Fred Couples, professional golfer, is someone I have admired for a couple of decades. His golf swing is unmatched in style, so fluid, so upright, elbows higher and more behind him than anyone it seems, and also seemingly effortless. He is has been a joy to watch, not only because of so many spectacular shots, but also because his quiet, seemingly relaxed, and stylish persona, have produced such an unusual set of results. Yes, in his prime, he won a coveted Masters green jacket, and a boatload of other less famous tournaments, but it seems like he should have won more majors, but he didn’t. However, in the ‘silly season’, which usually has been some time around October to the end of the year after all the serious tournaments, he has won a ton of times, and in the highly entertaining ‘Skins’ game, always with 4 different famous players playing for money on each hole which rolls over on a tie, he is unmatched. He has won a fortune just on the skins tournaments alone.

At this past week’s tournament however, where he played excellent golf but was just outdone by a bad shot on the last hole and a surging Phil Mickelson, I heard about Fred Couples the person, with real life challenges. His wife with whom he was long since separated and working toward a divorce, had died of cancer at the home they once shared in California. A tragedy indeed, but he has said he remains devoted to her children, his step-children.  Sounds noble. I decided to read up a bit on that history, and wait, there’s more. Much more.

This was his second marriage.  His first marriage ended in the 90s in what appears to have been an ugly and expensive divorce in Florida.  His first wife later committed suicide in 2001.

Fred Couples is also known for his really major back pain problems.  No doubt made worse by a game of unnatural contortions and a unique swing that probably puts more stress on him than other golfers with theirs.  This back pain limits the tournaments he can play.  It limits his practice.  It has basically hindered the last 15 years of his career in a major way.

At 49 though, he’s still out there, and in many ways he seems more determined than ever.  Maybe his shattered personal life and failing body increases his determination to overcome these major challenges.

Regardless, he is still a joy to watch, a class act on the golf course, and I for one want to say “thanks Freddie” for all the joy you’ve brought me over the years, and I hope only the best for you going forward.

And I won’t miss any coverage of you at the Masters in a few weeks.

References:

1993 NY Times

2003 Sunday Herald

2009 (this week) Golf Digest