Dermot Gilleece: Jordan Spieth is a man to admire both on and off the course
It’s a fairly standard process: youngsters watch their favourite professional golfer and pick up some tips on technique in the hope of becoming better players. If they’re perceptive enough, however, the thousands of young fans at Whistling Straits this weekend could learn far more valuable lessons by watching the off-course behaviour of Jordan Spieth.
Though he’s unquestionably a huge, golfing talent, the 22-year-old Texan has also been giving wonderful lessons in life. Like in the way he hugged his autistic sister, Ellie, before, during and after a third-round 65 in the PGA Championship yesterday. And the way he was equally attentive towards her today.
His behaviour hasn’t gone unnoticed among other professionals. Especially impressed was the French Ryder Cup player, Thomas Levet, who is here as an expert commentator for Canal Plus.
“I’ve seen what Jordan is doing and he is a wonderful role model for the fans,” he said. “He reminds people, players and spectators, that there are far more important things in life than this game we play.”
Levet went on to talk about the considerable set-back he suffered in 2011 when, after winning the French Open, he accidentally broke a leg when colleagues threw him into a nearby lake. “Before that happened, I was ready to go to the British Open the PGA,” he said. “But instead of moving up the rankings, I went in the other direction.”
He went on: “When I was out of the game recovering from the break, people would come and say how terrible it was for me. But in truth, it wasn’t.”
He went on to describe the huge emotional impact made on him by a visit to the Normandy Beaches, especially Omaha Beach where so many allied soldiers were killed.
“I realised that it was guys my age, English, American and Canadians, who were killed in their thousands by German snipers firing down on them from the cliffs above. They had come to free France and now they were dead.
“Think about that for a little while and it gives you a different perspective on coming to a nice, green office every day and being paid to push a little white ball into a hole. You think about a lot of people in this world who are not so fortunate.”
Since I arrived at Whistling Straits early last week, much of the talk has been about Spieth and the remarkable young man he is. And it has been noted that anytime he is asked a question about his golf, he replies “We” rather than “I”, to emphasise the fact that he is effectively functioning with a crucial support team.
And you sense that an unpaid member of that team is his special-needs sister, who, in her own loving way, has done more to shape his amazing success this year, than any number of gifted specialists.
It may also explain why we have yet to hear him complain about an unfair bounce of the ball in his chosen pursuit.