Every now and again in this self-centered world of sports comes a story that renews our faith and restores our hope. Almost makes us fall out of our chairs, too. This is the story of golfer Pablo Martin. His sport isn't exactly the place you'd expect a lesson in teamwork. Most individual sports breed an I'll-get-mine mentality out of necessity. Your successes and your failures, after all, depend entirely on you. No sport fosters that me-first attitude better -- or worse -- than golf. All of which makes what Martin did even more remarkable. Martin was the No. 1 player at Oklahoma State this spring. He was No. 1 in the country much of the season, too. His scoring average ranked as the lowest in the land, and his string of top-10 finishes was as long as the tournament schedule. His resume made him a strong candidate for every conceivable national award, starting with the Ben Hogan Award. The Hogan is the Heisman of college golf. And then some. The award honors what a player has done not only during the college season but also in individual amateur events. The list of 10 semifinalists is narrowed to seven, then cut to three who are invited to award ceremony. The Hogan is presented at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth the weekend before the PGA Tour's stop there. A few weeks before that, a member of the award's selection committee called OSU coach Mike McGraw. "Pablo, he's going to be one of the seven," the committee member told him "More than likely, he's going to be one of the three." Then he reminded McGraw that the finalists would be expected in Fort Worth for several activities on the day of the announcement, then for a banquet that evening. "What day is that?" McGraw asked. "Saturday, the 13th." McGraw froze. "Oh, we're going to be at The Maxwell." Formally known as the Perry Maxwell Invitational, the tournament is held in Ardmore during the break between the Big 12 tournament and NCAA regionals. It gives the teams one final tune-up before the post-season. McGraw wondered if Martin could compete during the day, then make the hour-and-a-half drive to the banquet in the evening. "The committee says in order to be considered," he was told, "they have to be there for all the events." McGraw told the committee member that he'd talk with Martin. The coach laid out the specifics, then asked Martin whether he wanted to go to Fort Worth. Martin's decision was immediate. "I don't want to do that," he said. There was no weighing his options, no lamenting his choice. By the time the last words were out of McGraw's mouth, Martin made up his mind. "I want to be with my team." McGraw might as well have asked him to run down Duck Street in his boxers, though Martin might have been more inclined to do so. He just couldn't see why he'd want to receive an award for playing on a day he was supposed to be playing. McGraw called to inform the committee of Martin's decision. The committee left him off the final ballot. He would've been more than a finalist. He would've been the favorite. But Martin has no regrets about his decision. Not on the day of the banquet when he carded the Cowboys' worst score at The Maxwell. Not even when he finished out of the top 10 for the only time this season. His team, after all, won the tournament. It was the start of something that bordered on magical. After winning The Maxwell, which came on the heels of a disappointing showing at the conference tournament, the Cowboys went wire-to-wire to win the regional title. Then came the NCAA Championship. In seventh place at the halfway point, the Cowboys surged into second after the third around. That set the stage for some final-round drama. When all was said and done, the Cowboys won the program's 10th national championship and freshman Jonathan Moore claimed the individual crown. As for Martin, he finished fifth. Who knows what the Cowboys would've done had Martin gone to Fort Worth instead of Ardmore? Maybe they would've rolled through the postseason anyway. Maybe they would've dominated at regionals and triumphed at nationals. The beauty of this is that whatever the Cowboys were going to do, Martin made sure they went through it together. Win. Lose. Didn't matter. If he was going to be a part of the team for any of it, he had to be a part for all of it. "It's a great example that Pablo has set," his coach said. "Gosh, you can't teach that." But perhaps we could all learn from it. Jenni Carlson: 475-4125, firstname.lastname@example.org
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