These things can be corny. The prose can be grating, the tone self-righteous, the life lessons seemingly plucked from a low-grade 17-step listicle on how to be awesome.
But this is raw and real. This letter from a great Australian sportsman to his 12-year-old self is inspirational and will probably make your day.
If you’re one of those people with a great big blind spot where golf is concerned, Jason Day is the 28-year-old Aussie who earlier this year became golf’s World Number One.
He won five times on America’s elite PGA tour in 2015, including a record-breaking victory in one of golf’s four 'Majors', the PGA Championship. Not even Greg Norman ever had such a successful year on U.S. soil.
But Day did more than win trophies this year. He won hearts and respect with his attitude. Just when Aussie tennis brat Nick Kyrgios was disappearing down a sinkhole of belligerent behaviour, Day was sinking the ball in the hole with poise and grace. Kyrgios made us cringe. Day made us want to fly the flag.
Day’s letter to his 12-year-old self, which was published this week on U.S. sports site theplayerstribune.com, makes us love him all the more.
Day chose to write to his 12-year-old self for good reason. That’s the year his dad Alvin died of stomach cancer, and the year when he considered giving up golf in despair.
The Day household, in the small town of Beaudesert about an hour south-west of Brisbane, was poor by Australian standards. He remembers his mother cutting the lawn with a knife because they couldn’t afford a lawnmower. They had no hot water system. His first golf club was salvaged from a garbage dump.
In that difficult 13th year, Day turned to alcohol and was in constant fights at school. His turnaround would never have been possible without a golf coach called Colin Swatton, who today is still Day’s caddie.
Here’s what Day says about Swatton in the letter to his 12-year-old self:
“There isn’t a word in the dictionary that could encompass the roles that Col will have in your life, so I won’t try to find one. But meeting Col will change your entire trajectory -- both as a player and as a person. He’ll teach you. He’ll coach you. He’ll caddie for you. He’ll open life’s doors for you. He’ll mentor you. He’ll support you. He’ll listen to you. And most of all, he’ll be there for you. Col will teach you how to get from golfer to Golfer, and from young man to man. No one outside of your family will ever be more important. No, scratch that. Col is family.”
There’s much that is emotive, even heartbreaking, in Day’s letter. But there’s also some juicy stuff for the sports fan to chew on. Day writes eloquently about the final round of the 2010 PGA Championship, where he played the final round alongside the eventual winner Martin Kaymer. Day tells his younger self how he understood for the first time that day the level of mental toughness required to win big tournaments:
"You’re going to be amazed, all day long, by his performance. Just... how patient he is. He won’t even drive it very well. He’ll be a little off, the whole day. And yet, somehow, it won’t matter. That will make a big impression on you. You’ll see how well he keeps his composure; how he never panics. And you’ll see how no individual hole gets him too up or too down. You’ll see that he has one goal, from which he never wavers: to win the tournament."
The letter also contains stacks of good stuff about parenting, about being a husband, about humility and much more.
Day and wife Ellie, by the way, welcomed their second child into the world this week, with baby daughter Lucy joining three-year-old son Dash.
That’s why Day is not contesting the Australian Open in Sydney this week alongside defending champion Jordan Spieth, the Texan who was World Number One before Day, and who recently claimed back the mantle.
But as this week’s letter demonstrates, Day definitely remains number one on the list of Australian sport’s current good blokes.
On balance, that’s probably a much more worthy list to top, no?