Life is a crapshoot

Bob Rosburg who went from being a successful pro golfer to a long time on-course TV commentator recently died at the age of 82. In reading some commentary on Rosburg on Geoff Shackelford’s website, I linked to a 2002 interview that Rosburg had done with Guy Yocom for Golf Digest.

One of Rosburg’s stories makes you realize how even the smallest incident can affect your future for better or for worse.

I knew Tony Lema very well. Prior to the first big tournament he ever won, the 1962 Orange County Open, he told the press guys that if he won he was going to buy champagne for them. Well, he and I wound up in a playoff, and on the first hole he hit the worst hook you’ve ever seen.

It had to be out-of-bounds, so he hit a provisional ball. When we get down there, damn if his first ball isn’t in bounds by two feet. He went on to win the playoff, and his career really took off. I was happy for Tony. We were good friends, and I was sad when he was killed in a plane crash in 1966. Many years later, a man approached me on the golf course and says, “Mr. Rosburg, do you remember the Orange County Open in 1962?”

I said, “Sure. Like it was yesterday.”

“Remember the first playoff hole?”

“Absolutely.”

“Well, that ball was out-of-bounds. My friends and I were standing there, and we were Marines, and Tony had been a Marine, and we wanted to help him. So I kicked it back in bounds.”

Now that’s a hell of a thing to hear. I couldn’t help myself.

I said, “I should be mad at you, but I understand. But I want you to know one thing. Tony told me that if he didn’t win that tournament he was going to quit and become a club pro. So if you hadn’t kicked that ball back on to the golf course, Tony Lema would be alive today.”

Turn left or turn right and your world may change.

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