Nov 04

It’s Not Just Golf: It’s a Pilgrimage

It’s Not Just Golf: It’s a Pilgrimage

Pat Bradley was one of the toughest players ever to grace the LPGA. She didn’t give her own talent level that much credit, and instead compensated for what she saw as an eternal “underdog” status with a more than ferocious work ethic. This tactic was eminently successful. After thirty one wins, which included six majors despite a bout or two with Grave’s disease, she left the competitive portion of the game.  She was the third woman to win the LPGA “Grand Slam,” played in three Solheims, captained another, and still hosts the Pat Bradley Invitational for collegiate team golf.

The way Pat Bradley pursued success in her career, the course of her life surpassed the mere pursuit of a job. It was a pilgrimage, climbing a mountain of worldwide competition.  For her, if the mission was to be something of such stature, no way was she going to undertake it with a half-hearted effort. That being understood, it makes perfect sense that she would be drawn to climbing other mountains as well.

Bradley is no less central to the activities of her family, being part of a success-oriented clan. They tend to show up big-time for each other, and the game continues to exert its hold on the next generation. Nephew Keeghan has done so well, for example, that he was named to the Ryder Cup team this year, playing brilliantly as a rookie, and suffering the final day collapse with his colleagues. Played in the heartland of the U.S., Aunt Pat was sure to be there with the rest of the family – but she didn’t appear. In the world of golf and family, nothing would have taken precedence over this event. Front and center would have been the only place to be for the competitive Pat Bradley.

Something else came along, though, not exactly out of the blue, but central and inwardly commanding enough to a competitor in her early 60s that it had to be followed, another pilgrimage. For the first time in her adult life, Bradley had to step out of her profession and do something entirely different. Inspired by the 2010 film, “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen, she decided to trace the steps of St. James, at least that of his remains. That meant climbing the Pyrenees mountain range from the French side, descending from the same, (which she believes was, by far, the most difficult) and following the Apostle’s  James final journey (from Jerusalem) over five hundred miles of Spanish coastline – on foot.

Each pilgrim who undertakes such a walk is given what is referred to as a “passport to heaven,” which is stamped at each community along the way. The trek can be done in its entirety or in segments. Bradley committed to eleven days, a healthy start. Legend says that if you complete the entire distance, your passport is stamped right there at the pearly gates. Doing what she could to catch Ryder results before going, she felt confident that her family, especially her nephew, understood the calling she had felt.

Edwin Watts Golf

Bradley’s allotted eleven days, one can be sure, was just the beginning. The same ethic that drove her to greatness amid prodigious competition decades ago, will reappear when she takes on the next segment. Such qualities do not generally direct themselves into specific activities to the exclusion of others. Persistence was a part of her, not a device for playing golf.

I believe that one can be equally certain that it’s a family trait as well. Keeghan ‘s not giving a half-effort either, and his pilgrimage looks promising.




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