Ernie Els won the British Open golf championship and, true to form, the hearts of the golfing world as well. He demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt what it means to be a great champion and a graceful winner.
Adam Scott was suffering through a monumental collapse after having enjoyed a commanding lead in the fourth round. Starting on the fifteenth hole, Adam proceeded to bogey the last four holes. When he just missed his eight-foot putt for par on the eighteenth hole, he fell one stroke behind, and the Claret Jug and the British Open championship were Ernie’s.
Meanwhile, Ernie was on the practice putting green preparing himself for a possible four-hole sudden death play-off with Adam Scott. When he heard the news of his victory, he didn't jump for joy or pump his fist in the air. No whooping or hollering. Instead he hugged his caddie. Gently. No big grin or laughter. Just relief and disbelief.
That disbelief was more for what had happened to Adam in those last four holes than it was for the realization he had won. In his on-air interview, and again at the award ceremony on the eighteenth hole, Ernie focused on Adam and how Adam would feel and deal with the disappointment that is sure to accompany such a complete collapse. The first words out of Ernie’s mouth weren't how excited he was to have won. Instead, the first words out of his mouth were: "I feel for him. I'm numb. Later on it will set in that I won this tournament. But right now I really feel for my buddy. He's such a great guy. He's so close to being such a great superstar. I know that's not the way he wanted to lose a tournament. I feel very fortunate. But I feel very bad for Adam today."
Later, Ernie would celebrate and let the joy of the victory engulf him, but in that first moment, he demonstrated a beautiful compassion, understanding, consideration and respect for his good friend. And in that moment he demonstrated what a true champion he is.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."