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Golf Sportsmanship – How to Be a Good Loser

Holding our breath we all watched Jordan Spieth’s approach to the 18th green at St. Andrews Old Course and subsequent missed putt for an opportunity to join the playoff and potentially make history.  Not a few moments later we sadly witnessed Jason Day leave his chance short by mere inches and fight off tears as he too was so close to making a final run at his first major.

Losing sucks.  Period.  However, both of these guys provided us with a nice lesson in golf sportsmanship – how to be a good loser.

No one wants to be a loser but if you are going to lose you might as well do it right.  Let’s examine what I believe are the four top qualities all dignified losers embody:

1.  Acceptance of responsibility:  There are only two options in life – make progress or make excuses.  A golfer has two options as well – accept responsibility for the mistakes you’ve made or blame the weather, the grass, the noise, the distractions, the yada yada yada…  As silly as this sounds coming out of your mouth the best losers (yes, losers can be good and bad) are those who know that they can only spend their thoughts on that which they can control.  Simply listen to the post-final round interviews.  Day clearly mentions how frustrated he was with the final outcome because he was so close to potentially winning his first major but then follows it up by saying he’s just going to keep working at it.  He’s quoted as saying, “Can’t look at (defeat) as a negative.”

2.  Bowing out gracefully:  Once you’ve lost, it’s over and done.  Take Spieth for example as he walks off the 18th green after what was a grueling weekend of weather.  He simply smiles, claps outward to the fans, and then raises his arm for a thumbs up.  Simple.  Fans and fellow friends don’t respect the golfer who makes a spectacle of himself.

3.  Acknowledgement of the winner:  The victor of any tournament or round played in the same conditions as you.  It’s the truth.  The best of the best losers will always acknowledge and congratulate the winner.  A simple handshake, hug, or even polite remarks to fans and friends does the trick.  Both Spieth and Day did so in their post-round wrap up interviews.  It doesn’t matter if your opponent is your sworn rival or is not the type of player who embodies a graceful winner.  Always be the bigger person.  …it’s even easier to do when the other player is a good friend or someone you admire (take the acknowledgement from Spieth to Zach Johnson for example).

4.  Learning from the loss and moving on:  Tomorrow is another day, and for the pros, next week is another tournament and opportunity to hoist the cup.  Quality losers will examine their mistakes and add them to the memory bank as fuel for further practice.

Nobody is perfect but having good golf sportsmanship and being a good loser is not hard to do.  Lose with grace.  Lose with dignity.  Gain respect.

Who do you think embodies the opposite of these two guys in our great game of golf – past or present?  I can name a few but let’s see if we are on the same page…

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