Many local people know his story and have pulled for him.
When he finished 18, he smiled. I think he knows his time is coming and his name, one day, will be on that trophy.
He didn’t win the tournament but Neil won in many more ways. Many, many more ways.
The word “proud” was used many times after that tournament ended when people spoke about Neil. I’m sure many people shared my thoughts of being proud of how he battled and competed — both in the tournament and everything he’s overcome in life.
Here’s to it continuing.
And if it does, all the golf tournament victories in the world won’t add up to the biggest win of all — life.
Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!
This post is also being submitted to Dude Write, a weekly place where dudes show off their blog writing.