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Grip and Rip’ your way through Notre Dame

Bobby Griffin | Saturday, August 19, 2006

In light of this weekend’s PGA championship in Medinah, Ill., it seems an appropriate time to tell one of my favorite stories about a past tournament champion.

John Daly was a young, 22-year old kid from Arkansas who traveled to the 1991 PGA Championship as the ninth alternate. He received word that he would be playing in the tournament at 2 a.m. the morning of the opening round, only after eight golfers had bailed.

Daly fired opening rounds of 69-67 and went into Saturday on top of the leader board amidst little pressure from the media and Friday afternoon crowd. After a 69 on Saturday, The Lion headed into Sunday as a fan favorite, poised for a storybook ending.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

If you don’t know that John Daly is a long hitter, well then in the words of The Dude, “You must not be a golfer.” For most of the weekend, Daly, who led the PGA Tour in driving distance from 1991-2002, got by with hitting driver and lob wedge into the green (an impressive feat considering most people can’t hit a lob more than 50 yards).

But on the back nine Sunday, Daly was looking at a difficult par four where hitting a driver might have put him in a tough location. Sensing Daly’s hesitation, his caddy looked him the eye and said, “Rip it, John,” handing him his favorite club.

For those of you still reading, you must be wondering what this has to do being incoming freshmen at Notre Dame. It’s probably a bit of a stretch, but bear with me.

In the back of Daly’s mind there was a voice telling him to make a quick adjustment that might be the safer approach. He could have hit a 3-wood and had a better look at the hole. Nobody would have shaken their head at his decision and plenty would have credited his maturity.

But instead, Daly went with his gut. He relied on the club that had put him in the position to win golf’s fourth major of the season – when he should not have been there in the first place. For roughly 65 holes he had gripped and ripped his way to the top of the leader board and instead of playing it conservatively, he went with what got him there.

My only advice to you as freshmen is to take a similar approach.

Over the next four years, you will all invariably face challenges that will force you to examine the best course of action. As you experience change and development, you will begin to make decisions in a more calculated manner with respect to how you’ve handled situations in the past.

It’s normal, really. A huge aspect of maturity is the way we handle life’s little challenges. How you react to a problem as an 18-year-old might be very different than how you will see it in three years.

But that doesn’t mean you have to change what you are. Your strengths are your strengths, and don’t be afraid to rely on them.

For instance, have you crammed for tests your entire life and gotten by fairly well? Don’t fool yourself. That’s not changing in college.

But instead of looking at the people who are spending hours in the library every night, understand that it is simply not you. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t at least try to finish assignments in a timely manner, but don’t be intimidated by students with a different work ethic.

This works on the flip side, too. If you know that in order to do well in class, it’s imperative that you work hard on a daily basis, don’t be influenced by your friends who can blow things off and worry about it later. They are no better than you; they just operate differently.

Instead of winning tournaments by crushing drivers, they have mastered chipping and putting. Know your limitations and play to your strengths.

Look, I’m not advocating blowing off your responsibilities. That will put you on thin ice at Notre Dame faster than you can say Zbikowski. But you all have succeeded thus far in your lives operating in many different ways. Don’t let the patterns of others affect what has gotten you to where you are.

Instead of seeing aspects of your individuality as impediments to your success, view them as part of your overall package. If you have never been able to sit down and analyze numbers, you probably won’t be much of a mathematician.

But you might be the best damn salesman in the office.

So whatever you do, don’t view college as a huge obstacle that you will have to somehow conquer despite your limitations. Look at everything that got you to where you are as the backbone of who you are, for better or worse. Nobody is perfect and everyone would like to do things a little different.

But despite your differences, you all have one thing in common. You were all admitted into Notre Dame, and probably a number of other top 20 universities. You all have shown somebody along the way that you are special people with distinct qualities.

Some of you are athletes and others are artists. Some of you can do advanced linear algebra and others think a matrix is a Keanu Reeves movie. Some of you can quote 19th century literature and others only focus on the sports pages.

You are who you are, and it has impressed people along the way. Remember that.

By the way, Daly made par on the hole. Now it’s your turn. Just don’t be afraid to take out the driver when everyone else might be using a 3-wood.

Bobby Griffin is an assistant managing editor at The Observer. He is a senior American Studies major who is enjoying the possibility of seeing the Yankees win the World Series, Notre Dame win the national title and the Giants win the Super Bowl, all in succession. He enjoys Miller Light, Pot Limit Omaha and New York strips. He expects John Daly to make the cut at this year’s PGA Championship.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.