Saturday April 18, 2015
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By Andrea Peyser
April 17, 2015
This one’s for Ellie.
The professional sports world has a new rock star, a handsome, humble young Texan who’s ruled not by lust, greed or epic neediness, but by the disabled sister whom he adores.
Give a big hand to Jordan Spieth.
This past Sunday, at the tender age of 21, Spieth won the Masters golf tournament in Georgia, one of the most prestigious contests not only in the realm of little balls and clubs, but in all of the competitive sporting universe. It has transformed him into a member in good standing of the celebrity industrial complex.
But Spieth accomplished a feat that has eluded other golfers, most notably Tiger Woods, now 39, by winning the match with grace and poise. In 1997, also at age 21 — 155 days younger than Spieth — Woods became the youngest man ever to be awarded a sartorially challenged Masters green winner’s jacket (Spieith is the second-youngest), winning the tournament the first of four times.
But something else happened. This Masters represented only the second time ever, after Woods’ initial star turn, that I found myself glued to the television during a golf outing, cheering on the phenom’s every stroke.
This is where comparisons between the two athletes begin and end. For Spieth, the victory was not all about him.
He won the match for Ellie Spieth, his 14-year-old sister. She’s a little girl who’s growing up with spunk and a wicked sense of humor, despite facing awesome challenges. For Ellie was born prematurely with a neurological disorder that places her on the autism spectrum.
Just after setting Masters records and sailing to victory, Spieth’s thoughts raced back to Ellie.
“I miss her a lot, and I wish she could have been here,’’ he said on CNN. “But I can’t wait to get back to her and maybe let her try on the jacket.’’
He said, “She’s the most special part of our family. She’s the funniest part of our family. I love having her around. She’s an incredible sister, my biggest supporter. She is somebody who you can watch and then reflect on the big picture of life and understand all these frustrations in a day, or in a round of golf, are really secondary.’’
Ellie Spieth is also the reason her big bro established the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation, which raises money for special-needs youth, for military families and for junior golf.
What a breath of fresh air.
Although he’s so young, Spieth has avoided appearing spoiled and pampered, traps that have felled so many narcissistic champions.
Spieth, who has said his parents named him after basketball legend Michael Jordan, maxed out on unfortunate utterances when he muttered, “Dang it!’’ after mucking up a tee shot on Sunday. On Saturday, Woods, who finished the match tied for 17th place, tossed his driver to the ground and shouted, “Oh, my f—king God’’ into his microphone after blowing a tee shot, causing a CBS commentator to apologize to TV viewers.
It’s difficult to avoid comparing Woods to Spieth, now the world’s No. 2-ranked golfer after Northern Irish-born Rory McIlroy, 25. Spieth still dates his high-school sweetheart, has a younger brother in addition to his sister, and is fiercely loyal to his dad, Shawn, and mom, Chris.
Woods squandered the goodwill of his fans by feeding his insatiable appetites. In the early- morning hours following Thanksgiving 2009, his then-wife and the mother of his two children, Elin Nordegren, now 35, chased him with a golf club out of the couple’s Florida mansion after learning that he’d been sexually unfaithful. And how. It soon came out that he’d had carnal relations, sometimes while standing up, with hordes of blondes, brunettes and redheads.
Now he dates brave Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, 30.
For the first time in a long while, it is possible to believe that a superstar can also be a grounded human being. Spieth raked in $1.8 million for winning the Masters, and is to earn many times more from endorsement deals, but he displays no sign of ego.
“It’s humbling to see [Ellie] and her friends and the struggles they go through each day that we take for granted,’’ he told The Washington Post.
“I’m lucky to play on tour and to compete with these guys, it’s been a dream come true,’’ he told Ohio.com. “I definitely attribute a lot of that to’’ Ellie.
Thank you, Jordan Spieth. Golf needs you. Sports needs you. The celebrity universe needs you.
We all do.