It’s often said that golf is merely a good walk spoiled yet there are so many life-lessons to be taken or just observed from the game of golf.
The Masters golf tournament recently finished after four days of intense focus by lovers of the game who appear to value all the aspects of golf which are entwined in the game of life as well.
That is – a skill set of determination, nerve, success, failure , respect, ability - not to mention all of the participants playing strictly by the rules.
Golf is a sport where success is applauded even by the opposing side or player.
This particular tournament - held in the former confederate state of Georgia - seems to contradict all the norms of current life whether here in NZ or in the USA. Individual effort is now seen by so many as worthy of distain in favour of the collective. Where discipline, character, and determination are increasingly seen as characteristics of grasping selfish individuals. Consider then, why the colour of one’s skin is ignored in the sporting arena in favour of the content of one’s character - to borrow a phrase from Martin Luther King.
Not so long ago a young man took the golfing world by storm as he out- drove, chipped, and putted his way to glory. Did anybody in those huge, mainly white crowds watching the dramas unfold, even notice that Tiger Woods was a man of colour as they roared approval of yet another victory going the way of possibly the greatest natural talent this sport has ever seen. He (Woods) has met with the twin imposters - triumph and disaster (Kipling) and will no doubt once again emerge the stronger for it.
Here in NZ, we stood and applauded the success of our own Michael Campbell (US Open and World Match play winner) because on a few fine days in America, he beat the world’s best. Was it the content of his character and ability which shone through for him to win or was it his ethnicity?
At Augusta, a young Japanese man played his way into the annals of golf history. His ethnicity was ignored, as was history.
Pearl Harbour will never be forgotten in the US but to cling to past events however tragic offers little hope for the future. It must have been more than a tad galling for the people who promote victim hood as a virtue, to see this year’s winner at Augusta – Hideki Matsuyama’s display of personal will to hold on and win against fast finishing USA golfers. Those fortunate enough to be in the gallery to see for themselves, this “foreigner” win golf’s most prestigious title, showed huge respect with continuous applause in recognition of his ability and personal character. It may be however that the respect showed by Matsuyama’s caddie - Shota Hayafugi, who, after the win - removed his cap and bowed to the course and therefore the game, the competitors, and the spectators.
There are many lessons sport and especially golf can teach. Perhaps it should be a compulsory subject in our schools and in our Parliament. It is entirely regrettable that today we have so called political leaders who actively promote division in our society for a political advantage. People who believe victimhood is a way of life and cannot or should not be cast aside. Nor would they have ever played golf.
Gerry Eckhoff is a former councillor on the Otago Regional Council and MP.