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A lot of ink has been spilt and bandwidth absorbed chronicling the recent on-course tribulations of David Duval. Sure he has certainly carded some cringe-inducing scores and shouldered some searing, withering criticism. Sure he is a long way from the form that made him immortal back in the summer of 2001. Several folks have joked about him “getting shots” when he plays and queried “Could you beat David Duval?” Some have even uttered the word – retire. Think about this for a second. Amateurs – people who do not PLAY golf for a living and possibly play it particularly poorly, and are nevertheless only vicariously involved with the man on any level (if at all) are suggesting to a seasoned professional and former World Champion “Give up.” “Quit.” “You can’t do it any more.” “You’re washed up.”

As a long time fan of David – someone who watched with joy as he finally conquered golf’s Mount Everest and who followed his career for several years before that – I also find I have to throw out my unsolicited, amateur’s opinion. I may not know much about shooting scratch golf, but I know something about carrying on in the face of insurmountable odds and continuing to fight when everybody else says your quest cannot be achieved and you should give up.

By God, I sure do know something about that.

So after deep and careful consideration, David, please take a moment, gentleman to gentleman, golfer to golfer, human being to human being, to take the brief advice I will presume to offer.

DON’T YOU DARE GIVE UP. Not for one second. I have seen the things you have accomplished…and I believe that the unquenchable spirit and ceaseless dedication you possess will overcome this too.

Did you give up when sportswriters and radio show hosts joked about you being over weight? Not for one second. You hit the gym, changed your diet and became a paragon of fitness. Did you give up when you got unfairly blighted with the worst tag in all sports, “best player to never win a major?” I’ll pause for a moment while you pour yourself another glass of claret from that silver jug with your name on it that graces your mantle. (Oh, and Nicklaus’ name…and Hogan’s…and Palmer’s…and Woods’…and Bobby Jones’…)

Did you ever act like a prima donna in public or have any public meltdown or moment of shame? By my count, there has never been a snap, snipe, or sour note from the smiling southerner even now as the microscope probes far too close. Plus, you handled the “World Champion of Golf” title that goes with winning the British Open with respect and dignity. You knew that winning the British Open was not the end, but a whole new beginning; one that carried a heavy burden of responsibility and reverence – a burden you bore with grace.

Who would you rather cheer for, sports fans? Guys like Freddie Mitchell? Alex Rodriguez? Randy Moss? Ron Artest? Jason Giambi? Ray Lewis? Rae Carruth? Barry Bonds? Stop me anytime if you find someone with as much integrity and grit as David Duval. Let’s face it. When it comes to being an ambassador of the game, Duval shares the rarified air of superlative gentlemanliness with such stalwart company as Mickelson, Els and Crenshaw.

Let me briefly remind everyone else about some other seemingly impossible things. It was absolutely impossible back in 1776 for a ragtag, divided, motley bunch of colonists to fight it out with England, a country that had not lost a war in CENTURIES and had superior arms, mercenaries, resources, naval power, manpower and money. No chance. A sure rout. Game over. Tea and crumpets all around. Oops. It seems we underestimated some little motley bunch of colonists’ resolve and resourcefulness.

Recently, when a midwestern American gentleman was trapped by a fire in his house, it was impossible that the family dog could somehow go to the telephone, dial 911 (DIAL 911!) and bark incessantly to summon help in time to save his master. That could never happen. No way. Well, woof woof…look what Rover just did. His master is alive and well, if incredibly lucky.

Courage is the ability to be strong and brave and resolute in the face of adversity. But valor is the ability to be courageous, brave and resolute in the face of insurmountable odds and certain failure. David, if you think winning the British was the high point thus far, just think how much more legendary, indeed epic it would be for you to win again on tour. You have already shown your valor, fighting on in the face of insurmountable odds and continuing to chase the dream no matter how many people tell you “don’t,” “no,” “can’t,” “won’t,” and “stop.” Boy, there is nothing more satisfying than proving them wrong.

More than that, what an example you are setting now that people are missing. Your valor and grace are the gold standard that not only athletes, but citizens (in the true sense of the word) should strive to attain. And people criticize that effort? This is the country that takes “don’t,” and turns it to “been there, done that, what’s next?” This country’s greatness (yes, I am proud of what we accomplish and believe we are great) was built on taking “can’t” and saying “Oh, yeah? Guess again.” Instead of the knee-jerk, instant gratification, “write it first so they can read it here first” reactions, some of us recognize this is a marathon not a sprint and that the race goes not to the swift, but the dedicated, the unsinkable and the fearless. We all should be inspired to work as hard. We all should dare to dream as big to achieve such heights. We all should face our adversity with such grace and resolve. Our society would be so much better for the effort.

I believe in you, David. Just like I believe in anyone who shows the great American virtues of rock-hard resolve and tireless effort. I’ll take a guy who dives into the stands for loose balls, who runs the court full speed whether winning by 20 or losing by 20, and who is the first in the gym and the last to leave even when he knows he won’t play in the game that night anytime. He’ll lap lazy, talented guys in the long run and in the clutch. Don’t you dare quit, David. You will get by, you will survive. So let them say what they want. None of it matters to me. They will have to pry my belief in you from my cold, dead hand.

Jay Flemma

Purely by coincidence, my friend and collegue, sportswriter Steve Czaban also wrote a great piece on this very issue. You can find it here:


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