Finish strong & keep focused

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This past weekend, the golf world once again experienced the most phenomenal weekend of the year that this sport knows.

The whole world, or at least the whole golfing world, is aware that the best players will be at the beautiful Augusta National Golf Club competing for the “Green Jacket” in one of the four recognized “major” tournaments held each year.

If you don’t know, Augusta National is one of the most beautiful and meticulously maintained venues on the PGA tour. Picturesque is a word that comes close to doing it justice, but you’ve got to see it for full appreciation.

The final round was held on Sunday, April 11, and the final group to play was leaders Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood.

Mickelson and Westwood were either tied or perhaps one stroke apart at the as they played the second hole, and Mickelson had a birdie putt. He had meticulously lined up his putt figuring out the right pace and break that would be needed to negotiate the ball into the hole of this slick, bent-grass green.

Phil then addressed the ball, and then keeping his head down on the ball began his putting stroke. Right in the middle of his backswing, a pine tree stamen (that little part that releases the yellow pollen that we enjoy this time of the year), falls from the sky directly into the line of his putt.

Strangely, there’s not a pine tree within 100 feet from the green! The ball hits the stamen pushing it off to the left of the hole. There is even a youtube.com clip available showing what happened at (www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqP9rF_qQqU). What a bummer!!!

This single event could cost Phil Mickelson his 3rd Green Jacket, several hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money, and a piece of golf history.

Do you ever feel perhaps something similar happens to you? You’ve done your planning work. You have executed your plan, and then something happens unexpectedly to negatively impact your life or your work. It isn’t fair in any way. You didn’t ask for it.

It doesn’t seem to happen to other people, but it has happened to you and there is nothing you can do to go about changing things. I often tell fellow leaders that 90 percent of what we deal with in life “we didn’t create the problem, we really don’t want to have to deal with it, but it is ours to do the very best we can with.

Everyone else is enjoying watching how we will resolve the problem that has been bought our way. Our real friends are pulling in to support, and the others are hoping for our collapse. So what are you going to do with it?”

Phil went on to shoot a bogey free round, making two eagles and birdying the 18th hole to claim a 3 shot victory and his 3rd Green Jacket. On this particular day, he hit some amazing shots including an almost impossible 206 yard shot between two pine trees and over a creek to land within 6 feet of the hole for a putt at eagle.

What’s the moral of this story? Mickelson kept focus. Despite the misfortune on the 10 foot putt on hole number 2, he finished strong. He could have felt dejected or discouraged, and that could have impacted the outcome. He could have complained to the rules official to which he’d gotten no relief. He could have set forth an obscenity or two like some other unnamed golfers would have done.

Instead his focus and determination was that of a winner. He proceeded to the next hole apparently unshaken by this huge twist of bad luck.

During the past three years, our society has seen an economic downturn unlike any other in my nearly 53 years of living. Perhaps you’ve seen job opportunities disappear from your horizon.

Many have lost good paying jobs. Investments have gone south for most people as real estate, stocks, and other investment funds have diminished in value.

My word of hope to you is this: keep the focus.

We’ve just finished hole number 2. We are Americans. We are winners. There is some good golf (hopefully both metaphorically and in reality) for us in the future. Thanks to the Masters and Phil Mickelson for reminding us that keeping focus, working aggressively, and finishing strong are characteristics of champions.

Cumming Forsyth