Golf’s New HeroPosted by Bill Bales on: June 20, 2011
Author Bill Bales is the Founder of aboutGolf and Chairman of its Board of Innovation
The term “hero” came from the Ancient Greeks, who defined heroes as mortals whose accomplishments were so extraordinary they immortalized them. We humans need heroes, perhaps to set the upper limits on our own personal goals and aspirations.
The game of golf in the twentieth century has had but a handful of legitimate heroes. American golf’s first true hero was Bob Jones, the articulate gentleman and consummate sportsman who won the original “grand slam”. New York gave Jones a ticker tape parade.
After Jones came a slew of near-heroes such as Hogan (too stoic), Snead (too crude), and Nelson (retired too soon). But then came Arnie, the swashbuckling (how cool would it be to be considered a swashbuckler), go-for-broke man of the people who had the magical ability to make everyone in the gallery feel as if he was playing for them alone.
Jack never was given the hero status he truly deserved. He was pudgy, boring, and he beat Arnie too many times. But Jack was a model family man, the epitome of grace and sportsmanship, and for my money the greatest player the game has ever seen.
After Jack and Arnie came more near-heroes such as Watson (too human), Norman (too tragic), and Ballesteros (too Spanish). We yearned for the next Jones and Palmer through the seventies and eighties and into the nineties until we anointed Tiger Woods as golf’s new “King”. Woods certainly had the skill (perhaps he still does). Some have named him the greatest ever. He has shown perhaps more grit, drive, and determination than any player before him.
Driven by the new age of hyper-media, we looked past Woods’s dark side–his profanity-infused outbursts, his refusal to sign autographs, and his aversion to speak to the press after poor rounds. Golf needed a hero, and until the shocking revelations of Woods’s philandering we saw only the near-god we desperately wanted.
But the events of the past weekend have blessed us with a new chosen one, a young man with apparently no warts; a man with a cherubic countenance–the Gerber baby grown up, with courtly curls; a man with a deep and humble respect for the game, its institutions, and its participants; a man who held his head up, looked the press in the eye, and told it like it was after his disastrous collapse at Augusta; a man who happily signs autographs after every round until there are no more takers; a man so respected by his older peers that–and I believe this to be unprecedented–this past weekend’s contenders vocally expressed their desire to see him win.
Rory McIlroy is golf’s new hero. The king is dead. Long live the king.
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