There are few things in life more humbling – or more important – than being wrong.
Sure it’s a little embarrassing but it’s good for the soul and reminds us we’re human.
I had the great joy last week of realising I had been wrong about something (or more specifically, someone) for the best part of five years.
For the longest time I was pretty much indifferent to Brooks Koepka. His style of play – while impressive – isn’t one that I personally find especially entertaining.
More than that, though, I think I (foolishly) took personally something he said a few years ago about finding golf boring and that he would rather be a professional baseballer.
“Off you go, then,” was my thought at the time, a reaction I suspect was not unique to me.
Fast forward a couple of years and while my opinion about his style of golf hasn’t changed, the man himself has slowly worn me down.
Ppl are always going to hate. Part of the world we live in with social media. It’s not just golf man this is a normal occurrence on any social media page with someone famous or popular.— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) June 2, 2020
Koepka has proved a worthy addition to the game’s top echelons not only with his golf but his words and actions.
I’ve been slowly coming around to this position since last year when Koepka tackled Bryson DeChambeau head on over his slow play.
He was at it again early this year when he became the only American PGA Tour player to publicly call out Patrick Reed for his bunker antics in the Bahamas.
That was a big step forward in my eyes because it is rare – and difficult – for elite players to single out other elite players (read: Major Champions) in such a fashion.
But my conversion was completed this past week courtesy of an incident related to something much bigger and more important than golf.
The civil unrest sweeping across America since the death of George Floyd has engulfed all before it.
Koepka, like many other top sports people and celebrities, took part in an Instagram campaign to post a black square on this timeline with the hashtag ‘blackouttuesday’.
Like almost everybody with a profile who took part, Koepka received his fair share of abuse.
There was the usual array of predictable responses ranging from the super creative ‘stick to golf’ right on up to one chap who accused Koepka of taking part solely for PR and commercial gain.
The backlash led American writer Dylan Dethier to post a screenshot of the Instagram feeds of Koepka and others showing some of the reactions.
The point of the post was to note why many top players stay silent on sensitive subjects, a position many would find perfectly reasonable.
"His on-course resume was already beyond question but Koepka is now going to the next level and making a contribution far more important to the game."
But in a stunning display of self-awareness generally lacking at the top echelons of the game, Koepka waded right in.
“Ppl are always going to hate,” he wrote in response to Dethier’s Tweet. “Part of the world we live in with social media.
“It’s not just golf man this is a normal occurrence on any social media page with someone famous or popular.”
But it was his next Tweet that might have finally made me a fan.
“Don’t throw a pity party for us cause ppl said something mean or negative,” he said. “We’re supposed to be able to handle it.”
In the strange relationship professional golf shares with its recreational cousin, there is a benefit when we – the fans – get more than just PR spin and meaningless platitudes from our golfing idols.
His on-course resume was already beyond question but Koepka is now going to the next level and making a contribution far more important to the game.
His willingness to speak openly and honestly – regardless of the fallout – is reminiscent of Rory McIlroy and it is a trait that is to be admired in both.
For the most part, the world doesn’t need or benefit from top golfers sharing their opinions on subjects outside the game.
But within golf it’s vital the world’s best speak up for the things that are right and good about the game and Koepka has proven himself willing to do so.
His participation in the #blackouttuesday campaign last week was neither here nor there for mine.
His willingness to accept the backlash as simply ‘part of the job’ is what was refreshing.
More of that at the top of the game would be welcomed.