I remember vividly walking aimlessly among the trees looking for my ball. I had finally got myself in contention to win my first professional golf tournament, it was a 3 year journey that I had hoped would come to an end that day. However, on the very last hole I hit the worst shot of the week slicing my drive deep into the woods. My playing competitor who was only 2 shots back must have been pleased as he would now have a chance.
I had an even bigger problem in that I didn’t actually see the flight of my ball and had no idea where to look. Under the rules of golf, players have 5 minutes to find their ball before its deemed lost, losing my ball would surely mean losing the tournament.
My competitor then realized my situation and did something unheard of in any other sport. He took authority over the situation and quickly steered me in the right direction, he gave me confidence that we could find my ball and was able to get the entire gallery looking frantically. With only 30 seconds to spare, the ball was found under a leaf.
In many ways, life is competitive and if you believe everything you hear, it would be easy to subscribe to the belief that winning is everything. Winning is undeniably better than losing but how do we define it? Although I went on to feel the satisfaction of winning my first pro tournament that day, I realized that it was because my playing competitor defined winning a different way.
Winning doesn’t mean you are the best anymore than being the best means you will win. There are countless accounts of dishonest, selfish, and mean spirited people achieving great things, but are they winners?
Most wins come at some cost, sacrifices of some kind but if you must sacrifice your character to reach your goal, the price becomes very high. You alone choose the spirit in which you play the game.
In life, as in golf, you’re essentially playing against yourself, testing your ability to deal with various conditions and situations. If you deal with these in the right spirit, you may not always win but you can always be a winner.
During the awards presentation that evening, I thanked my apponent for his help on hole 18 and wondered who felt the most satisfaction. To assist a mate in helping him win his first event was how he defined winning.
The desire for the big win often becomes a test, we can play The game, or we can play a game. Bobby Jones life accomplishment were many. However, its this story about his personal integrity which he is the most famous.
It was the 1925 US Open and unbeknownst to anyone but himself his ball moved ever so slightly as he took his stance. There were no referees to call a penalty, no whistle to call a foul, his playing companions didn’t even see the infraction, nor did his caddie or any spectators. The tournament title hung in the balance, it soon became known that Jones had assessed himself a 1-stroke penalty.
The ball moving did not help him any, nor was it any great violation. But it happened, and those are the rules. The stroke cost him the outright win and he went on to lose a 36-hole playoff to Willie Macfarlane.
When a sportswriter sought to applaud Jones for his sportsmanship, Jones implored him not to even write about the incident saying that it would be like congratulating him for not robbing a bank.