Showing grace in times of embarrassment is inspiring, says FPG performance coach Rich Tiller.

The Masters Golf Championship is one of the most high-pressure individual sporting events in the world because of the way it tests nerves as well as skills – the mental game as well as the physical game – for four consecutive days.  Other golf tournaments do this, too, but the Masters adds a unique prestige to the pressure cooker.

One kind of challenge that tests us in a special way is the kind that comes out of nowhere, lasts only a moment, and causes devastating embarrassment.  We don’t see it coming.  We had no way to prepare for it.  And then it’s over before we even have time to fully grasp what’s going on.  This is what happened to Ernie Els, a golfer I have admired for many years, on the very first hole of this year’s Masters.

Ernie had a putt of less than three feet for a par four.  He wound up with a nine.  He just kept missing putt after putt, back and forth from one side of the hole to the other, never more than four feet away.  By the time he walked off the first green he had virtually shot himself out of the tournament.  All the planning, preparation and excitement that led up to that first hole had been for nothing.  He called it “unexplainable.”

An incident like this goes beyond disappointment.  We feel humiliated, ashamed, disgraced, and devastated.  We wish we could just disengage from the whole mess.  Some golfers walk off the course.  Others throw or break their club.  But Ernie toughed out the remaining seventeen holes and then the entire second day before missing the cut.

On the same first hole in the second round, Ernie missed another short putt for a double bogey, as though the demons were back.   But for the rest of the second round he persevered with calm dignity.  He scored one under par for the remaining seventeen holes in conditions so difficult that no one in the field shot better than one under for the day.  But even that was not good enough to make the cut.

To maintain grace and dignity in a situation like that is a special kind of heroism.  His wife, Liezl, who was in the gallery, told how proud she was that her husband could hold himself together and throughout those two rounds continue to be the inspiring person he has been for decades.  This is a kind of grace and dignity that is reserved for people who see beyond themselves.  Ernie Els has long been known for grace, dignity and generosity – his willingness to put the importance of others above his own.  These qualities have been the source of his positive influence.

Helping others to bring out the best in themselves has long been one of Ernie’s defining qualities, whether the person he is serving is a child with autism, a young golfer in need of a mentor, or even a competitor.

While competitors rightly strive to achieve “human performance unleashed” in themselves, the greatest champions – those whom we most admire for their character as well as their skills – are the ones who seek to be facilitators of “human performance unleashed” in others as well as themselves, even when they are going through tough times of their own.


Here’s to earning what you’re worth!



FORREST PERFORMANCE GROUP is a global leader and designer of corporate training programs, leadership training programs, and sales training programs. FPG’s unique distinction and edge is its belief that true, permanent change begins from the top, transforms from the inside-out, and requires long-term coaching and accountability, rather than short-term training. Too many organizations are short-sighted regarding training and only provide one-day motivational events to entertain sales pros, giving them only short-term boosts in energy and temporary performance lifts. One-day events can be valuable for rejuvenating or jump-starting performance, but a complete training program with coaching along the way makes all of the difference. Increased sales, measurable ROI, accountability, tangible and relevant sales tools are just a few of the results of an FPG training program.

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