Dave Paxton

I rarely watch golf on television. I don’t play the game and really don’t follow it that closely, except for Iowan Zach Johnson, the exploits of Tiger and I know some of the top names from perusing the newspaper sports pages.

But I had heard on the radio Saturday about the nine Ernie Els took in a mental meltdown that eliminated him from Masters competition and I knew that Zach Johnson had failed to make the cut like a lot of other top golfers, battling super windy conditions at Augusta.

So I came in from piddling around on my acreage Sunday afternoon, flipped on the TV and lit upon the final holes of the Masters. Surprisingly, I got interested in the drama of young Brit, Danny Willets, who wasn’t even sure he was playing until 10 days before the tournament because his first child was due to be born the week of the tournament, and defending champion, Jordan Spieth, a really charming 22-year-old who seems to be rebuilding the PGA post Tiger.

Willets came into the final day trailing Spieth by five strokes and shot really good golf, winding up five under par. Meanwhile Spieth experienced perhaps his first and greatest single hole meltdown, plopping two balls in the water and one in a bunker. His lead evaporated just like that.

But he pulled it together and made an incredible run at Willets, losing in the final couple of holes.

Willets won the green jacket on his wife’s birthday, he was jubilant and Spieth was reserved, but classy as a 22-year-old talking about the loss. He didn’t throw a single club or scream profanities at the balls that went in the water. Clearly, the PGA has some really good guys on the tour.

But I darned near had to shut the TV off listening to the CBS broadcasters, particularly the British commentator who described Spieth’s problems on the course in virtually the same way a war correspondent would describe a suicide bomb going off in a crowded market place in Mosul.

What I know about golf is mostly from listening to my 90-year-old father who picked up the game at 65 and played non-stop until his 89th birthday. The worst day of golf, he would testify, is better than the best day of work.

So, I’m watching the scenery at the Masters in Augusta, Ga., arguably one of the most beautiful manmade and God-created places on the planet, with thousands of adoring fans cheering Spieth despite his athletic foibles, set to win a million bucks even if he finishes second, or third or fourth, and the golf TV guys is talking in terms of personal tragedy. Devastation. Disaster.

You’d have thought an interview with Dr. Phil was next up.

I had to tune out the announcer to figure out what was actually significant about the last day of the Masters. First of all it was this guy Willets who became only the second English golfer to win the tournament, who was prepared to sacrifice his qualifying for the tournament to see the birth of his baby and who wore a white sweater (in honor of Great Brittain apparently) until the final hole when he took it off, why I’m not sure.

Secondly, if I’m coachng young golfers, I’m not going to show them the hole that Jordan Spieth completely screwed up, but the six following, where he pulled himself together, mentally and physically and nearly won the darned tournament. As a non-golfer and marginal golf fan at best, I was proud of the fact that the United States is producing guys like Spieth who become the best at their worst.

But he didn’t experience personal tragedy. He finished second in the world’s most difficult golf tournament. He wasn’t devastated. He was sad and maybe shed a tear counting his money.

I shouldn’t say much about exaggerating because I do it myself in this column, but it’s almost always with a wink and a nod. Our media driven world is making exaggeration the norm in describing various things.

Not unlike Donald Trump’s new campaign manager who said Ted Cruz was using “Gestapo” tactics in gathering up delegates.

Gestapo tactics? Really? The Gestapo was Adolph Hitler’s secret service which routinely murdered and tortured people to get information from them. Using the word “Hitler,” or “Nazi,” or “Gestapo,” in describing anything short of brutal dictatorships and people belonging to ISIS is really doing a disservice to the English language.

Monroe County’s Welcome Home Soldier veteran’s memorial is under attack by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a meddling quasi atheistic group of knuckledraggers bent on rewriting the U.S. Constitution, which says clearly “Congress shall make no law infringing on the right to practice religion.” It doesn’t say anything about protecting government from the church.

Jim Keller, is in the middle of the battle because he is the leader of the Welcome Home Soldier memorial. It was his experience returning from a combat tour in Vietnam that established in his heart the need to welcome home soldiers regardless of their victory or defeat in battle, or the relative support the nation has towards whatever war we happen to be fighting.

It was a brilliant vision and the people of Albia and Monroe County (except maybe one) have embraced it. In many ways it has transformed our culture and created a new identity.

There are two things I’m having trouble processing. The first is the idea that a county and city can tax to support cemeteries filled with privately purchased crosses (Stars of David and Crescents) and that’s legal and it can’t support financially a veteran’s memorial with privately purchased crosses.

The second is this. To a Christian, the cross is a symbol of Christ’s agonizing death and his resurrection. To be sure, it is a religious symbol of the hope of heaven when placed next to a grave. But it is not particularly a religious symbol when used to honor veterans.

The “Latin” crosses, 24 in all, purchased and placed by private citizens at the Welcome Home Soldier memorial are a direct copy of the crosses at Arlington Cemetery. If the morons in UA and the anonymous person who complained about the crosses, knew anything about the memorial, they would know it is designed to mirror Arlington and the Vietnam Wall. A replica of the Iwo Jima monument on the Washington, D.C. Mall is next up.

Those Latin crosses specifically mean this: “Here lies my brother in arms. Here is a man who gave his last breath to defend freedom.” Veterans who have never stepped foot in a church understand this. And the Welcome Home Soldier memorial is a veteran’s park, not a church.

On the other hand, despite it setting next to busy Highway 34, it is a place of tremendous solitude; a place where you can walk along the pathway, past the crosses, past the wall where veteran’s names are etched, past the 100 flags and to the back of the memorial and find yourself in a prayerful mood.

Sadly, to some in this country, reflection and prayer is a bad thing.

The good thing about this attack by AU is that people across Iowa are rallying around Keller’s vision of Welcome Home Soldier. The Albia city council and board of supervisors are up for a fight. I’m pretty sure right is going to win out on this one.


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