Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recollections from the US Masters

Early this morning (Taiwan time) I followed the US Masters leaderboard on the Internet. I used to be an avid golfer, mostly while in high school and the early part of my university days (when I moved on to more physically demanding sports like cross country and rowing), and I really wanted to see how Tiger would handle the last two rounds. Well, things did not go too well for him, and despite finishing second, the hero of the moment, and indeed of the whole tournament was Trevor Immelman, a young South African, who held off Tiger to win by three shots, while the others faltered. Immelman incidentally overcame sickness and surgery last year, which makes his achievement all the more spectacular. As I read the reports and the references to Gary Player, Immelman's confidant and mentor, I was reminded on the time when I got Gary Player to give me his autograph.
As a golf fanatic at the age of 17, I skipped school to watch the best golfers in the world prepare for the World Match Play championship in Wentworth, Surrey. After seeing several of them putting, I went with a relatively small group of people along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as they together played a practice round. The sight of Nicklaus' ball going up and up and up before eventually landing an astronomical distance away near the hole left me awestruck. Although I was a shy high-school kid, I did get to talk to Gary Player as he walked down the fairway. I think he may have asked me how old I was. He appeared very confident and very positive about life, but not arrogant, as he was how he appeared in real life. He was also extremely fit. By contrast, I was lanky and did little exercise apart from swinging a club (although often for hours on end on most days). Player at that time was about 35 and I remember reading at the time that he intended to be able to do 50 finger-tip push ups at the age of 50. Now he is around 72 and he still regularly works out, and is careful about his diet. He is described as having the physique of a person half his age.
Over the years, my exercise regimen has had its ups and downs. I exercised a lot during my 20s, and my early 30s, but my busyness with career and family and financial responsibilities got the better of me for a period of about ten years. Then I started again in my mid-40s and completed my first (and only) full Hawaii Ironman after just turning 51. While I currently still have many things to do besides training, at least I am trying to achieve a balance in life, learning to eat healthy food and seeking to reduce stress. As I contemplate the future, I am thankful for the influence that people like Gary Player have had on my life. If only there could be more role models like him.

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