My wife Lisa was gratified to learn that Freddie Couples is now inducted into the World Hall of Fame of Golf. It's not that she is a rabid golf fan, she doesn't even like to play. Yet, a personal experience that she had years ago made her a personal fan of Freddie and added to her respect for the game of golf.
This experience says a lot about why he was inducted in spite of what many commentators label as a comparative lack of achievement.
She met Freddie Couples rather inadvertently when attending the Buick Open in Michigan in the 1980's. She and her former husband were there to watch a friend and local pro from the Tiffin, Ohio area play in the pre-tournament invitational.
On her way to the breakfast buffet, she became lost and attempting another route, she waited at an elevator. When it opened she stepped into the elevator car and was greeted there by a young man in his 20's.
She asked him if he knew where the buffet was and then volunteered that she was there to watch a friend play in the invitational and that he was a country club pro in the area where she lived. The young man knowingly nodded, smiled and directed her to the buffet without any other comment.
Later, as Lisa and her husband stood among the crowd by the practice green after his round she vividly recalls that "It was like the Red Sea parting as one of the pros began to move toward the putting green along with his caddy." As the crowd separated, she recognized the young man from the elevator.
He glanced in her direction and much to the stunned surprise of her husband and friends he stopped, recognizing her in the crowd and asked her with a genuine smile, "Did you enjoy your breakfast?"
She smiled and replied in the affirmative, thanking him for asking. Her amazed husband excitedly asked, "How do you know Fred Couples?" She asked in turn, "Who is Fred Couples?"
Learning that it was him that she met on the elevator, she was greatly impressed that he had not identified himself as a PGA tour pro golfer when it would have been in his self interest to do so.
Now, in 2012, we all know who Freddie Couples is. He has gained respect among players and fans alike with his golf skills as well as his people skills as he has worked the crowd and developed a loyal fan base.
We have heard those who question his recent induction into the World Hall of Fame for Golf based on his achievements. Yet, Lisa and many others like her who may have no interest in the game of golf other than friends or family who play, now have a higher respect for the game because of players like Freddie.
It is professionals like Freddie Couples who make a point to show respect to supporters of the game, not just those who support him, or even know who he is, that have done much to elevate the game of golf throughout the world.
Here's to a Great Player of a Great Game!