I saw one of the most moving things I have ever seen in my life on live television this afternoon. It involved a golf tournament. I've seen several things involving golf on TV over the years which brought me to tears, such as:
Jack Nicklaus winning the 1986 Masters in what would be his last big moment in golf, and everyone (including Jack) knew it.
- Ben Crenshaw's unlikely second win at the Masters in 1995 just days after the death of Harvey Penick, his mentor and one of golf's most wonderful gentlemen.
- Davis Love III winning the PGA Championship in 1997 with the shot of a rainbow over the 18th green as he sank the winning putt. (His dad, who had been a great friend and one of his teachers, had been killed in a plane crash ten years earlier and there was much talk of "spirits".)
But none of these matched a singular perfect moment on TV this afternoon.
Tom Pernice Jr. won the International with a par on the last hole. This is the tournament where the highest score wins, due to the fact that you are awarded points for birdies (2), eagles (5), and double eagles (8), and penalized points for bogies (-1), and -3 for anything worse than a bogey.
Pernice was born September 5, 1959 in Kansas City, MO. His first win on the PGA Tour was at the Buick Open in 1999. He's one of those guys who has been on and off the Tour a few times, having to compete on the Buy.Com Tour when he couldn't get his tour card. He was a two-time All American at UCLA and was the PAC-10 Player of the Year in 1981. His teammates at UCLA included Jay Delsing, Corey Pavin, Steve Pate and Duffy Waldorf. In high school, he was an all-conference wrestler. But he always wanted to be on the PGA Tour. He has said that "Playing on the tour is what I've wanted to do since I was a kid. Tom Watson is from (Kansas City), so I used to watch him."
So, this soft-spoken guy won a golf tournament today, which was a major deal for him, I'm sure. But it's what happened afterwards that I wanted to tell you about. He walked off the 18th green and, as usual, his family greeted him with big hugs and kisses. In this case, his family seemed to consist of two little girls. One of them, Kristen (7), ran and jumped up in his arms. The other, Brooke (6), was being carried by some friend of his who carried her to her dad and put her in his arms.
So he's got Kristen in his left arm and Brooke in his right. You can hear Brooke say, "Did you win, daddy?" He says, "Yes, honey; I won." She says, "Did you win all by yourself?" He says, "Yes, I won all by myself." And then he leans over and kisses Kristen. At this point you notice that Brooke is wearing very thick glasses. He turns to kiss Brooke and her sister reaches out and uses her little hand to push Brooke's cheek toward her dad's face. Then Brooke's hands both reach up and she begins to feel her dad's face to see where his mouth is. That's when it hits me just as it must have hit everyone watching: She's blind.
I know there's handicapped people all over the world that would break your heart and there's no sense in getting all sentimental over a rich golfer's little girl. But if you could have seen this and had it all fall together like it did, on live TV with no script, I bet you would have gotten misty as well. For once, Ken Venturi was speechless.