When we think of golfers, the name Tiger Woods is likely to come to mind for most people. Many would argue he is the Greatest Of All Time (affectionately referred to as GOAT), though others would surely put forward Jack Nicklaus or Bobby Jones as suitable candidates (as if anyone ever needs to know who the greatest golfer of all time is — there is no prize for such a title). Right now, when we think of golfers who have truly made a mark, we may also think of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson. Few will put forward the name of Maurice Flitcroft yet he has been referred to as “Golfer Extraordinary”, and he was indeed an extraordinary golfer, but not for the reasons we may think.
By Tim Middleton
Maurice Flitcroft’s love of golf began in 1974 when he watched the World Match Play Championship on television at the age of 45 and within two years he decided to enter the qualifying round of the British Open, one of golf’s four major tournaments, even though he had never played a whole round of golf by then. His score for the round was 121, 49 over par! The organisers felt he had embarrassed them by applying so he was banned from playing ever again, which only made him more determined to enter again and again, using numerous different and imaginative pseudonyms on four different occasions, but with no better results.
He was extraordinary not so much for being so bad, but perhaps more for persisting in his efforts. He was an extraordinary golfer!
Recently Jos Buttler, who had just performed heroics for the English cricket team, was described in one newspaper as someone who had “the courage and ability not to become ordinary”. a description previously given to another cricketer, the Australian Kim Hughes. We have seen previously how a genius is someone who does something exceptionally; here we consider how our children can be extraordinary, can become “not ordinary”. Buttler does not always play textbook shots, but is prepared to try risky, unexpected shots, to attack when others would be likely to defend.
Ability is certainly an obvious requirement to be “not ordinary”, but we should not define in what area such ability must lie. Maurice Flitcroft had an amazing ability to make something out of nothing, to do something that many people would have loved to have done, but never did.
He took up a difficult sport at an advanced age and he decided to enter one of golf’s oldest and toughest competitions. He did not have a particular ability in hitting the golf ball, but he had the ability to try something (and go on trying) that others would not.
However, ability on its own is not enough to be more than ordinary. Courage is also required. Many people have much ability, but do not wish to use it; they do not want to stand out (as they may be shot down by others) or they are scared of failing. However, courage on its own is not enough either. We may think it is courageous to run across a busy road without looking to see if a car is coming, we may think it is courageous to gamble our earnings on the lottery, to overtake 10 cars on a blind rise, but such behaviour will not help — we need ability. We need to be courageous with the right things, with those things that we can influence.
The American poet Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” That is a sad indictment of society and individuals. It is a desperate attempt to even be ordinary. Frank Keating, the English teacher who loved to quote Thoreau in the film Dead Poets Society, urged his students to “make your lives extraordinary”. Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, famously wrote: “Good is the enemy of great.”
The ordinary is the enemy of the extraordinary. Srinivas Rao has explained this concept further: “If you want to live an exceptional and extraordinary life, you have to give up many of the things that are part of a normal one.” Anthony Robbins has put it this way: The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is a little bit of “extra” — ability and courage.
We do not have to win tournaments or even be a well-known person to be extraordinary. We just need the courage and ability to go beyond the ordinary, the average, the everyday, in whatever area we may be involved. We need to encourage our youngsters to do that, we encourage them by putting courage in them. The obvious way to live an extraordinary life is to be extraordinary, in how we use our time, treat our peers or fill our minds. There is nothing extraordinary about that!
lTim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.