Legacy

It’s Friday and I’m at home. Back early from work to pack for a weekend away with the family. The Open at St Andrew’s is on television. Tiger’s coming down the last.

I’m on the floor in front of the television with my daughter, helping her pack away her toys. 

Tiger makes his way across the bridge and heads towards his ball. In unison, those in the grandstands on 1 and 18 rise. They applaud him. So do the spectators lined all along the fairway and green. The commentators remain in silence. 

I freeze.

I felt it coming.

“What’s that Dad?” Pointing to a solitary tear trickling down my right cheek.

“Daddy’s sad, my love”.

Pause.

“Why are you sad Daddy?”

“Because Daddy likes this man”.

But it wasn’t true. Daddy didn’t like this man. Daddy loved this man.

Needless to say the weekend away got off to a slightly melancholy start.

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For a while after I tried to figure out why I got so upset with the images of Tiger heading down 18. Emotional scenes, yes. But enough for a grown man to start crying?

My initial justification was that Tiger reminded me of my youth and the oh so sweet memories of playing golf with my friends within it. For those of us of a certain age, our love affair with golf started during or directly because of the Tiger era. The large majority of us played because of him. His walk down 18 for us was symbolic and allowed us the chance to reminisce about those cherished times.

But, it wasn’t quite it.

With time I realised that it came down to two main things.

Firstly, one of my overriding feelings was that this was a man just doing his job. This was a man who had given up his entire life to his sport. His art. A man who at 46 was still giving himself over to this game. And this game always wins.

The previous day, the commentators remarked,

“This is hard to watch” after a duffed pitch and “It’s tough to see the great man like this” with every passing bogey.

But it wasn’t.

And I hated them talking about him like that.

It wasn’t tough to see. It touched me. A man so riddled with injuries that he could barely walk. And in spite of this, this was a man doing his job and trying his best. Trying his best. The words still affect me. He was trying his best. And we were proud of him.

But more than anything what made me sad that day was that I put myself in his shoes. I imagined what he felt like when he received that reception. What was going through his head? What did he experience when all those people rose and thanked him for all the memories and their own connection with golf?

It all got me thinking about my own coaching. About how people will talk about me when I’m done.

Look, coaching is fundamentally about THEM not US. We are there for the players and the truest form of coaching predicates that we put them first in helping them get them from where they are to where they want to be.

But within this paradigm we are also wilfully aware that what WE do DOES have an effect on them. That our involvement in their lives incites a reaction of how they feel about us. This is inevitable.

And even though we obviously put them first, it would be nice to know that we have left their games, and the game of golf in general, better than when we came. That we have left a mark. And that if they wanted to think well of us for this, well, then that would be fine with us. It might even make us shed a tear.

In this way, even though we may never know what it feels like to hit it as far as him or what was going through his head in the heat of battle; but if we can get up every day and give ourselves over to this profession, leaving our own unique legacy on this game and those who we come into contact with in the process, then we can once again look up and repeat…

“I am Tiger Woods”.

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