What we learned from the Masters

We can learn a lot from the Masters. But in this case I’m not referring to the Old Masters of painting like Delacroix and Rembrandt and Vermeer, but rather to the Masters of golfing fame.

The Masters is a tournament I watch with wondrous rapture every year, and this past weekend was no different. Except it actually was different this time.

What I saw on play out television reaffirmed my sometimes fickle belief that curses can be lifted, that struggles can be transformed into success, and that “losers” can become winners. I’m not about to get all Tony-Robbins, in-your-face-motivational on you, because that’s not what I learned at the Masters this past weekend.

What I learned goes deeper than that. I learned that a golfer who had spent 18 years trying to win his first major tournament, an athlete who had knocked on the door of greatness dozens of times over the course of his career without getting an answer, had finally knocked the door down and stepped into its rarefied chambers.

His name is Sergio Garcia, he is from Spain, he has won over 30 professional tournaments over the years but he had never won one of the big 4—a “major”—until now. Sergio wears his heart on his sleeve, which is something most pro golfers—at least the top ones—never do. That’s what makes him so endearing to both casual and diehard golf fans alike. And it’s likely what caused him to suffer so brutally on golf’s grandest stages—the 4 majors of the golfing year.

The business parallels to Garcia’s plight are many. Colonel Sanders was 65 years old before he found success because his famous chicken recipe was rejected over a 1,000 times before a restaurant accepted it. Richard Branson may be famously successful now but he launched companies like Virgin Brides and Virgin Cola “that fell flat on their face.” Walt Disney was fired by an editor because “he lacked imagination and had no original ideas,” And his first animation company went bankrupt.

Even Donald Trump failed spectacularly during his business career and yet he always jumped back up into the fray and eventually succeeded when many people would have given up. Am I a Donald Trump supporter? Not at all. But I recognize chutzpah when I see it, as I do with Henry Ford and Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison, all of whom failed miserably before succeeding. They never gave up. And in doing so they cough up extraordinarily inspirational tales of risk-taking and failure that, combined with a never-say-die attitude, ultimately helped fuel their remarkable personal Renaissances.

Sergio, in his post-victory interview in the famed Butler Cabin, said he had finally come to terms with what Augusta (the golf course on which the Masters is played) gives and takes. That is maturity. I think we can all learn from those words and apply them to our own lives in unique ways, don’t you think?

But another equally compelling storyline played out on the weekend. A 26-year-old amateur named Stewart Hagestad finished as low amateur ahead of such notables as Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson and Ernie Els. When he was interviewed after the tournament ended he was asked if he intended to turn pro after his success here. He surprised me, and maybe many others, by saying no, not going to happen.

Not going to happen?

He explained why in a most interesting way. After four rounds of playing with the best in the world, he realized he was not in their league. “Everything went perfectly for me this week, he said,” but I wasn’t close to winning the tournament and I’m realistic enough to know that.”

“I’m not as good as they are,” he said of recent Masters winner Jordan Spieth and All-Amercian Justin Thomas. His plan? To go back to his financial analyst job in New York City.
Wow. Now that is perspective. If it had been me I would have said, why not? Let’s give pro golf a shot and if it doesn’t work out after a couple of years, go back to your day job. But that’s why I’m not Hagestad and he is.

All in all, the 2017 Masters was a wonderful tournament with many good lessons for so many good reasons.

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