When Bubba Watson holed his putt on the 72nd hole to win the 2014 Masters it ended what I consider every year to be the best week in sports. Major League Baseball's regular season has started, the NCAA basketball championship has been decided, and we have seen again the beauty of Augusta National on display during the Masters Tournament. As a sports fan it simply does not get any better than that. For those of you like me who do not miss a second of Masters coverage, whether it be live or recorded (or in my case both), you have heard the phrase "a tradition unlike any other." That is a great way to describe the Masters. Watching the golf tournament either on television or as a patron on the grounds at Augusta National, you cannot help but see and enjoy how much the tournament and club embrace the tradition of the game.
Beginning with the tee shot from the honorary starters, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player, on Thursday, tradition is everywhere you look at the Masters. Here in St. Louis I like to think we have developed another "tradition unlike any other" at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital. This tradition does not involve pimento cheese sandwiches or holing a putt on the last hole and showing off a 3" vertical leap (Phil Mickelson) to win the treasured Green Jacket. Our tradition occurs on a weekly basis 12 months a year regardless of weather conditions. It involves making kids smile, hearing them laugh, helping them heal, and improving their lives through the game of golf.
Visit Ranken Jordan during one of our golf clinics and you will be simply amazed at what these kids are achieving. Since the inception of this blog I have written many success stories from the thousands of kids who have been part of our golf program. For some it is taking their first steps ever up to a putting green. Some of the other kids might see this success when they are strong enough to sit up in their wheelchair to take their first swing on their own. Still others are sports nuts like me and are able to have a "dream come true" by learning how to play golf and be involved in a sport regardless of having 17 surgeries in the first 9 years of their life. Maybe, just maybe, the success means driving a golf cart (the first thing in his life he has driven at 18 years old) and watching a golf ball sail majestically over a water hazard and land softly on the green.
You likely will not see a Green Jacket awarded during our golf clinics, although do not put it past me to do something like that. What you will see every week are miracles happening all around you. Some of these miracles are because of golf while others are enhanced by the kids being involved in golf. Whatever the reason, their lives are richer and fuller because they have learned how sweet it feels to make that one important putt or feel the click from a well struck tee shot. I can tell you from first-hand experience that if you spend enough time at Ranken Jordan with the kids, you will see the same pure joy and excitement as Adam Scott at the 2013 Masters as well as the tears of joy from Bubba Watson following the 2014 Masters. For many of the kids we play the Masters every week.
The game, and business, of golf has reached a point where changes have to be made in order for it to continue to grow. Making the game more accessible for all people is one way for this to happen. As new USGA President, and St. Louis native, Tom O'Toole stated at Pinehurst, NC, "Making the game more accessible and more welcoming is not done merely
for the benefit of feeling good, or even just doing the right thing.
Opening up golf is good for the game." I completely agree with this statement. With programs like what we have at Ranken Jordan we are improving the lives of medically complex children while at the same time growing the game. This sure seems like a "win-win" situation to me . . . so what are we waiting for?