Service of Loyalty and Respect: The 2015 American Team at the Presidents Cup

September 10th, 2015

Categories: Golf, Good Sportsmanship, Sports, Sportsmanship

My husband, Homer Byington, a golf fan, sent this to me. One reason he follows golf is because of its history of good sportsmanship. He says it’s the only sport in which a player is honor bound to report his/her mistake.

What happened on Tuesday struck a welcome note in today’s “Win at all costs/you’re a total loser if you don’t” climate and approach that applies to more than sports these days—i.e. to politics, the arts, and business as well.

If you don’t follow golf, this year is the Presidents Cup, a challenge between American and international golf teams in Incheon, South Korea. Next year will be the Ryder Cup, a competition between the American and European teams.

Homer wrote:

I am flabbergasted. In this crass, selfish world of money grubbing athletes, the richest golf pros have put sentiment ahead of self-interest.

Every other year a team of 12 American pro golfers either plays a team of 12 European golfers or 12 international golfers. Competition is fierce to make the team, because of the prestige that comes from being a part of it.

The 12 player teams are chosen 10 statistically from the players with the best records and two by each team’s captain, an appointed older, non-playing golfer.

For 20 consecutive years, Phil Mickelson, 45, played well enough to make the American team statistically, a record few, if any, can match. This year he has played terribly, and his ranking has fallen all the way to 30th so he did not make the team statistically. Furthermore, there are at least 10 other Americans that also did not make the team, who have been playing better than he has, and theoretically, if chosen by the captain, would give the American team a better chance of winning.

This [Tuesday] afternoon, Captain Jay Haas of the American Team picked Phil as his first “Captain’s Pick,” as he said, “The guys on the team were adamant that Phil was the guy.”

Phil will probably play badly and the Americans may well lose the cup because of their choice, but what a way to lose it!

And I had thought Americans, particularly young ones, only cared about money and winning.

This decision has its roots in good sportsmanship, and represents recognition of an admired colleague’s contributions to a game.  There’s also encouragement—”we know you can do it”–in their choice. They have confidence Michelson still has it in him. 

Can you think of other examples either in sports, politics, the arts or business where young winners acknowledge the value of an older, recently less successful competitor who once led the pack? Do you think the team was nuts to add Mickelson?


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6 Responses to “Service of Loyalty and Respect: The 2015 American Team at the Presidents Cup”

  1. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: A nice story….

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    When I read Homer’s email that inspired the post I thought of Joe Biden.

  3. JBS Said:

    OK, I realize that I am a moderate Republican, but what the heck does Joe Biden have to do with the golf team picking Phil Mickelson???

    Homer is right, golf is one sport where good sportsmanship is as important, if not more important, than winning. Phil is a truly classy, very friendly guy, a really family guy, and one of the golfers I’ve admired from afar for years. At one point, he and Tiger were locked in competition and I always pulled for Phil. And this was before Tiger imploded.

    More recently, the player that won the first two major championships, Jordan Spieth, lost the third one, finishing second. He waited until the winner finished and then hugged and congratulated him at the final hole. I thought that was really classy.

  4. Frank Paine Said:

    What a great story! Love it! Frank Paine

    P.S. I didn’t know Homer was a golf fan. Does he play? FP

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    This is why I thought of Joe Biden: He’s been around for a long time at the top of a party, and as the walls around Hillary begin to disintegrate, members of his party nevertheless thought of him as a possible presidential candidate. Only superficially parallel to the Mickelson situation perhaps, his supporters had his political skills in mind and the years he’s devoted to politics over his advanced age for the game he’s in.

    I can see why you preferred Phil to Tiger who was neither friendly, nor a family guy nor in any way an elegant winner or loser. Young players such as Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have returned the game to its original spirit. It fills Homer–and no doubt millions of golf fans–with joy.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Homer first played golf with his father as a child. He’s always been a fan!

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