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Play for Redemption

My family was always into sports. Really into sports. This was always evident by simply viewing the garage, where bins and hooks and shelves upon shelves supported the various equipment needed to field an Olympic team.

It certainly didn’t hurt that my father was a physical education teacher. Just about every sport was represented, even skateboarding, which was a bit of an outlier. Among the balls and gloves and cones, etc., was a tiny red plastic skateboard that was only used when everything else became boring.

Watching skateboarders today, I’m relieved that the little red board was relegated to the dusty corner of the garage. I struggle with the idea of jumping, flipping and landing on a wheeled board in actions that tend to result in bodily punishment.

To an extent, the same can be said for the game of golf. Why would anyone want to put their mental health in the hands of an aging swing, a funky shaped ball and some crazy looking instruments?

The result is a game that is oh, so maddening. But equal parts addicting, though, too, which brings me to one of my favorite features of golf: redemption.

In golf, we are asked to successfully make a difficult maneuver in succession, in differing ways, for four-or-so hours. But there are no never-ending rabbit holes. There is light at the end of every dark tunnel.

Every bad shot is an opportunity for a poor reaction and tossed clubs, but is also an opportunity to be twice as great on the next shot. Any drive that rolls into the tree line brings the opportunity to make an amazing par. Chances are always out there with this game, and that was ever apparent at last week’s PGA Tour event.

Thirty-three-year-old Nick Watney led after one round. He also led after three rounds, which was a pleasant surprise to the golf world. Watney has a distinguished golf career with five Tour victories and the Nike swoosh draped across all his clothing. He even was a top 10 golfer in the world at one point in his career. But that was years ago. A lot of people play their best golf in their twenties, but for a golfer in his early thirties, that’s nothing to brag about.

So seeing Watney at the top of the leaderboard was a welcomed sight for many. It didn’t last, though. Camillo Villegas shot a final round 63 to claim the Wyndham Championship from out of nowhere. It brought on mixed feelings of redemption pride, because Villegas’ comeback story was likely even greater than Watney’s.

The 32-year-old Villegas hadn’t won on the Tour since 2010, with his dominance dated even earlier in his twenties. Known for his iconic Spiderman-like green reading tactics, Villegas regained his name as a world-class golfer, too, if only for a week.

It had been a long time since he was near winning on Tour and, rightfully so, fellow Tour pros took to social media to congratulate him on his constant pursuit back to the top of a leaderboard. It was the most extreme version of golfer redemption, but the idea isn’t far from what could happen in any friendly match anywhere. It’s definitely out there for the taking.

As for Watney, his redemption story will just have to wait. Luckily for him, golf will always offer it.