The Master’s Marathon Champion!

When we talk about building a Marathon Mentality, Sergio Garcia who won the Master’s tournament on Sunday is a perfect example of someone who has developed one.  Because he refused to quit on Sunday, he crossed the finish line and claimed victory! After starting 73 major championships in 18 years without a win in a major PGA championship, he finally won a major PGA championship.

I want to be clear regarding Sergio, he is a winner. He had already won 31 championships and 10 PGA titles since turning pro in 1999, but within the game of golf, a major championship is like the Super Bowl to a golfer. Sergio was 0-73 in the Super Bowl of golf.

So why does Sergio exemplify a marathon mentality? Simply put, he refused to quit – after 18 long years without winning a major. He has come close before, only to lose in some tight tournaments at the end. In the 2007 PGA Open Championship, he went into the final day with a 3-stroke lead. It all came down to the final hole when he needed a par to win. He missed an 8-foot putt by a fraction, and then eventually lost in a sudden death playoff. In 2008, just one year after the loss at the open, he had the lead in the PGA Championship on the final day going into the 16th hole. After he hit the ball into the water on 16, he lost the lead of the tournament and then lost in the last two holes. Two years in a row with two difficult close losses. There is a long list of talented professional athletes who have come close to achieving one of the ultimate goals in their sport, but would get close and never recover. On Sunday, Sergio avoided staying on that list.

When Sergio turned pro in 1999, there were high expectations with his track record as an amateur, and over the years, he hadn’t quite achieved what had been expected. Although he won a lot of tournaments, a major PGA championship continued to elude him. Still, he continued to move forward and work at his game, trying to figure out how he could improve. Even when he had a slump in 2009 and 2010, and dropped to 74th in the PGA rankings, he would not quit. So after his first 10 years as a professional, and one who was a highly popular golfer, he dropped to 74th. He would continue on another 7 years in pursuit of a championship until he finally achieved it on Sunday.

As his career has been, Sunday’s Master’s Championship proved to be another mountain Sergio would need to climb. After the first three days of solid rounds, he entered the final round tied with Justin Rose. He took an early lead after 5 holes and it looked as if he was on the right track to win his first major. However, as quickly as he took the lead, Justin Rose erased the lead in three short holes, and they were tied with nine holes to play. Over the next few holes, Justin Rose took a 2-stroke lead and it looked like what had happened before was going to happen again. Sergio did fight back and eventually tie Justin Rose, but once again, on the final hole, he missed a short putt. You could see the excruciating look of pain on his face like he was thinking “here I go again.” You could see him deflate instantly and it did look like he would not recover.

As he approached the first hole of the playoff, you could see him refocus, and have a look of determination. You could see the fear and disappointment of what had only happened moments earlier begin to disappear. As he stepped up and took a deep breath, his eyes focused down the fairway and you could see his confidence return. He hit the ball straight down the middle of the fairway, and he went onto win on that hole. The difference in the end on Sunday was he kept his composure and still believed he could win. Although he was shaken many times that day, and especially on the 18th hole when he should have finished it, he kept a positive mindset, made great shots, and went onto win his first major championship!

Although Sunday was when he claimed victory, it was the result of him having developed a marathon mentality. He stayed the course for 18 long years, and 73 majors without a win. There were undoubtedly times during the journey when he wondered if it would ever happen, but he kept the faith and continued to work on his game until it happened Sunday.

What marathon are you in now? Like Sergio, has it been an extremely long time? Have you been close to achieving your goal or dream only to lose it at the last moment? Do you feel like you are in a rut like Sergio was in 2009 and 2010 and you cannot recover? Learn from Sergio Garcia, and stay the course. Keep the faith and keep working at it. Will there be times where your mind and your faith will be shaken? Absolutely. Will you have days where you want to throw in the towel? Probably. Will there be others along the way that may tell you that you should throw in the towel? Maybe. Does that mean it will never happen? The answer is a resounding no!! With one caveat. You cannot quit.

What if Sergio at any point in time would have taken the mindset of winning, but not winning a major was ok? What if he felt like he was still making great money, had a great life, and the extra work and effort wasn’t worth it? What if he simply gave up on the dream of winning a major after 18 years and 73 straight losses? 18 YEARS AND 73 STRAIGHT LOSSES!! If he would have quit, Justin Rose would have won, and Sergio would have never known the feeling he is experiencing now.

Remember, you cannot fail unless you quit! The great Walt Disney, who built a great empire that is one of the most recognizable names today, had a great quote. He said, “Most often, the difference between winning and losing is not quitting.”

Stay in the race, keep working on your dreams, do not lose the faith, and eventually you will cross the finish line. It won’t be easy, and there will be times – many times – where you will want to quit. When you refuse to quit, you will reach your goal and and fully understand the exuberant feeling that Sergio Garcia is now feeling – after long 18 years of refusing to quit.

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