Have you ever experienced one of those “feel good flashbacks?”
It’s that feeling of warmth and comfort that comes from an activity years ago that is triggered by a current event. I had one of those as I was watching Villanova University senior Ryan Arcidiacono being interviewed following the Wildcats’ win over University of North Carolina in the NCAA basketball title game this year.
Still in uniform, Arcidiacono was asked by the assembled media why he was wearing a red, untied necktie around his shoulders. He explained that CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz had given it to him in admiration of his leadership. As Nantz later revealed, this is a tradition – unlike no other – that began in 1991 when he would give a tie to a senior on the winning team. He said it was not only to recognize that individual, but also to honor his father who had a positive and lasting impact on his life.
As I heard Arcidiacono tell the story, my mind raced. I had seen this before, hadn’t I? A quick Google search and a few phone calls put me in touch with Jeremy Lee, assistant golf pro at Big Springs Country Club in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2004, Lee was a young golf course superintendent in the audience at the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s annual conference and show in San Diego, where Nantz delivered what I believe was one of the best presentations in my 17 years of attending the event.
Following his talk, Nantz invited the audience to pose questions. Lee stood up and thanked Nantz for visiting with the maintenance crew at Augusta National during Masters week in 2001, where Lee served as an intern. Lee reminded Nantz that he gave Lee his tie in appreciation of the staff’s work. After hearing Lee recant that story, Nantz thanked him, and without missing a beat, invited him on stage where he presented him the tie he was wearing that day.
“I might be the only person with two Jim Nantz neck ties,” Lee chuckled. “At Augusta, he had just shot a video and walked over to us on the 12th hole and talked with us. You could tell he really appreciated us. I asked him to sign a golf ball, but instead he took off his tie and signed the back. Then to get the second one was just wild. He remembered almost every detail about our first meeting. Those are two great highlights in my life.”
Those who know or have followed Nantz’s career know he is legendary for his displays of gratitude toward others. It does not matter whether the individual is a multimillion dollar athlete or an intern of a golf course maintenance staff. His respect for the talents of others is admirable. Watch any CBS golf telecast he does, and you will hear him thank the golf course superintendent by name. I will argue that this gesture has brought as much value to the superintendent profession as any other form of outreach.
We could all learn a lesson from Nantz and others who make the effort to recognize one’s contributions. Each one of us has the ability to positively impact the lives of others with an act of kindness or a moment of our time. All too often we get so wrapped up in our own cocoon of life that we are blind to others’ contributions that inspire us or are crucial to our success. A simple act can make a long and lasting impression.
For Jeremy Lee, he gets that message each day when he opens his closet.