One beauty of the game of golf is the possibility to play it right up until your death. Indeed, many’s the enthusiast who has breathed his last on the fairway. It is often said there are worse ways to go. My own father had the unfortunate experience of attempting to resuscitate a man on the third green in Lahinch, but sadly the cardiac arrest proved too severe. There was general consensus – among his golf brethren at least – that there was no better spot on which to meet your maker.
This brings us to the recent resuscitation in the fortunes of Tiger Woods. The Golfing Gods had created, we thought, a man capable of walking on any water hazard. An unbreakable spirit. His rise through the world rankings spread the gospel of the game, and brought a global following of disciples.
Yet when the burden of carrying the clubs grew too heavy it seemed Golf had killed poor Tiger. Success and the weight of expectation brought behaviour patterns not associated with a ‘heavenly being’. They certainly did not accord with his father Earl’s earlier perception of messianic powers lying in his son. In 1996 he said: ‘The world will be a better place to live in by virtue of his existence. He will bring to the world a humanitarianism. I know I was personally selected by God to nurture this young man’.
This false prophecy from a Father about a Son ended up an unholeable Ghostly mess. Life lived through golf left a man unable to see the Woods for the trees. The Tiger we admired no longer lives. He was crucified, and the game of golf suffered for his sins. Unfortunately the young apostles in his wake could not captivate the masses. Golf’s television ratings were left drowning in a river of Jordan Spieth and co..
However, one beauty of this Life is the possibility of redemption. The list of humans, sporting or otherwise, resurrected from past indiscretions is legion. Tiger has sought forgiveness for being a false idol, and the High Priests and Pharisees of golf and television no longer wash their hands of him. In return they have been rewarded by far more than thirty silver pieces.
On reflection, it is now legitimate to ask whether Tiger has been something of the sacrificial lamb in this story. Perhaps it is really for the rest of us to repent, and seek redemption from our past expression of vitriol and disgust towards him.
Life and Golf sometimes share similar teachings. Humility, respect, and even silence are all part of the learning. The Buddhist in Tiger should appreciate these lessons. When he returns to the garden of Augusta after Easter the predominantly Christian crowd will rise to the occasion and rejoice in his humbled return with respectful applause. The awestruck silence as the game’s saviour rounds Amen Corner once again may confirm that golf’s prayers have been answered.
Tim Rice is the reigning Irish PGA champion.