Anand Datla

Sport and Strife Share a Common DNA

As the #FrontlineHeroes stand between humanity and a soulless virus, Golf offers to showcase its best to raise funds and spirits in the Driving Relief skins challenge

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16 May 2020: Grit. Determination. Love. Repeat. Often, life and sport intersect far more than we tend to realise. At a time when families are grieving and countless others are aching to breathe, sport can seem trivial. Perhaps, it is. But then, the same grit, determination and love which combine to create excellence in sport, work together to produce the heroes we barely celebrate. And it will do us no harm to dissolve in the magical mist at this intersection of life and sport.

As Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Matthew Wolff and Rickie Fowler chirp and charge for a hungry round of golf at the Seminole Golf Club in Florida, their acts on Sunday could be a reminder that sport has the ability to nurse our wounds. The first two are putting their skin in the game for American Nurses Foundation while Wolff and Fowler will raise money for the CDC Foundation.

The millions of people enduring the breathless trauma of COVID-19 have a chance at it, because countless medical warriors are leaving behind their personal safety and families to alleviate suffering. Sport does something similar too. It offers hope to the ordinary. It expands the idea of possibilities for many, despite the chisel of life chipping away at their faith. Sport lacks the urgency of medicine. But it shares its character, in being able to heal body and soul.

On Sunday the golf itself is pointless. It is an exhibition, no more, no less. Each player plays his own ball and the best score counts. Only the best occupy our minds, don’t they? On Sunday though, the golf is meant to remind us that it takes many extraordinary men, women and them working tirelessly to prevent the virus from devouring life. The golf, at least some of it, will be a latent tribute to the perseverance of four men and their tryst with excellence. But through their expression, we seek to discover the resources needed to respect the sacrifices of the many heroes seeking to preserve life.

“It’s been difficult to witness what so many are enduring over the last several weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” McIlroy said. “I hope that we can provide some respite and entertainment for those tuning in across the globe.

“I jumped at the chance to do this. With everything that’s happened over the past few months, to be able to get together with some of the best golfers in the world to raise awareness and money for the frontline workers, people who are fighting this virus every single day. I’m very honored that I can be a small part of it.”

The four golfers, accomplished professionals, will carry their own bags and cover the divots they make. On an evening meant to celebrate valour, they will also take some time to relish their obsession with punching a small ball with their metal sticks. Carrying their own clubs will make the walk poignant for these young men. No caddies. It is a time for each of us to pull our own weight on and off the course. The skins challenge will be a good reminder of the responsibilities that rest on our shoulders at this time.

 Because none of it is a patch on the courage needed to prevail over an invisible enemy, in the grim lit corridors of sanatoriums seeking to save lives. Especially when there are just not enough personal protective equipment or testing kits. Heck, there are not even enough beds to rest the stricken patients. Yet, in these moments of despair, sport is being offered a chance at purpose. An otherwise trivial pursuit is suddenly finding a scent of life itself. And it must grasp at it with every limb available. If expressions of excellence in sport could energise the soldiers of life, suddenly we realise that sport and life can indeed be joined at the hip. If sport can offer fuel to life itself, it perhaps is not as trivial as it may seem.

Golf will not lift the gloom that shall follow dusk on Sunday. But it will lift our spirits and renew our energies to produce some more of the grit and determination needed in this battle to preserve life and love.