It is never too late. Just ask Phil Mickelson, who just a few weeks shy of his 51st birthday became the oldest golfer to win a major tournament in professional golf this past week. I knew something was up when I walked in Sunday afternoon and my wife, Mary Lou, was glued to the final round of the PGA Championship on television.
There are certain boundaries you pass as you get older. It is different ages for different people. Some think that life is all downhill after thirty. Then we find we must get eyeglasses at forty. The fifties crowd discovers their mid-section spreading. The sixties bring a new group of aches and pains. As for the seventies, I am less than four years away so I will have to let you know.
That is why people all over the golfing universe were watching Phil. You want to believe you can still do it, and Phil did. After some heartbreaking losses and near misses in his career he earned this win fair and square. It was no fluke. The old man did it and any golfer who can no longer hit the long drives like they once did felt part of the victory.
Phil Mickelson is not the only athlete to accomplish great things later in their career. George Blanda had been playing professional football for six years when I was born. His last game came just after I had graduated college.
Nat Hickey played one game in the NBA in the 1947-48 season. He was two days short of his 46th birthday.
Leroy “Satchel” Paige, a boyhood hero of mine, played his last major league baseball game just shy of his 60th birthday. I was in the fifth grade and loved everything baseball. Paige started his career in 1926, four years before my father was born. He played in the Negro League, before becoming the oldest rookie in major league baseball at the age of 42.
Bill Shoemaker was the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby at the age of 54. However, Jon Court set the record as the oldest jockey to ride at the Derby just a couple of years ago. He was 58 years old.
The oldest Olympic medal winner was Oscar Swahn, a shooter from Sweden. He won the silver medal in the “running deer double-shot shooting event”. I am not exactly sure what that event is, but he took that medal at the ripe old age of 72. Swahn was 60 years old when he won his first gold medal.
I am long past winning any athletic contest, even at a lower level than those mentioned above. But we can still have goals, some might even call them bucket list items, that we want to achieve as we get older.
Without giving it much thought, I want to visit Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, and the Pyramids. I would like to visit all seven continents before I turn 70. I would like to visit all 50 states again. This time with my wife.
Despite having written over 500 newspaper columns, I would like to write a book. I would like to travel somewhere special with all my grandchildren, which is more difficult these days than it was when I travelled with my own grandparents.
You see, the magic of Phil Mickelson’s victory is not just that he is the oldest winner of a major golf tournament. Rather, it is a signal sent to all of us that we still have dreams that we can obtain. We have things to achieve, sometimes only known to us. It is not as important that we achieve all that we dream for as it is that we dream in the first place.
What is your dream, no matter how grand or how small? Do you have it in you to give it a shot? It is never too late to try.
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]