If you follow golf, the name Stewart Cink rings a bell. If you don’t, I think you’ll be interested in his story, which is the subject of a recent episode of the “Stockton!” podcast.
Stewart Cink, who celebrated his 44th birthday Sunday, is a golf professional who has won six PGA tournaments. He has come awfully close in three of the four major championships. In 1999 he was tied for third in the PGA Championship. Two years later he again finished in third place, this time in the U.S. Open. His best finish in the Masters came in 2008 with a tie for third. A year later he etched his name forever in the hallowed world of golf by capturing the British Open. He won in a playoff over one of the all-time greats, Tom Watson. Cink has also represented the United States five times in the Ryder Cup.
So here’s a guy with credentials. Since his victory at Turnberry in Scotland, he has been a contender in the PGA tournaments he has played, but never a winner. He was ranked in the Top 10 for 40 weeks between 2004-2009.
So why is this about Stewart Cink?
It’s really more about a professional athlete who has had his moments, sure, but one who has handled big-time adversity and is refreshingly human about his life on and off the course.
Cink’s wife Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2016. The two have been sweethearts dating back to before he attended Georgia Tech and turned pro in 1995.
Stewart, who was born and raised in Huntsville, AL, strikes a monumental figure at 6 feet 4 inches.
But Stewart Cink, one of the most humble athletes I’ve known, has carried that wonderful trait and his solid faith to the limit in sharing his wife’s health issue.
When Stewart and Lisa received the diagnosis of the Stage 4 breast cancer, he made the decision to take a break from the tour and devote all his energy to the battle. Eventually he returned to the tour, but with one caveat. Lisa would, if she was up to it, accompany him to all his tournaments.
He told me in my podcast episode with him podcast I did with that she has been nothing short of an inspiration. He said he was much more at ease playing golf, and while the pressures of making a key shot or to avoid the downer of a three putt would still rise up inside, he was a man at peace.
He also wanted to clear up the misconception that he shaved his head to exhibit further support for Lisa, admitting that he shaved his head because he was, in fact, growing bald and didn’t want to deal with it anymore!
But he was not being humorous when he stated that his faith probably played the biggest role in how he and Lisa dealt with her breast cancer. Often, people hear about one’s faith, and frankly, there are those who are turned off by those declarations. But when Stewart Cink expresses how his Christianity has given him buoyancy, how it has allowed he and his wife to trust a higher order, how it has given the pair an almost indescribable strength, you have to sit up and take notice.
The great news is that Lisa has rebounded from her illness, almost to the point where Cink claims you cannot use the term “in remission” but it’s close.
On the subject of golf, Cink discussed several items I believe would be of interest to those who play.
One, is that professional golfers know full well how difficult, frustrating, and exasperating the game can be. So they understand what those of us endure.
Secondly, the biggest problem amateurs have, when he plays with our ilk, is the poor way we read putts.
He also told me he would do an entire podcast on the subject of what he sees amateurs do on the course. I will take him up on that!!
One final thing…Stewart Cink expressed what I have heard from other athletes who have had to perform under pressure and in front of big crowds. That fear is often the biggest motivator. That the fear of failure often drives athletes in their play.
Think of it. For the average Joe, being scared might be humiliating. But rest assured it lies inside any human. It does with Stewart Cink, who is, to this reporter, a special human.