A couple weeks back, I posted a blog under the heading 5 Lessons Event Planners Can Learn from The Masters Golf Tournament. The primary takeaway was “The Masters Golf Tournament is a shining example of fastidious attention to detail and passionate desire to deliver a world-class experience for its Patrons.”
Apparently, there’s great interest in the high-profile tournament, and in tips and insights we can glean from how it is planned and carried out, since we had extraordinarily high traction among our blog audience. Well, I’d like to add a post-script to that blog (play one more hole, so to speak).
I’d hosted several guests as well as my 8-year-old Aidan on Wednesday of Masters Week which was forecast to be cloudy with off-and-on, all-day rain. Weather types were half-right as there were plenty of clouds but, blessedly, no rain, which was a relief since my brother Dermy had journeyed all the way from Cork, Ireland to attend his first Masters.
We’d made our way down to the storied depths of the course known as Amen Corner, met up with some friends, took the obligatory pictures, and watched a number of players putting finishing touches on their games in preparation for the competition which would begin the following day.
Each Wednesday of tournament week at Augusta, there’s a Par-3 Tournament that takes place on The National’s, well, Par-3 course which sits adjacent to the magnificent clubhouse that has stood since before The Civil War. The par-3 contest, which tees off at noon, is meant to take the edge off tensing competitors. Players often have their wives or children serve as caddies, and there’s a higher probability of witnessing a hole-in-one than usual since the holes are so short and the players so skilled.
Because there’s no pressure to win (actually, winning the Par-3 tourney is seen as bad luck since no par-3 winner has ever gone on to win The Masters). Players yuck it up, stop to sign autographs, shake a fan’s hand or deliver a fist bump, and a good time is had by all for several hours. It’s a rare chance for Masters Patrons to get “up close and personal” with their favorite players, and given the fact the smallish, 9-hole course’s acreage is quite limited, it tends to be very crowded.
MY SON WAS THE REAL WINNER IN THE PAR-3 TOURNAMENT
I’d noticed a less-crowded area at the top of a hill where players made their way toward the clubhouse after completing their rounds and positioned Aidan where I thought he had the greatest chance to snag an autograph. Rickie Fowler is a rock star to young kids, especially boys, because they’re drawn to his oversized, tucked-low golf cap, once-shaggy locks, and the bright orange attire he sports every Sunday in deference to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University.
“Rickie”, as most refer to him, trudged up the hill toward the clubhouse. As he got closer, he looked up and saw Aidan in his kid-sized golf shoes, blue golf shorts, and Masters-green golf shirt. He immediately tossed him his golf glove.
Aidan was floored!
He jumped for joy, smiled from ear-to-ear, and looked at me with an astonished Look, Dad! Look what I got! expression his face. Fowler hadn’t stopped to chat or ink an autograph, he just kept walking afterward but he’d made a huge impact on a kid who worships heroes like every other young lad.
“YOU ‘DA MAN!”
Prior to this momentous occasion, Aidan had actually been a huge fan of Jordan Spieth, another 20-something superstar in the sport. He even wore a Hurley golf cap, like Jordan does each week on the PGA TOUR. But Jordan hadn’t stopped on his way to the clubhouse. (Reality is, if every player granted every autograph request, they’d never have time for golf!) Thus, “Rickie” was now “The Man” in my son’s mind.
When we got home that evening, Aidan went immediately to Rickie’s website, signed up for notifications, and emailed him a thank you message. “You made my year!”, he wrote. He also had me sign him up for the 2019 Drive, Chip & Putt youth competition connected to The Masters, and has wanted to go to the golf course every day since we got back from The Masters.
My point in sharing this experience, which I assure you warmed the heart of this Dad, is that the little things in life are what truly matter most. Sure, Rickie does the same thing after virtually every round in every tournament in every city – a glove here, a golf ball there, a quick chat, a photo with a fan. He’s one of the more accommodating players on TOUR. (The savvy ones know how to work the crowd and earn hero status.)
But he didn’t have to do it. Yet, he did, and look at the huge impact it had on one little guy.
To make the experience even richer, Rickie finished as runner-up four days later, 1 stroke behind newly crowned Masters Champion Patrick Reed. Had he edged Reed on Sunday and earned his first Green Jacket, I’d like to believe Rickie would’ve dedicated the victory to Aidan.
Hey, even big kids can dream, too!
Kind gestures don’t have to be big, grandiose or expensive, they simply need to be personal and meaningful. We can all seek ways to add the small touches that make any occasion memorable and heroic.
P.S. – Another note: Despite coming soooooo close to winning The Masters, Rickie made a point to wait around after he’d completed final-round play to personally congratulate Reed, who has a bit of a troubled past and isn’t the most popular player among fans and fellow competitors. He shook Reed’s hand, hugged him, and told him, “Congratulations. Well-played.” He was the only other player in the area to do so. Again, it’s the little things that mean the most …