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Ken Borland

Learning life lessons from golf

Posted on July 04, 2022 by Ken

One can learn so many life lessons from sport and I am convinced that more can be learned from golf than most other codes. My own golf is certainly a lesson in dealing with frustration and how to extricate oneself from seemingly unreachable positions.

But professional golf, especially the Majors, provides such human drama and, as in life, disaster or glorious success seem just as likely to occur on the next hole.

Last weekend in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, Mito Pereira was one hole away from one of the most astounding Major triumphs. He had seemingly beaten off numerous, way more experienced and storied challengers, on a chaotic final day to stand on the 18th tee clinging to a one-stroke lead. All he needed was a par to become one of the rare rookies, playing just his second Major championship, to win on one of golf’s grandest stages.

The 27-year-old from Santiago, Chile, decided to go the aggressive route, and hit Driver. Except he made an awful swing and deposited his ball in the creek down the right, leading to a double-bogey. Not only was Pereira no longer at the top of the leaderboard, he wasn’t even in the playoff that would decide the fate of the Wanamaker Trophy, Justin Thomas eventually emerging as the champion.

When Pereira decided to take the risky route on the last, you could almost hear Sir Nick Faldo tearing his hair out in the commentary box. The man who famously made 18 pars to win the first of his six Major championships in the 1987 Open at Muirfield, could not fathom why the leader had not just played it safe.

It was a most frustrating end to what would have been a fairytale win. I have no doubt Pereira just went with Driver because it had worked before.

While sympathy for his cruel fate was the over-riding emotion, it does anger me when highly-talented sportspeople justify poor decision-making by saying things like “that’s just the way I play, that’s my game.”

Just as the rest of us have to adapt to the various challenges and frustrations of life, so sports stars have to adapt to their circumstances. Play the situation!

If you’re roaring to victory by four shots, or your team is 370/3 or 30-7 up, by all means be aggressive. But the truly great sports heroes are able to tailor their game to whatever the situation, or their team, requires in order to win.

For now, Pereira will be walking the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, but he certainly showed he has game and I will be surprised if he does not win on the PGA Tour, once he gets over this heartbreak. Most importantly, how he handled the devastating blow has been widely acclaimed and he fronted up to the media after his round when all he would have wanted was to go and hide away somewhere. Dealing with failure is another life lesson, of course.

Long-form sports, where the tension is gradually ramped up before it reaches a tremendous crescendo on the final day, are right up my street. Golf’s Majors, and especially the Ryder Cup, are still such compelling viewing even in an age where the cancer of instant gratification seems to reign supreme.

Golf can be just as slow as Test cricket, but the feeling of that tension building as you reach the final round is a bit like a Hitchcock horror movie – a masterful building of suspense.

Sport needs to have good stories, as well as the best players in the world in the limelight. How good was it to have an unknown like Pereira challenging for what would have been an incredible win in the PGA Championship?

Even though he was pipped in the end by one of the world’s best in Thomas, it was still wonderfully dramatic.

Test cricket can perhaps learn its own life lessons from golf. It can provide just as much drama, but it needs to be properly packaged, marketed and looked after by the ICC.

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    Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

    Our foundation must be absolute surrender, devotion and obedience to God, rising from pure love for him. Jesus Christ must be central in all things and his will must take precedence over the will of people, regardless of how well-meaning they may be.

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