And the Winner Is ...

by Paul Johnson, LMFT, LPC, NCC
(Originally printed in 280 Living, Birmingham, AL, May 2011)

Since 1998, I have been privileged to attend at least one day of the Master’s Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA. I have only attended one Sunday round; it was 2004, the year that Phil Mickelson broke through and finally won a major golf tournament, the Masters no less (my wife and I were on the 18th green, looking up into his eyes as the putt went in). I look forward every year to going, to spending an intimate day with thousands of my closest acquaintances and strangers, and either my dad or my wife. It is sacred. No, I mean it. No other place on earth can you be with so many people, and the loudest noise anyone can hear is the birds chirping. No cell phones, no televisions, no radios; just quiet, and respect (and $1.25 egg salad sandwiches, which are the bomb — I don’t even like egg salad). If a place personified “respect”, it is the Masters Tournament. And the day I go to the Tournament is one of the most peaceful days that I experience of the year. Sacred, even.

Well, I did not get to go this year (yes, I hear the collective “ahh, poor baby”); streak broken at thirteen. It was a sad moment when we realized we could not get away from Birmingham (not that there was a giant magnet keeping our car from leaving the boundaries of the greater Birmingham area — but such is life with family and kids and illness and relationships — alas). But we did manage to watch it on TV (some, in between cool baths for high fevers). Sunday’s round was electric, thrilling, on-the-edge-of-your-seat good golf drama (though, as a kid, I thought golf was the most boring game on the planet, a game my father insisted on watching on TV instead of the rerun of some Godzilla versus King Kong versus Mothra movie). High drama, back and forth, someone claiming the lead, then another, then another. And finally, someone stepped forward from the pack to claim the title, the illustrious green jacket. And that someone was … Charl Swartzel.

Charl Swartzel.


Charl Swartzel. From South Africa. Cool place, good food and beverage, unique country, great golf and great golfers. But Charl Swartzel won, WON, the Masters golf tourney. Charl Swartzel. Who? Exactly.

He won the Masters—the major golf tournament, composed of winners, champions, the best of the best. So if Charl Swartzel is the winner of the 2011 Masters, is he the best golfer? Is he? A friend said he was that day. But is that enough? Shouldn’t he be the best? For a while? I mean, Swartzel won the Masters one week, then barely made the cut the next week, finishing a distant eleventh; in fact, with Swartzel’s win at the Masters, he became only the 11th best golfer in the world, according to golf’s world rankings. He wins the tourney of the best of the best and then is only ranked the 11th best—hunh?

Yet, also, on the Monday and Tuesday of Master’s week, UConn and Texas A&M won the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments and were crowned National Champions. Are they the best? Neither was ranked number one at any point during the regular season (I don’t think), and neither was a number one seed going into the tournament. Are they the best? And saying they were that day does not count.

I listen to sports radio, a lot. Lots of talk about the best, which turns into lots of arguing. It is a national obsession—who is the best, right now or for all time. Even my six-year-old son in his second year of baseball is asking, “Are we the best?”

What does the best signify? And what does it matter, especially if it is so fleeting? We are consumed with it — going to the best schools, the best church, having the best this, that, and other things. Only the best, being the best, better than best. What does it gain us? Seriously? Because in the end, it only matters that day, and then it is just fodder for talk and arguing.

Seriously, is the best what makes something sacred? Is it what brings peace? Or is it just short-lived bragging rights and just something that has to be continuously fought for or worried about?

I guess my question is, what is the point of the striving for best, for you? And when you are the best, who is really the winner?

Now that’s something worth talking about.

To talk further about broadening your expectations and discussing your plans for personal, family, and business success, please consider LifePractical Counseling for your counseling or consultant needs. You may reach us at 205-807-6645, or contact us via our website at Paul Johnson is a professionally licensed marriage and family therapist and professionally licensed counselor in the state of Alabama.