Professional golf’s long history is a storied one, riddled with flubs of monumental proportions, winning shots that defy the odds, and players who inspire on and off the course.
Many of golf’s greatest moments are also its most emotional ones, where wins and losses take on deeper meaning. Here are five of the most touching golf moments of the last 25 years.
1995 Masters: Ben Crenshaw finds victory after loss
Harvey Penick was a famed golf professional, whose resume included coaching the University of Texas’ golf team to more than 20 Southwest Conference championships in 33 years, as well as some of the game’s top professionals, like Davis Love Jr. and Ben Crenshaw.
A week before his death on April 2, 1995, a gravely ill Penick gave Crenshaw a final putting lesson from his bed. Less than a week after serving as a pallbearer at Penick’s funeral, Crenshaw put that lesson to good use when, fighting back tears, he tapped his ball in to take home that year’s green jacket.
1997 Masters: Tiger Woods makes history
The buzz around a fresh-faced golfer by the name of Tiger was loud ahead of the 1997 Masters Tournament. The 21-year-old had made a name for himself as an amateur player and recently made his professional debut at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. At his first major, he defied expectations—on April 13th, 1997, Woods became the youngest player to ever win the Masters tournament. That wasn’t the only bit of history made by Woods that day: his victory was the first-ever Masters win by an African-American golfer.
2003 U.S. Open: Tom Watson and Bruce Edwards inspire
Golfer Tom Watson and caddy Bruce Edwards tend to be described as “closer than brothers”, and for good reason—the two were a team for 27 years of Watson’s career and friends for even longer. In early 2003, Edwards was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—ALS, or Lou Gherig’s Disease—a progressive neurodegenerative disorder for which there is no cure.
That June, Edwards was on the bag for Watson at the U.S. Open, who stunned with an incredible first-round performance. He would later go on to a top-30 finish, but it was the display of friendship and solidarity between the player and his caddy that made an indelible mark for spectators. As they strolled the fairway, crowds cheered Edwards’ name. Edwards died just 10 months later. Watson has since gone on to raise millions for ALS research in his honour.
2010 Masters: Phil Mickelson wins “for the family”
2010 was a trying year for Phil Mickelson. His wife, Amy, had been diagnosed with breast cancer the year prior and was undergoing treatment. His mother, Mary, received her own diagnosis less than two months after Amy’s. Still, Mickelson headed to Augusta with his family’s blessing, hoping to capture his third Masters title. And that he did—with a three-stroke victory over Lee Westwood. Mickelson shared an emotional embrace with Amy following the win and announcer Jim Nantz appropriately called it "a win for the family."
2018 LPGA: Lydia Ko makes a comeback
The youngest player (of any gender) to be ranked number one in professional golf and the youngest person ever to win a professional golf tournament. It’s no wonder Lydia Ko has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people and one of the most impactful women in sports by ESPN.
Despite having over 14 LPGA wins before her 20th birthday, Ko had been struggling to find her game in the year leading up to the 2018 LPGA Championship. But just a week after her 21st birthday, she found victory for the first time in 44 starts—with tears in her eyes—proving that a positive attitude and fierce determination can get any athlete out of a performance hole (pun intended).
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