I hate golf! Okay, to be more honest, golf hates me. That is, I just don’t have an affinity for the game, even though I did try on numerous occasions, with lessons and everything. I even lived for a long time in “golf heaven”, that is, the Carmel – Pebble Beach – Monterey area of California (with more top class golf courses per square mile than anywhere else on earth).
But I do enjoy watching the game, especially when it is played by the pros and of course this past week was the US Open at the Merion Golf Club, Pennsylvania. And of course every time I watch golf, I can’t help thinking about perhaps the greatest golfer of all time, Ben Hogan.
But this post isn’t about golf, it’s about “grit“, courage and determination. Here’s a quick definition of the personality trait I call “grit”: the drive and determination to tirelessly work through challenges, failures, and adversity to achieve set goals.
Early one foggy Texas morning in 1949 Ben and his wife, Valerie, were driving across a bridge when a Greyhound bus pulled out to pass a slow car and crashed head-on into the Hogan’s car. Ben, who was driving, threw himself in front of his wife in an effort to shield her, an act which saved his life since the steel steering column was driven inward and passed straight through the driver’s seat. Hogan sustained multiple injuries (double-fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collarbone, fractured left ankle, chipped ribs and near fatal blood clots) and doctors pronounced that he would never walk again, let alone play golf.
But they didn’t know about “grit” and they definitely misdiagnosed the determination and perseverance that makes an ordinary person into a champion. Ben slowly recovered, left the hospital 59 days later, and began his comeback. After all, the US Open was only a few months away and he had to play.
With ace bandages around both legs and his ribs, Hogan was just behind the leaders going into the 14th hole, but the pain and exhaustion was beginning to take its toll. On the long walk between the 13th and 14th hole, Hogan had a moment of doubt. He said dejectedly to his caddy, “You go on to the clubhouse, I will meet you there and pay you for the day.”
Hogan went on to tie the leaders that day, forcing a playoff, which he won in dramatic fashion. Many of those who religiously follow golf call it the greatest comeback every in the sport of golf. Ben Hogan was elected into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 and died in 1997 at the age of 84.
Grit makes champions. Grit makes people come back from “impossible” odds and extreme adversity to reach their goals and dreams. Win, tie or lose, grit is what it takes to be where you want to be. Grit trumps talent every time.
Note: I wrote this post especially for my daughter, Stephanie, who is determinedly making a comeback after a wrist injury has forced her to miss several recent violin competitions.
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress