By R.J. SmileyThe honeymoon before the honeymoon. A (finally) mature Sergio Garcia enjoys a pre-marriage party before his marriage to exGolf Channel star, Angela Akins.
Golf fans have always loved Sergio! We have been waited for him to win a Major since that baby faced kid from Spain pulled off that do-or-die shot around a huge tree in the 1999 PGA Championship. His sprint up the fairway, that ended with a scissor-legged jump to watch the ball find the putting surface, reminded fans of Seve's Spanish enthusiasm. We have suffered through more than 70 Majors with Sergio. We have watched 30, 40 sometimes even 50 waggles in a, that makes me nervous, pre-shot routine. If Sergio had taken charge and won ive or six Major championships he might have succeeded Tiger Woods as the box office hero of golf.
Instead, for the past 18 years we have watched him play golf in the shadow of Tiger. We have watched him choke away two Majors in losses to Padre Herrington. Then, in a vulgar show of disrespect for golf, spit into the cup after a missed putt. We have noticed the absence of the lovable Spaniard when conversation about the raising stars, like Jordan, Rory, Bubba, DJ and Rickey, are mentioned.
Instead of Sergio Garcia winning Majors, he had become a journeyman player making a great living playing golf all over the world. He had been a permanent member of the list of "best to have never won a Major." Sergio's name on that list does have an asterisk, one "near Major" win, the 2008 Players Championship. Paul Goydos flung the play-off door wide open, hitting his tee shot into a watery grave on the island green at the 17th.
The national news media, needing a fresh story, have treated the Spaniard, dressed up in a Master's Green Jacket, to a coronation fit for royalty. Starting the morning after the Masters, Garcia has ridden the whirlwind of instant stardom appearing on every major television network. With a little grey around the muzzle and those mischievous smiling eyes, Sergio has become the Most Interesting Man In The World. (Do you think that any of the other young lions, DJ, Rickie, Jordan, Rory or Bubba would have gotten the same press treatment?) The golf industry, badly in need of a superhero with some personality, have already engraved SERGIO GARCIA on the Player Of The Year Trophy. "Golf needs more than a great golfer." Those words have been whispered in behind the scenes conversations as Tiger's physical problems keep him sidelined during what should be his prime years.
For some athletes maturity and success comes later in their career. Sergio has always been a Ryder Cup star for Team Europe, but the stars seemed to begin to align for Sergio during the Ryder Cup. The Garcia versus Mickelson match was the highlight of the biennial competition. Phil and Sergio made a total of 18 birdies in a match that will be remembered as the epitome of Ryder Cup golf. The match was a dazzling display golf featuring competitive fire and humble respect. Both players came away from the match feeling that they had won. Both shot 63 in a match that ended All Square, with each player earning ½ a point. Golf fans were treated to golf... as good as it gets. Sergio was not a Ryder Cup hero, because Team Europe lost, but his consistent shot making and focus gave a glimpse of what was to come at Augusta.
Now the mature Garcia will get the hat trick in a 12 month time period. In July he will marry Angela Akins, a golfer with a very respectable resume. Angela was a college golfer on the University of Texas golf team. With a thorough understanding of golf combined with brains and good looks, Angela landed a job as a reporter on the Golf Channel.
How much this relationship with Angela has to do with Sergio's maturation as a man and as a golfer will be a topic of conversation for years... especially, if Garcia goes on to win other Majors.
If Sergio does become the new King of Golf, will fans see Angela as the next Kate Middleton? As Sergio and Angela live in the jet set world of international celebrity, they look forward to a little relaxing time together as Mr. and Mrs. Garcia.
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