Opinion: A lesson in persistence from Sergio Garcia’s Masters victory

Matt Poe

I got tonsillitis this past week, and I regret to inform you it is one of the most unbearable things you may ever experience. I’ve been bed ridden and reduced to nothing but a decaying shell of a man I once was, finding little comfort in sleep or anything else; the lack of solid food for almost three days is really something.

Anyway, I bring up my dire situation not for your sympathy (well, maybe a little) but to self-reflect on my level of persistence this past week because, boy, was it a sorry-ass attempt at it. While the medications did their respective work, I did little else to help myself get better aside from feel sorry for myself and ask God why he had chosen to smite me down with this awful viral infection.

Suffice to say, my persistence sucked, and my desire to help myself out of self-pity was fleeting at best. Just about the only benefit of being bed-ridden this weekend was I got to intake almost the entire weekend of the Masters Tournament, where one man’s persistence was on full display for all to witness and served as a gentle reminder to me of several things.

Sergio Garcia won the tournament, capturing his first major in a career that’s been defined by a lack of one. He rose to prominence as a young teenager and entered the golf scene around the same time another prodigy did as well. That second person was Tiger Woods, and we all know what became of his brilliant career.

Meanwhile, Garcia, with all his successes in endorsements, money earnings and other victories on the PGA Tour, was always known as the guy who couldn’t win the big one. He squandered many opportunities in the past to finally secure that elusive first major which serves as a stamp of immortality in the game of golf.

He missed short putts that would have won himself a major. He hit errant tee shots into the trees. He blamed weather conditions and all the other things that can seemingly deprive one of success on the golf course. But from an outside perspective, Garcia was always eager to blame his failures on elements beyond his control.

The term “Sergio Garcia” became synonymous with the word “choke.”

There came a point around five years ago during this same tournament where his level of frustration and public deprecation reached a boiling point when he said the following: “That’s the reality. I’m not good enough and today I know it. After 13 years, my chances are over. I’m not good enough for the majors. That’s it.”

But eventually, as those closest to Garcia and around golf would detail, he eventually learned to let go of these feelings of self-doubt and to stop harboring them, the scar tissue of those losses lingering far longer than they should have.

So Garcia did the one thing he could to allow himself a chance to change his outward perception of his failures: He let go of them. And while we often don’t think of letting go and persisting in the same line of thought, it was exactly what he needed.

He became more positive on the course. He racked up a few more wins here and there. Then, this weekend came along, and he found himself in the final pair in Sunday’s final round. He went up three strokes to Englishman Justin Rose after five holes. Garcia then made bogeys on 10 and 11 to drop two shots back of Rose.

He hit his tee shot on 13 into the trees and had to take an unplayable lie. He ended up making a brilliant par on the hole, and Rose simultaneously missed an easy birdie opportunity. It was the type of scenario where, in past years, Garcia would come unraveled and the rest of the round would not have mattered.

He followed that hole with a birdie and an absolutely brilliant eagle to tie Rose at –9, followed by a missed birdie putt on 16 that gave Rose the lead once more. Finally, the duo came to 18 all tied at minus 9. Rose missed his birdie putt, and that left Garcia about a 7-foot putt slightly downhill for the win. As soon as the ball came off the blade of the putter, everyone knew he missed it.

Headed to a sudden death playoff, it seemed the golf gods were destined to torture the Spaniard one last time.

But Rose found trouble and made bogey, leaving Garcia just two putts from around 12 feet to finally claim his first major. He only needed one putt and the euphoria, release and ecstasy on his face was truly remarkable.

Garcia persisted. He could have quit long ago and never had the opportunity to reach this moment again. And there comes a point in all our lives where we reach such an impasse, where we must decide if something is worth more failure in the hopes to one day succeed. And while that’s easy to say in print, it’s much harder to remind yourself when you’re in that moment of crushing failure.

Garcia finally learned to let the moment breathe and to find his own peace within it. He realized that there is such a thing as holding on too tight and that the only way is to allow the moment to be, whether that moment is making history on the golf course or telling yourself that a stupid weekend sickness will pass.

I’m sure years ago he thought he’d never reach this pinnacle.  As the old saying goes, fear and doubt kill more dreams than failure ever will.

Today, no one doubts Garcia’s persistence and determination, and neither does he.

Matt Poe is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].