Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What Was I Thinking?

Last Sunday in the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, FL, Greg Owen played the final round flawlessly and found himself in position to enter the 18th (final) hole with a two-stroke lead, which is nearly insurmountable in professional golf. All he had to do was make a 3 foot putt on the 17th green (in the tournament, he was 52-of-52 from inside 5 feet). He missed the putt! Then, flustered, he quickly set up to tap in for bogey and missed that too! All of the sudden, instead of a two shot lead, things were even going into the last hole. He bogeyed that and finished second. The mistake cost him roughly $400,000 and a prestigious Tour win. “It was one of those silly mistakes I’ll be remembered for,” he said afterwards.

For those readers unfamiliar with golf, this mistake is akin to:
· A football receiver dropping a wide open pass in the end zone that would have tied a game his team eventually lost (see Dallas Cowboy tight-end Jackie Smith in Super Bowl XIII).
· A baseball player letting a ground ball that would have been an easy out roll through his legs, thus prolonging a World Series his team eventually loses (see Boston Red Sox’s Bill Buckner in 1986).
· A solid Olympic gold medal favorite in speed skating inexplicably slipping (1988) and stumbling (1992) and failing to medal – until the next Olympics (see Dan Jensen).

My point is two-fold. First, this was an extraordinary lapse of concentration, and second, it happens. Bone-headed, nincompoop, what-in-the-world-was-I-thinking mistakes are a part of life. Sometimes they can wreck a marriage, kill a relationship, or end a career. Many times they cost a person big sums of money. So I don’t want to make too light of them. But most times they just embarrass the snot out of us. Southwest Airlines even ran a series of commercials based on this theme, with the punch-line: “Wanna get away?” I loved those commercials.

One of the things that happens is you learn, really learn, from these experiences. Pain in any form is a great teacher. Several years ago when I was living in Culver City I left the house with $450 in cash to buy several bicycles for my family. I was using cash because it is better for bargaining. As I walked in the store I saw a destitute person riding a bicycle stop near my parked car, reach down and pick up a few dollars. I was happy for her that she had found a little money lying on the ground to help with her difficult life. I smiled and waved. When it came time to purchase the bikes, I was less happy that she had found $450 lying on the ground near my car and I never clued in that my wad of cash and her discovery were related. Do you think I learned a little lesson from that?

There can even be a sort of poetic justice that follows these lapses. Rod Pampling distinguished himself a few years ago as the only golfer ever to lead the British Open after the first round and fail to make the cut after the second round (missing the cut means you are out of the tournament at the halfway point). What an embarrassing distinction! Well, Rod Pampling is the golfer who won the Bay Hill Invitational after Owen’s collapse.

Friends, life usually gives us second chances. Acknowledge your mistakes and give them to God. Consecrate them to him and learn from them. He will help you redeem them into something helpful.