In life the best experiences and the most memorable ones are the ones that you experience firsthand. When you have contact with individuals over a period of time, many times these experiences leave an indelible mark on your life. This is what has happened at the Outback Steakhouse Championship last week as I played golf with Michael J Fox and my partner Chris Sullivan, who was the co- founder of Outback. For the past two years Chris and I have played with Tim Simpson and Michael J Fox, consequently we have both seen Michael up close and personal for four rounds of golf. Michael was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was at the height of his career at 29 years old, so now he has endured the ravages of this disease for over 22 years. What happens over the progression of time with Parkinson’s is that you lose control of your muscles, which makes it very hard to play any sport, much less, one that demands controlled muscular precision such as golf. Like Michael said, “taking up golf after 40 is hard enough for the average person, but for one in my state he must have a love for punishment.” Everyone has told him it’s too hard to play and will cause him much anxiety, but Michael plays quite well and does what every golfer should be concerned with, that is enjoying the competition with himself and his playing partners. Socially you should be interacting with your partners, which potentially enriches you life to a higher level. Even in competition, where the emotions can run the gamut, you can enjoy your competitor’s skills, how they handle a tough situation, or just have a good day of walking and conversation. Golf brings people together in a very unique way. Especially, where people are working for their livelihoods, you can see the best and the worst of behaviors. I think this is the allure of professional golf at its core. It’s a personal experience that can make your life more complete and fulfilling.
Karen, my wife told me that she saw the current issue of Reader’s Digest interview with Michael after the tournament, in which he emphasized how he is practicing two virtues every day to help him with his life–Acceptance and Gratitude. At the forefront of his mind every day he practices these virtues because this is what gives him the most happiness. After playing with him and being around him for the best part of two days, I never saw him complain about a bad shot, a miss hit, poor putt, someone pulling at him, etc. I have been amazed at his uncanny ability to muster the energy for the hundredth time to give an engaging smile for a picture or sign and autograph. Standing outside in the heat, signing autographs for at least an hour after the round, having already given Jimmy Roberts and interview, spoken to the press, Michael is truly inspirational in his ability to endure the onslaught of attention. I’m inspired by his uncanny wit and humor in the toughest of situations. If there were 30 thousand people in the gallery it seemed as if half of them wanted a personal touch with Michael. My wife said one lady drove four hours to see him, get an autograph, and tell him how much he has meant to her. Karen experienced strong emotions that brought tears to her eyes that moved her spirit deeply, after watching Michael handle everything that he has to with the utmost of grace. So here is a salute to Michael J Fox from the bottom of my heart, my most heartfelt, loving, embrace from all your fans a great big thank you for taking part in our Champion’s Tour event thereby enriching our lives beyond the imaginable. God bless you fully. Chip