Last week Bill Haas, a 29-year-old professional golfer, won The FedEx Cup in Atlanta. The system used is to award points to tour professionals based on how they finish in each PGA tournament, and the winner of the cup is the golfer who accumulates the most points. Haas won the cup by winning the Tour Championship, the last tournament that counts towards picking the winner. To do so he had to beat another golfer in a playoff.
By winning the tournament and the Fed Ex Cup, Haas collected over $11 million! Imagine the pressure he endured on the final day. As a golf fan, I found Bill Haas’ performance extraordinary and exciting to watch. But a second story taking place held my attention as well: watching Bill’s father as he followed his son.
Bill Haas’ dad is Jay Haas, who has had a long, successful career as a professional golfer. He’s now a star on the PGA’s senior tour. The elder Haas has always comported himself as a gentleman on and off the course and I expect that his son does as well. However, though I have not checked out the following observation, I would be surprised if Jay’s total winnings over his long and successful career equal what his son Bill won last week alone.
With all that at stake, could any parent not empathize with the emotions that Jay must have felt for Bill that day? But consider the additional overlay of the father’s also having lived in the crucible of competition and knowing in mind, heart, and gut every nuance of what Bill was undergoing swing by swing, putt by putt. It was as if he and his son were “Corsican Twins,” experiencing similar emotions on a real-time basis.
But watching that greatly heightened situation of a father’s empathetic bonding with his son’s pressure in one mighty competition reminded me of something else. That most parents are empathetically bonded to each of his or her children—not for one Saturday or Sunday afternoon when TV cameras are focused on that child’s passing smile, grimace, or frown, but daily—momentarily. And that drama, one in which each parent participates, is a crucible of even greater moment in the life of the world.
How often do we pray that as little travail as possible may visit the young lives of those we love, even though we know darkly that pain, sorrow, and all manner of disappointment are from birth sewn into the fabric of every human life? But our prayers for divine intersession are never more focused than when the welfare of our children is involved.
Perhaps that is why on any given day we are as happy as our unhappiest child.