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Tom Watson and the Value of Experience    
Tuesday, July 21 2009 @ 12:27 PM GMT+4
Contributed by: Anonymous

OpinionThe play of 59 year old American golfer, Tom Watson at this past weekend's British Open golf Tournament has garnered plenty of comment and praise.

Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post wrote a lovely piece about the man and his effort that almost made me cry:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/19/AR2009071901699.html

I'm writing not about the uplifting part of the effort, but to pose a more philosophical question: what part did experience play in the 59 year old's performance?

The question comes to me because way back when I was a teen my father would play the "experience" card on me in certain arguments.

Why did he think such and such a thing?

"Experience".

Why did he want me to do this or that in a way that made no sense to me?

"Experience".

In my mind, the word by itself was insufficient.

If one had in fact learned something from experience, one ought to be able to express that something in more descriptive words, and not rely on that single rather mysterious one, "experience".
As always, I got nowhere with my father, but have remained sensitive about that word to this day.

Now as a 56 year old myself - an age where I can claim some experience which I do value, and as a father myself - I remain skeptical and cautious about experience's value. In raising a daughter, if there is something specific that I learned and can put into words that might help, I do. However, so much of what we learn growing up is in the public domain already - what you learn in school, the various preachings about morals and ethics, plain old advice about how to get along with yourself and others - how much is there that a person can claim for themselves alone?

With regard to Watson: what can experience have taught him that made his performance possible? Talent, health, a competitive nature and an affinity for golf in the British Isles (Watson has won 8 major tournaments in his career. He's won the (British) Open 5 times) are the reasons for his near victory at 59.

Experience? If it played any role, it was to teach him what he could expect from himself on any given day at any given moment. At his age that is a rapidly changing landscape - the things you knew about yourself: your body, mind and motivations changes. Adjusting to those changes doesn't require experience as much as adaptability - a willingness to roll with the punches.

Experience? Hopefully at the end of the day it leaves you with some stories to tell and for Watson, he's got a doozy.

-paulgardner

 

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