Golf champ Spieth ‘Masters’ sportsmanship

By Lindsay Steele

The pro golf season is now in full swing, and it couldn’t be going better for my favorite player, Jordan Spieth. On April 12, he realized his lifelong dream of winning the Masters, arguably the most prestigious tournament in golf. Of course, “lifelong” is an odd term when you consider Jordan is just 21 years old.

It’s been only four years since he graduated from Jesuit College Prep in Dallas. He attended Catholic schools growing up, and his family has roots in the church.

Lindsay Steele
Jordan Spieth plays in the final round of the 2013 John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill.

Spieth, as most local golf fans well know, won the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities in 2013 at the age of 19. He became the first teenager in almost 100 years to win on the PGA Tour! I became a fan the day before his historic win, when I walked the course during his Saturday round and met some of his cousins. At that time, his crowd of spectators (known in golf-lingo as “the gallery”) was small — it was pretty much just me and them. At one point, Jordan hit a wayward drive that bounced off a tree right in front of us and landed smack in the middle of the fairway. He turned to his family and playfully thanked them for sending good luck his way. It was a sweet moment that, unfortunately, TV crews weren’t around to capture. At the end of the round I approached Jordan and asked for his autograph. I probably made a fool of myself, but he was very polite.

I was fortunate enough to see him “hole” his final putt for victory and I stayed for his victory speech. He offered praise and gratitude to his family and to God. He said something along the lines of, “Without him, I wouldn’t be here.” I’m not sure God gets involved with sports, but based on some of the improbable, lucky shots Jordan had that week, including the famed birdie-from-the-bunker on 18, who knows!

On Sunday of the Masters this year, I watched the television broadcast with nervous anticipation. Jordan had a four-shot lead at the start of the day and I hoped he could pull out a victory. Certainly, it would have been easy to crumble under the pressure. My grandmother, Pat Schoon, texted me to let me know she was cheering him on “with a few Hail Marys.” We were, of course, elated when he won! When Jordan approached his family after the victory, I couldn’t help but tear up a little bit. “I’m so proud of you,” said his mother, tears in her eyes. I really lost it when he melted into the arms of his beloved grandfather. I was happy for Jordan and for his family.

It is clear to me, both from my personal interactions and what I observe on television, that his family and his faith have provided a good foundation for him as he climbs the ranks of golf’s elite. His parents taught him to be a good person first and an athlete second. They want him to accomplish his dreams, but they don’t pressure him to win. Jordan isn’t the heart of his family — that honor belongs to his teenage sister, who is on the autism spectrum. John Deere Classic chairman Clair Peterson gave an excellent description of Jordan’s character to the Quad-City Times earlier this month. He said Jordan is “humble, appreciative and wants to do the right thing when given the choice.”

Of course, life is probably going to change for Jordan now that he’s won the Masters. His gallery will never again be as small as it was on that Saturday at the John Deere Classic. His stock, fame, expectations and even scrutiny will rise. I am happy that he has his faith and family to turn to as he navigates a life in the spotlight. I hope for the best for him, now that his dreams are coming true.

(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at steele@davenportdiocese.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)

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