Professional golfer Jason Day made history Sunday when he won the PGA Championship with the lowest score in major championship history. The first major win of Day’s career culminated in an emotional ending when the Australian sunk his last putt on the 18th green. After a round filled with Spieth fans yelling “choke,” Day slumped his shoulders and started crying.
Seconds after his ball went in the cup, Day was embraced by his caddie, followed by his wife and kids. Families may storm the field after a Superbowl win or flood the court during NBA finals, but the solitary nature of golf makes a win on the 18th green such a satisfying spectacle. No other sport allows fans to witness such an intimate display between family members.
During the press conference, the theme remained family-focused when he thanked his mother for the sacrifices she made. Day was only 12 years old when his father died, leaving his mother to fund his golfing academy. His life is reminiscent of the rags-to-riches tale worthy of Hollywood, making the reality of the situation that much sweeter.
Athletes aren’t the always relatable. Emotional responses to wins are one of the few ways fans identify with these demigods. But Day was transparent: Nothing was being taken for granted.
It hasn’t been a particularly good couple of years for golf ratings. In the wake of the infamous Tiger Woods controversy and a quick stint in rehab for Dustin Johnson, golfers have lost their reputation as the most reserved and conservative of professional athletes.
Day’s emotional win reassured sports fans that wins aren’t handed to athletes. Wins are hard fought and often the result of a number of people’s time and energy. Day’s transparency about the help he received and his appreciative nature will give him a longevity more reserved or controversial athletes don’t get.
It’s always refreshing to watch an athlete who we trust win a major sports event, especially when they have a story to tell. The combination of his humble nature and compelling story made Day’s first major championship a win not just for himself but for the sport of golf. If athletes want to be seen as trustworthy and adored by fans, it’s in their favor to show some emotion.
Sampson is an Associate Editor. Follow her on Twitter @katclarksamp.