Remember the show "Wide World of Sports," where the announcer dramatically spoke of "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat?" Rory McIlroy has experienced both ends of the emotional spectrum in the last two months on two of the biggest stages in golf: imploding to lose the Masters and then bouncing back for record-setting championship performance in the U.S. Open.
Watching the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland crumble during the final round of the Masters in April was heartbreaking, not only for him, but for anyone who has faced the pressure of sport. McIlroy squandered a four-shot final-round lead, posting a final round 80, and watching Charl Schwartzel slip into the coveted Green Jacket.
It had to be devastating for the promising young golfer, especially knowing the unfortunate notoriety Greg Norman endured for a similar collapse; that one failure still overshadows all of the accomplishments of Norman's great PGA career.
The McIlroy story teaches a valuable lesson, not only in sport, but in life.
Everyone fails. No one is perfect. The true measure of an individual is the way they respond to the challenges, and even the failures of life.
It's easy to say "shake it off", but it's hard to put mistakes in the past and start fresh.
After McIlroy lost the Masters, he didn't pout or throw a temper tantrum. He didn't plunge into a deep depression, and he didn't quit. He didn't do drugs, beat up his girlfriend, wreck his car or get arrested.
The young man whose black curls sticking out beneath his baseball hat make him look even younger than his mere 22 years showed a maturity and strength of someone twice his age. McIlroy regrouped, saying he would use the disappointing performance as a learning experience.
Before the U.S. Open, he made a humanitarian trip to Haiti with UNICEF, spending time with children who were impacted by December's earthquake. The experience must have put his sport into perspective. Rory observed people not much younger than himself struggling to rebuild their lives; could rebuilding confidence on the golf course really be that difficult?
McIlroy arrived at Congressional rested and ready. He posted one impressive round after another, clearly determined not to falter. The end result was one of the greatest performances in golf history.
Dave Checketts, sports businessman and the youngest general manager in NBA history said, "Success builds character, failure reveals it." The last two months of McIlroy's career illustrates the point.
McIlroy now has the U.S. Open trophy, a list golf records, pending endorsement deals, and the admiration of the golf world; but more than anything else, he clearly has the heart of a champion, revealed in his response to failure. McIlroy turned the agony of defeat into the thrill of victory.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.