Under Par: Nearly Famous

Under Par: Nearly Famous

Phil CallawayBy Phil Callaway8 Minutes

Book Excerpt from Under Par: Celebrating Life’s Great Moments On and Off the Golf Course by Phil Callaway

Chapter 18

“Nearly Famous”

“I miss. I miss. I miss. I make.”
—Seve Ballesteros, when asked to describe his four-putt at Augusta’s Number 16 in 1990

There are few things more entertaining than sports interviews. Because we’ve all talked before thinking. And sometimes overconfidence and unpreparedness are beautiful things to witness, proof that some drink from the fountain of knowledge; others just gargle.

Golfer Greg Norman once said, “I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father.” Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees said, “Therapy can be a good thing. It can be therapeutic.” Charles Shackleford was famous as an NBA star, but also for saying, “I can go right, I can go left, I’m amphibious.” After a pitcher hit baseball player Tito Fuentes, Tito said, “They shouldn’t throw at me. I’m the father of five or six kids.” I understand. We had three kids in three years. Things were a little fuzzy at times.

Speaking of kids, NBA coach Jason Kidd once said, “We’re going to turn this team around 360 degrees.” Thankfully, Jason was never a pilot. Perhaps my favorite sports quote of them all came from NFL superstar Joe Theismann: “Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.” Perhaps Norman was Albert’s little brother.

My dream as a 14-year-old was to see my name in lights on the PGA tour. What I lacked in talent I would make up for in other areas. When microphones were thrust at me before that final round, I imagined myself saying, “You know, my back is against the wall, it’s crunch time, it’s do or die, there’s no tomorrow.

“I’m gonna bring my A game, stick to the game plan, take it to the next level, take it one shot at a time, keep my head in the game, peak at the right time, stay within myself, make something happen, read those greens, and roll in those clutch putts.

“Nobody expected me to be here; nobody gave me half a chance. I have nothing to lose. Sure, the leaderboard is crowded. The field is good. But they put their pants on one leg at a time too.

“I feed on pressure. I stay hungry. It’s anybody’s match. ‘Never up, never in,’ I always say. I’ll dig deep, focus, gel, click, execute, fire on all cylinders, never give up the hole.

“It’ll go down to the wire. A real nail-biter. A real barn burner. I’ll give 110 percent. I’ll show some poise. ‘Keep it long and straight,’ I always say. ‘Drive for show, putt for dough.’ And when I win, I will have left nothing on the course, because, let me tell you, there is no glory in defeat, there is no quit in me, my sights are on the prize, ’cause if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”

And later that day, when the match was over and the clubhouse lights had dimmed, the media would see me sitting there, alone, head down. And I would say, “Someone had to lose today. Give him credit. He scratched and clawed, got the breaks, wanted it more than I did.” Then I would break down in tears and say, “I’m here to announce my retirement.”

The media would gasp. “But you’re only 14. You can’t retire.” And I would say, “Why, yes, I can. It was never about the money. I can’t wait to spend more time with my family. I want to thank my parents. Especially my father and mother.”

More Than You Can Handle

Clichés. You gotta love ’em.

But sometimes Christians like me are guilty of using them when we shouldn’t. I say we put them to bed, lay them to rest, put them out of our misery.

Cliché 1: “Bless your heart.” What we really mean is, “I have to love that guy because God told me to, but he drives me crazy.”

Cliché 2: “I’ll pray for you.” Say this only when you mean it. If someone asks you to pray, do it. Right then. Or write their name on your hand and pray when you see it. I’ve begun doing this lately, and it benefits both the writer and the writee.

Cliché 3: “God will never give you more than you can handle.” People rarely say this when they get their tongue caught in a revolving door. It looks good on a bumper sticker, but it’s not in the Bible. First Corinthians 10:13 promises that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we’re able to bear, but, trust me, when you lose five immediate family members in one year as my wife did, life hands you more than you can handle alone. It forces you to turn to the only One big enough to help you carry it.

Cliché 4: “God is good all the time.” It’s true, of course. His goodness never ends or changes. But avoid saying it to someone facing hardship. An ear that listens, a heart that hurts, a mouth that is shut, and a shoulder that is soft are never cliché. They’re priceless.

Most clichés include an element of truth. But mostly let’s stop using them. Take it from a retired golf star. I may be no Norman Einstein, but I do know that clichés are a dead end. Avoid them like the plague.

The first step to wisdom is silence; the second is listening.

Tip of the Day: When you putt, take one or two practice strokes to judge the distance. Then keep your head perfectly still and imitate that stroke. Inside six feet, keep your eyes on the ground where the ball was sitting even after stroking it. You may want to listen for the ball to hit the cup. If someone yells, “Fore!” temporarily disregard this advice.