Sergio has become a “rock star” in the eyes of the kids who attend the 2014 Honda Classic. As Sergio walked from the first green to the second tee, he paused near the ropes that held the spectators back. He reached into the ball pocket of his TaylorMade golf bag and removed a new TaylorMade ball. He signed his name, and handed it to an excited youngster, age around six. He roughed the kids longish blond hair and looked into the youngster’s enraptured blue eyes and said, “Become a golfer little amigo.”
This story was told to me by a friend of a friend who walked inside the ropes with Sergio’s group at the 2014 Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
We all remember that brash young kid from Spain, destined to be the next Seve, who pushed Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club. Garcia, the 19-year-old teenage sensation, made the famous scissor-kick leap attempting to follow the flight of his ball after hitting the cut-shot heard around the world, while pushing Tiger. Sergio has been on a roller coaster ride with golf fans and girlfriend/caddies over the last 15 years. He is one of the “best never to win a major” players on TOUR unless you count the 2008 Player’s Championship – that was given to him by Paul Goydos, whose ball that never found land on the island green in the play-off.
We remember Sergio as the kid with one thousand waggles, who drove his playing companions nuts. Waggle, waggle, waggle – pause. Waggle, waggle, waggle – pause. “Hit the damn ball, Sergio!” Yes, Sergio has worked to improve his game and his public image. Yes, Sergio has had a great golf career, even if he never wins again. But the thing most fans of golf don’t know, Sergio has become a real human being. Now he is recruiting a new generation of golfers and golf fans.
As Sergio walked from the second green to the third tee, he paused near the ropes, where a little girl was clinging shyly to her father’s leg. He reached into his golf bag and removed a new TaylorMade ball. The Spaniard signed his name, and held the bright new ball out to her. When she finally accepted the autographed gift, Sergio smiled that big smile of his and said, “Become a golfer little amiga.”
As Sergio walked from the third green to the fourth tee… Etc. Etc.
As Sergio walked from the eighteenth green, he stopped by the ropes where a pair of identical twins stood on each side of their mom. Dressed exactly the same, except for their too big golf caps – one red, one blue – they looked up as Sergio walked over to them, and you guessed it, he took two new TaylorMade golf balls from his bag and signed his name. Then with a look directly into their admiring eyes he gave them the priceless gift. Their mother then removed each cap and Sergio, with his nearly dry Sharpie, autographed their caps. As he placed each signed cap on their little heads Sergio said with a wink, “Become a golfer my little amigos.”
Eighteen holes, 69 strokes, nineteen golf balls and nineteen new golfers, and Sergio, fans later, the emerging “rock star” Sergio Garcia had completed his round at the 2014 Honda Classic.