Small Windows

Those of you that know me know that I am a pretty big University of Arizona homer. Born and raised in Tucson, I grew up going to any and every game I could. I even had some unique access to team buses, locker rooms, and an occasional sideline pass through a long-time family friend of ours who happened to be one of the photographers for the athletic department. I watched the evolution of a basketball powerhouse from a dismal 4-win season, to the hiring of Lute Olson, to multiple Final Fours and a national title in 1997. I got my undergraduate degree there and even got to coach for a few summers at Coach O’s basketball camps. While we have not captured a Rose Bowl birth in my lifetime yet, I’m pretty proud of my hometown and alma mater.

Those who know me also know I’m a pretty big golf guy. While I don’t play much anymore, I follow the tours and the players and look for my favorite players in the sports page on the weekends. This week’s Monday Huddle Up has a little U of A in it and a little golf, and an example of what may lie ahead for each one of us……

One of my best friends in high school, Eric Rustand, played professional golf for the better part of a decade. He was good, REALLY good. He played on several tours around the world and had a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour once (yeah, that good). Eric had a few near misses that could have changed the trajectory of his golfing career. His life today is very fulfilled and he has touched many lives around him, including mine, so this isn’t at all a sad story about how Eric almost won on the PGA Tour (in his hometown none the less). It’s also not about how at the top of his golf career he was the first alternate at the British Open one year but didn’t get into the field in the end. This story is about the small windows that may open someday that let a person enter a whole new stratosphere of success. An example of this just happened on the PGA Tour in late June.

If you have not heard the story of professional golfer Nate Lashley it is worth googling. Here are the cliff notes….. Good college player at Arizona, lost his girlfriend and family in a plane crash, turned professional, lost his passion for the game, got a job selling real estate, checked out from golf. A couple years later he got the fire back, had some success, then the last week of June of this year happened….

Nate tried to qualify for the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit (the first PGA Tour event in Detroit in many years – BTW the fans there were awesome that week). He failed to qualify. He asked for a sponsor’s exemption. Nope. He was a few spots down the alternate list, meaning that the players that had qualified would need to withdraw before the competition started (for whatever reason) to allow the alternates to get into the tournament. As the week went on, a coupe of players pulled out. Nate was the first man on the alternate list the day prior to the tournament. He hung around in hope that one more player would back out. Then the window opened….

The day prior to the tournament, David Berganio, Jr. withdrew. That put Nate Lashley into the field to play the tournament in Detroit. As a point of reference, David Berganio, Jr. is also a University of Arizona alumni, however many years prior, and until this story unfolded David and Nate didn’t know each other.

Fast forward….. Berganio withdraws, Lashley gets into the tournament as the last entry and of course, wins the tournament. He had scores of 63-67-63 and a closing 70 to solidly secure the championship. Before this win, Nate had one top ten on the PGA Tour. One. Just like my friend Eric. One. His word ranking that week prior to his victory? 353rd. Today he is #100.

To give some prospective, in professional golf if you are not in the top 60, 100, or 150 in the world, you are a journeyman player. 353? Good luck.

Oh, by the way, Nate’s win in Detroit garnered him a two-year membership to the PGA Tour, an invite to all the big tournaments including the Masters, and an undoubtedly larger haul from sponsors that like him and his story.

The moral to this story is two-fold…..

  1. You may feel that you are that breakthrough player. The person that just needs that one small open window, that one break, to really make a difference.

  2. Someone that looks up to you or reports to you may feel like they are doing the good work that needs to be done, but just needs that one break to make a big impact. THEY need that one small open window.

In either of the above scenarios, if you are reading this, you are likely (personally) in scenario #1 today. Or alternatively you are in a position to help a person in scenario #2.

On this Monday, look around you. If you are in scenario #1, keep plugging away, that big win is ahead. And if you can help those in the second situation, please look for the opportunity to open those windows for them.

If you are in scenario #2, that big break can come at any time. I’ve had several windows open when I was looking somewhere else. They can come from anywhere, be ready.

It’s only appropriate that we close this week’s Huddle Up with a quote from the very brief TV interview that Nate Lashley gave on the 18th green after his life changing victory. Brief and to the point….

“I’m just really grateful that I got into the tournament…It’s a dream come true.”

Bear Down Nate. Bear Down.