Throughout our lives, from grade school to adulthood, we hear about the importance of exercising persistence. “Keep Going”, “Never Give Up” and “Never Quit” are phrases that have been heaped upon our young minds to encourage us to develop that all-elusive “stick-to-it-ness” that seems to pave the road to success.
But has anyone ever really been able to measure the monetary value of this thing called persistence? Is there really a dollar figure that can be placed on, what my coaches used to call, “intestinal fortitude”? Or, does that phrase better describe one too many South Texas tamales?
Well, for one professional golfer on the PGA tour, persistence paid off handsomely. The phrases of childhood became like sweet music to his ears … to the tune of over a half million dollars.
In 2012, I was following a group of players at the Valero Texas Open PGA golf tournament in San Antonio and one of the players in the group was a 21 year old kid from California named John Huh. John was a rookie on the PGA tour and, like most people, I had never heard of him. He was not a college All-American. In fact, he had attended Cal-State Northridge in California for only two weeks but was unable to procure a scholarship. He had not been groomed by the greatest golf minds on the planet but, ironically, had been coached by his father. For all I knew of him, he was just some Monday qualifier who would not be around for the weekend.
Starting round one on hole 10, John Huh bogeyed his first hole which put him at plus one. He bogeyed his second hole and was now at plus two. For a professional golfer, that’s not a good start. It gets worse. On hole 12, John’s third hole of the day, he hit his drive in a fairway sand bunker. His shot out of the bunker hits the lip and comes back to his feet. His next shot does the same. He then chips out sideways and now lies four in the fairway. He hits his next shot onto the green and then two putts for a triple bogey 7. His score is now plus five after three holes.
For those who play golf that sounds like something a 24 handicapper would do. My first thought was, “This must be the son or grandson of one of the sponsors or something.” I even texted my wife and told her how embarrassing it was.
I followed the group for their first eight holes and when I stopped following them, John Huh was nine over par. The thought went through my head, “Can you say hacker?” I even joked with someone in the gallery, “Who’s this kid’s sponsor, a hearing aid company?” (You know, John “Huh?”)
Many professionals in this position withdraw and move onto to the next tournament. Such was the case for many at the Valero Texas Open, but not for John Huh.
I found out later that day that John Huh had gone four under par on the next 10 holes and finished the day five over par, still outside the projected cut line.
The following day, John Huh shot 68, four under par leaving him at plus 1 and he made the cut for the weekend by three strokes.
On day three of the tournament, better known as “moving day”, he shot 67, five under par which placed him in the final group for Sunday’s round.
This story has an unbelievable ending. On the 15th and 17th holes of the final round, John Huh lipped out putts that would have put him tied for the lead. Also, on the 17th hole, the leader Ben Curtis had to make a 30 foot putt from off the green to save par and maintain a one stroke lead.
John Huh, the same golfer who was five over par after three holes, the same golfer who was plus nine after eight holes, the same golfer who could have withdrawn on the first day and walked off to the next tournament, finished seven under par for the tournament, tied for second place and walked off that weekend with a check for $545,600.00 … and he did it all because he stayed in the game and refused to quit.
As I write this article, I have in front of me a golf ball signed by John Huh. It is from a birdie he made on the third hole of round 2. It sits on the shelf in my office beside the trophies I have won while participating in the GOLF Channel AM tour.
It reminds me of what golf and life are really all about. It reminds me that persistence is not just some “pie in the sky” phrase we use to get ourselves to feel better and get our children to try harder. It reminds me that falling is okay as long as we get back up. And it reminds me that we never get in life what we deserve, but what we negotiate and what we settle for.
And although persistence may never be measured in our lives by a check worth over a half million dollars, it will be measured by an even greater value … the person we become.
© 2014 Dave Davlin All rights reserved.