So, when I tell you how wonderful and endearing the Masters Par 3 Contest is -- where pros can bring their children on the course to caddy, or bring anyone for that matter (Rory McIlroy had One Direction singer, Niall Horan, as his caddy) -- I really meant it. Really.
Not only is it adorable on its own level, but as I posted on Wednesday there was the magical moment when 75-year-old legend Jack Nicklaus got a hole-in-one. What I also didn't mention is that I can top all that.
Periodically I write about pro athletes who, in a world of mega-money, boorishness, and police blotters, you can add to your list of favorites, even if you don't like following sports. Take you pen out and add Kevin Streelman to that list.
First, though, we have to go back, because the story is really more about Ethan Couch. He's a 13-year-old boy from Alberta, Canada who was having difficulty with his balance, having a hard time tying his shoes and even putting on his pants. He went into surgery where it was discovered to have an inoperable brain tumor. Though it was benign, it would have to be monitored and managed by doctors. When he woke after the surgery, a nurse came into his room to say that the Make-A-Wish Foundation was going to give him a wish. After getting home, he told his parents that he didn't have to think about what it would be. An avid golfer, he wanted to go to the Masters.
That brings us to about 10 months ago. The family was told that they would be getting a call from Kevin Streelman, so they were all prepared (so they thought...) and had their tape recorder ready.
Kevin Streelman, I should note, is a very good, up-and-coming golfer who's won several tournaments over the past few years, including the Travelers Championship last season.
When the phone rang in the Couch home, Streelman introduced himself to Ethan who said he knew well who Streelman was. What he didn't know was what Streelman was calling for. Just to be nice, perhaps, or maybe invite him as a guest to the Masters. Maybe just to wish him Happy Birthday, since that was two days before. No idea.
But no, it was a lot better than that. Streelman was going to be playing in the Par 3 Contest and was able to have whoever he wanted to be his caddy. He wanted Ethan Couch to be his caddy. At the Masters Par 3 Contest.
Streelman and his wife had had a baby a few months before, and there were some complications where the daughter needed to be in the NICU before being allowed to come home. "That changed a lot of the ways I see children," he told ESPN. "I have an entirely new appreciation for what parents with children having tough times are going through." And so one of the things he did was contact Make-A-Wish and say he wanted to be involved.
He had no idea what Ethan Couch's situation was when he called, only that the young boy was a huge golf fan and had made his wish. When he told Ethan why he was calling and what he was inviting him to do, the boy was made speechless. "I just wanted to go to the Masters," Ethan later explained to ESPN. "I didn't expect this."
But that's not the end of the story. Not by a long shot. Would I leave you with just that? Though "that" is pretty good as far as stories though. But no, it's better. Much.
You see...Kevin Streelman played so well, that he tied with golfer Camilo Villegas and made a playoff. They played three extra holes -- the longest playoff ever in the Par 3 Contest. And then, on that third hole...Streelman won the playoff.
Yes, that's right. If this was Hollywood, you wouldn't believe the movie. Kevin Streelman won the Masters Par3 Contest. With 13-year-old Ethan Couch as his caddy. Who three years ago had so much trouble with his balance, he had difficulty putting on his pants and tying his shoes.
There's an odd, historic note to all this, as the Masters officially starts on Wednesday. No golfer who's won the Par 3 Contest has ever won the Masters Tournament proper. So...we'll see if history changes this year.
But you now have someone to root for, even if you don't follow golf. Or even if you do.
Here's a lovely interview from after the Par 3 Contest with Ehan Couch, his mother Jennifer, and ESPN's Mike Tirico.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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