In 1994 Greg Norman swept to the world No. 1 position with a victory at Phuket. In 1998, a young Tiger Woods added another entry into his already impressive resume with a final-day, eight-stroke come-from-behind playoff win over Ernie Els at Blue Canyon.
By mid-morning on the 26th, with the pristine sky still beaming overhead, Phuket was a picture of devastation. The little island off the western coast of Thailand had been just been inundated by the awesome tsunami that swept the rim of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and all areas in the region. Phuket, a swanky tourist area roughly 500 miles south of Bangkok, was swimming under water. The tsunami had exacted a terrible price, equally hitting the poor people of Sri Lanka as well as the privileged people vacationing in Phuket.
Els heard the news and was deeply disturbed. He admires the area and has vacationed there often, even when there was no golf tournament. He spoke at the Mercedes Championship where he is playing this week in Hawaii.
That was terrible, he said at a Tuesday press conference. It seemed like it came out like a light, if you can call it that way.
Yeah, it was terrible. We've traveled over there many years now and it's a tragedy, you know, obviously. So I don't know what it's going to do for the tourism in that part of the world, but it's obviously really hit them very hard.
Less than a year ago, Ernie and his family were on vacation in Phuket. It was between stops in Asia and Australia, part of the convoluted itinerary the world traveler keeps. Els thought back on that stop, fully aware that he could just as easily have been right in the path of the deadly tsunami. Think about the million or so years that earthquakes and tsunamis have been occurring in that part of the world, and Els is extremely fortunate that his Phuket experiences came a mere 10 months before the latest tragedy occurred.
Last February, we spent 10 days in (Phuket), he said. And actually (his caddy) Ricci just gave me a ride over here (to Kapulua), and one of those pictures those people took was at one of the hotel he stayed at (on the island of Phuket) when we were there last year in February. Yeah, definitely it would have affected us.
Els gets a bit queasy now just thinking about it. But much more than missing a golf outing, he thinks about the missing 160,000 people who will never have that experience again of just walking in a lush green meadow.
His wish, as is mine, is that all golfers around the world would contribute to the fund to help the ravaged areas. Dont know where to give your donation - $5, $10, $50, $100? Give to the Salvation Army. Give to the Red Cross. Give to UNICEF, to Save the Children, to World Vision, to any one of the many donation sites set up on the Internet.
Already I am already embarrassed at the amount I gave to the reconstruction effort. But like Ernie Els, I am simply in awe at what the ocean can do. God alone knows when a tsunami will hit the next time. It may very well be at a golf tournament in Asia.
Or it could very well may be on the West Coast of the United States. Give as though your neighbor were involved ' for the next time it happens, he well might be.
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