Masters win may be an opportunity for Patrick Reed

My cousin Brian called me the other day and suggested I write a column about Patrick Reed.  Brian told me that until he read up on Patrick on Monday, after the Masters, he’d had little knowledge about the guy, and no idea that he has a rather dubious past that’s made him a pretty unpopular guy among his colleagues and golf fans around the globe.

Until that Ryder Cup a couple of years ago, when he went mano-à-mano against Rory McIlroy (and won), I don’t think I knew much about Reed, either.  But even before I did my own research, the next day, I already didn’t like the guy.  I found his brash Americanism, crowd–baiting, shushing the Euro fans, and general in-your-face attitude not to my liking.

But that’s just me.  I’m admittedly, and proudly, one of those boring, old-fashioned people who believe in sportsmanship, fair play, humility, praising other peoples’ talent and achievements, and enjoying competition regardless of the outcome.  Sure I like to win.  But when you’ve been defeated as much as I have, you have to learn to appreciate the experience.

I’m not saying I’m perfect, or better than, Patrick Reed or any number of golfers or athletes who take a different attitude and approach.  I fully concede that if Patrick Reed were more old school like me, he might not have had the defiant drive and ability to avoid folding under the pressure of holding off McIlroy, then Spieth, then Fowler.

He clearly has the talent to play the game, as he demonstrated on Friday and Saturday in particular, but has also demonstrated in Ryder Cups and other PGA Tour events over the last five years.

So what’s in his background, and his continual cocky attitude, that makes him so less than likeable to so many of us?  Well, let’s see…

From what I’ve read, he was kicked off his first university golf team, the University of Georgia Bulldogs.  Reed has claimed it’s because he had a bit of an alcohol issue, but other insiders have said it was allegations of stealing money, cheating on the golf course, and an obnoxious and selfish attitude that did it.  I suspect you’d have to be really obnoxious and selfish to get kicked off your U.S. college team, especially when you’re one of its best players.  He then managed to move to never-heard-of-it Augusta State, where he helped this obscure college win two national championships… but I’ve read that he basically ignored his teammates, none of whom wanted to play with him.

His honesty on the golf course before and during college, was questioned more than once, apparently.  I also gather that he is completely estranged from his parents, and that he once had his parents escorted off a golf course during a tournament.  I know none of these details, and if the parent thing is true, maybe the fault lies on the parents’ side.  But something inside me says, if your parents are coming out to support you by showing up, it’s incumbent on you to appreciate the effort and not call in the cops.

So that’s the background that I know of about Patrick Reed, and again, I’ll just say he’s not my kinda guy.  But as I said in the Round Table this week, maybe this Masters victory will be the catalyst to a character rebirth for this young man.  Surely a green jacket means there’s no further need for flashing the middle finger at the world, or telling the world how good you are.  You’ve proved it now, Patrick, and gosh, maybe a kinder, gentler you might find that victories will taste all that much sweeter if you start to bring the crowd around to liking you as a better person.

In my many decades on golf courses, and in golf competitions, I’ve run across a few chaps who were similar to, but not as egregiously cocky, as Reed has been.  These guys were better players than me (which isn’t saying much), and I could never understand why they were less than friendly, and seemed to have chips on their shoulders.  Most of the ones I knew came from solid, comfortable backgrounds, with nice parents, cute girlfriends (SO important when you’re 22!), and eventually good careers.

If you thought I was going to say they all turned out badly, no, not at all.  In fact, I’m happy to say that two or three of them that I still know, have mellowed considerably and are first class guys with whom I enjoy playing golf occasionally.  I’ve never asked them why they were jerks, but I think they know they were.  I’ve never asked them why they’re nice guys now, either.

But I suspect the answer in every case would be: fatherhood.

Having children, and nurturing their health, well-being and development, can have a profound effect on your outlook, attitude, and approach to life.  And almost always, for the better.

Patrick Reed is only 27 years old, and he has two small children.  Maybe age, parenthood and now, vindication, will set him on a different and happier path.  Let’s hope so, and let’s hope that the nickname “Captain America” will make him realize that he has an opportunity to set a good example in every respect.

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