Growing up I played a lot of golf with three lifelong friends. In 1980, the hottest summer on record before this one, we’d tee off at first daylight – 6 a.m. – to beat the heat. Those were great times and I have lasting memories of our outings on the links. Sadly, in October 1982, one of our foursome died in a car accident.
The following summer, the three of us left behind decided to start a golf tournament to honor our friend. The first outing had 12 players. Over the next decade it steadily grew, and we typically had 88 participants. During years 13-23, another good friend took the reins and did a great job. Through it all, we raised more than $100,000 for a scholarship fund at our high school in Fort Worth. After the 2005, tournament, everyone knew the time had come to end it.
Then one year ago this week, another friend reached out and asked if we would allow him to restart it. “That was such a wonderful chance for everyone to get together every year,” he said. “I’d be willing to do all the work, if you guys will tell me what needs to happen.” Of course, we said yes, and on Sunday 40 of our long-time players will tee it up in the 24th Paul Knippel Memorial.
I turned 23 the week of that first tournament. Everyone who played was within a few years of my age. Now we’re on either side of 50. This time, my 17-year-old son is playing with me, along with my 21-year-old nephew and my brother. By grace, those of us in the Class of ’78 have lived a lot of life Paul never had the opportunity to experience. Somewhere, he’ll be smiling as we gather again. Life passes quickly. Make sure you reconnect with those who matter.
Kentucky: 14th trip to the Final Four and seven national championships. Connecticut: fourth trip in a dozen years with two national championships. Butler: second consecutive trip. VCU: are you kidding me?
Quick… name a former VCU player who made it to the NBA? (There have only been seven; the one you may have heard of is Gerald Henderson who played 13 seasons. Kentucky is only slightly ahead with 77 NBA players.)
VCU was likely the last team to make the newly expanded 68-team NCAA field. On Selection Sunday, ESPN’s Jay Bilas said of the then 23-11 Rams: “You talk about the eye test, this doesn’t make it through the laugh test.”
All VCU did to reach its first-ever Final Four here in Houston was win a play-in game against USC, then beat Georgetown (5 Final Fours, two titles), Purdue (2 Final Fours), Florida State (1 Final Four) and Kansas (13 Final Fours, three titles). If by some chance they overcome Butler and take down the UK/UConn winner to claim the championship, it would be a bigger upset than an amateur winning next week’s Masters golf tournament. At 170-1 odds before the tournament began, VCU is a bigger long shot than Mr. Ed would have been against Northern Dancer in the 1964 Kentucky Derby.
The next time members of your team are feeling down because they aren’t winning more on the court of business success, remind them about the little schools that could from Indianapolis and Richmond. All your players may need is a reason to believe… even if they’re currently the last choice in some expert’s bracket.
Butler’s run to the Championship game of the NCAA Basketball tournament – a reel-life “Hoosiers” sequel – captured the nation’s hearts. Although Gordon Heyward’s last-second launch from half-court bounced out and the Duke Blue Devils escaped with the title, the Bulldogs proved little guys can compete with the big boys.
Yes, America still loves an underdog… and that’s good to know during these times of fledgling economic recovery. While bailouts and government programs seem to be helping Wall Street and other giants, Main Street and small entrepreneurs continue to struggle. That makes it tough to get up in the morning and keep a positive attitude… tough to continue believing a new day is around the corner.
In the locker room minutes before the opening tip last night, Butler’s youthful coach Brad Stevens, calmly said these words to his would-be giant killers: “It’s about being a great teammate and being accountable. If you do tough things, if you stay together, you’ll not only attract that what you want, you’ll attract that what you are.”
As an advocate of the Law of Attraction, I’m convinced great results arise from great attitude. Regardless of how difficult things appear right now, your positive vision of believing you will be the David that overcomes Goliath is essential.
Thank you, Butler and Duke, for a great game. Thank you for reminding us great things happen when you believe.