Flags: An Essay

At The Country Club, national flags snap in the wind above the big scoreboard, representing the many nationalities of the golfers in this year's Women's Amateur. (Steve Gibbons/USGA)
By Rhonda Glenn, USGA
August 11, 2012

Cleveland – On Tuesday night, the American flag at the hotel where many of the U.S. Women’s Amateur contestants are staying was lowered to half staff. The rope and pulleys squeaked a bit as the flag slowly came down the flagpole to mourn the victims of the mass shooting on Sunday at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis.

Too many times we have had reason to lower our national flag.

At The Country Club, golfers from around the world are vying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur trophy. Their national flags snap in the wind above the big scoreboard near the putting green. The flags represent golfers from as far away as South Africa, Thailand, Scotland and New Zealand who came to play in the American national championship.

There are 18 flags. No doubt there are just as many religions represented in this field.

The competition is intense, yet the words of the golfers are entirely civil. “You’re away.” “It’s your honor.” “Good shot.” When a match ends, and one of them is sent to the sidelines, they shake hands and say, “Nice match.” Sometimes they hug.

After one of the matches this week, an American golfer had just lost. She cried as she sat in front of the scoreboard with her mother. She is 16. She had played well and the loss was hard to take.

These young women work so hard to get here and they try with all their might. Their emotions, so contained as they compete, are very deep. Even the most powerful player will weep.

 One of the other players walked over to the American girl. She put her arms around her and hugged her.

“It’s OK,” she said. “You’re a great player. You’ll win a lot.”

She was a South African and the victor in the match. She had known the other American player for only a few hours and yet, she understood.

In this day, with all that we endure in an often troubled world, golf at its best remains a stronghold of civility. It is sometimes a great nation of its own.

Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. Email her at rglenn@usga.org.

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