Our oldest is 16 years and 21 days old; a busy start to the junior tour season made yesterday, Masters Sunday, the first available date to celebrate with family. And wow, was it worth the wait!
We have been Tiger Woods fans for as long as we have been golf fans. As soon as J was old enough to have a real driver in his bag, the only extra he asked for was a Tiger head cover; that head cover is now almost 10 years old. 7 months after getting that head cover, the golfer he so much wanted to be like when he grew up would be in a car accident that would expose a much different Tiger Woods than the world had come to know. At 6, it was really hard to explain so, as the details became available, we had conversations about picking your role models carefully, about celebrities and athletes sometimes living privately very different lives than what the public sees, about making promises and keeping them and how much you can lose when you make bad choices. When many had quickly given up on him, and more and more joined them as his return looked less and less likely, J. Miller refused to believe that we’d seen the last of Tiger Woods.
As we watched Tiger apologize and try to repair the damage his “being human” had created, J never gave up on him. To be honest, he was the reason My Fave and I kept hoping Tiger could make it back – if a 2nd grader could find grace, so could we. With every comeback attempt, and failure, J never lost hope. He cried when Tiger fell to his knees in pain during his final round at the Barclays in 2013. But he didn’t give up on him.
In 2015, J started middle school and was able to play for a school golf team and started studying how Tiger prepared for tournaments; Tiger would miss the entire 2015-16 Tour season recovering from surgeries in 2015 while J was studying his game. In 2017, J made his high school’s varsity golf team, as a freshman. One day, while out playing with friends, his beloved Tiger head cover blew into a lake and thinking he could reach it leaned over the bank to grab it. A week of rain resulted in the bank mimicking quicksand and soon he was waist deep and getting sucked in by the mud quick. His buddies managed to reach out with a couple of golf clubs and pull him out; he lost a pair of golf shoes and a divot repair tool from The Memorial but saved the Tiger head cover; we actually laugh about it all now.
As 2017 turned into 2018, Tiger continued clawing his way back and both J, in his own way, was feeling a growing sense of confidence in his game. As he was finishing his sophomore year of golf, complete with his team making it to Districts, Tiger was grabbing his first win in 1,874 days at the Tour Championship, the 80th win of his career. (Christmas would deliver a t-shirt commemorating it). About a month later, J snagged his first win in a ranked junior tour event in Michigan that offered 35-40° temps, hail, wind, sun and rain. He’d proven to himself he could win and, of course, Tiger got the credit.
Fast forward to April 14, 2019. Tigers Woods wins another Masters. Wearing his t-shirt that marked Tiger’s 80th win, J got a belated birthday present that no one else could give him. It was amazing to watch he and C hold their breath in those final seconds and then celebrate as if they had just won their own Green Jacket.
The rest of the party was filled with awesome conversations about how nobody is perfect, what it means to persevere, just how much the human spirit can accomplish when it wants something bad enough, what it looks like to be remorseful for your actions and the hurt you caused and not blaming anyone but yourself for it all, that “fall down 7 times, get up 8 times” isn’t just a saying, why you never give up, even when the world is telling you to do so, and what can happen when “quit” is an option you refuse to entertain.
Later in the evening, J and I were talking about how God really can do whatever He wants and how we can’t see beyond the storm while we’re in the middle of it but He always shows up. His actual birthday was basically just any other birthday: dinner out and presents but nothing that made it feel like the milestone that 16 should feel like. And he loves playing golf tournaments, but he wasn’t thrilled at the thought of having to wait 3 weeks before we could make a party happen. When the first open Sunday we had was Masters Sunday, we should have known that God was up to something! Here’s how He works:
- 3 tour events in 3 weekends, the first being J’s birthday weekend
- C’s spring break plans with a friend not working out
- My Fave making an out-of-character, spontaneous decision to buy tickets to the 1st and 2nd round of the NCAA tourney, putting a dent in our spring break fund
- The boys not making it off the waiting list for a tourney during Masters weekend
- A massive storm expected to hit Augusta, GA on Sunday afternoon which meant pushing tee times to the morning, meaning The Masters finish would happen shortly after the start of his party rather than 2 hours after the end of the party
Tiger’s epic win would come about 40 minutes into J’s party. It will no doubt be a day he will ever forget. Like many of us do when significant events happen, our own “a Green Jacket is the goal” golfer will forever remember where he was when his first sports hero made it clear that he really was back; how he watched him climb out of the bottom of a pit, he’d in many ways, dug himself and even when the walls of that hole got slippery, he never stopped pursuing the goal of emerging again and it all paid off. Even more so, he seems to be a better person having gone through all he has in the last 10 years. Watching Tiger then and Tiger now, he seems to have been humbled and knows that there is so much more to life than winning (but admits it feels really amazing – just in a different way). He seems to have a new respect for the the game and its core values and is playing for the love, challenge and pure enjoyment of hitting a 1.25″ ball toward a 4″ cup with a stick.
He knows what it’s like to almost lose it all and you only needed to see him hug his kids, Sam and Charlie who have both had a front seat to watch their dad fight back from a dark and deep hole, to know that while he has put in a ton of work to get his golf game back, he’s put even more work into being the best dad he can be.
Thank you Tiger, for giving J a birthday he’ll never forget, but more importantly for being human and falling from the pedestal we all put you on (and you seemed more than willing to be on) and staying down for a long time and falling again when you tried to get up and then ultimately showing the world what it means to never quit. It was a long time coming and many thought it would never happen again, which is likely why this win feels like no other win we have ever seen from you. As a mama, I always appreciate when there are life lessons put in front of us that are so clear, it makes parenting look easy. We could have never known that waiting 3 weeks to celebrate a 16th birthday would be worth it but it was. It was so very much worth the wait.♥