I never thought I would tear up watching a golf tournament on TV. But I did.
I’m not a golfer, but I AM a sports fan. I was drawn to the possibility that a major golf tournament was about to be won by an almost 51-year-old Phil Mickelson. Such a feat would make him the oldest player ever to win one of the “Majors.” To put this in perspective, the ages of the last four winners of this event were 23, 29, 28, and 24.
So, I turned on the PGA Championship being played on The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, SC. He was doing it.
Sensing something historic was about to happen, the gallery was getting raucous. As Mickelson walked up the 18th fairway, his brother as his caddy with him, victory now seemed likely. Yes, he still could have blown it. But he didn’t. His second shot, from just off the fairway, made it to the green.
The crowd could be held back no more. The huge throng pressed around him, covered the fairway and threatened to engulf the players and caddies. Security personnel barely regained control.
Seeing that press of humanity brought tears to my eyes.
But golf is so trivial
A golf tournament is so trivial in the grand scheme of things — even one of historical significance.
The days following the PGA Championship marked the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death and the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, where hundreds of Black folks were killed by White mobs. These are tragedies that should bring tears to all our eyes.
Yet, sports provide a welcome distraction from the harsher aspects of life, such as what are (hopefully) the last days of this pandemic. For some, it is hockey playoffs or the NBA playoffs, both currently on TV. For me, those last few holes of golf provided some introspection as I thought about where my tears were coming from.
Was it grief?
Grief has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. My thoughts did go to my wife’s mother, Sue, who died last year. She loved, loved, loved watching golf on TV. If we called while a tournament was on, she would pick up the phone and say, “I’m watching golf. Call me back later.” *Click*
She would have been glued to the TV watching Mickelson’s unbelievable win. But it was not primarily thoughts of Sue that brought a tear to my eye.
Look at the joy
My tears were also not so much about an older guy becoming an unlikely winner. It was the crowd. “Look at the joy,” I thought.
We have spent more than a year watching sporting events, concerts, church services, holiday events, and other celebrations with no crowds. Kiawah Island was the ideal venue for such a large gathering at the tail end of the pandemic — outdoors with 22-mile-an-hour winds. Widely available vaccinations couldn’t hurt, either.
If you asked those closing in on Mickelson on that 18th fairway why they broke the lines, they might say they wanted to be a part of golf history. But I think after a year of being held back from experiencing the pure joy of such events they just couldn’t hold back any longer.
The joy. That is what my tears were about.