The Rickie Fowler Story: Do Not Let Other Peoples' Labels Define You

05/12/2015 04:54 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2016

People will put labels on us: Overrated, underrated, too small, too old, can't win the big one, not fast enough, not smart enough, too inexperienced, etc.

Most of the time, these labels are meant to demean us or put us down. But all that matters in life is how we react to those labels. Those labels are not who we are unless we allow them to define us.

Case in point: On Sunday, Rickie Fowler, "the most overrated golfer in the world" shot six under par on the final six holes in the Players Championship to capture one of the top prizes in all of golf. Overrated? I don't think so.

Rickie just beat every other golfer in the entire known universe over a four-day, hotly contested golf championship.

And yet, in a recent poll taken among golfers on the Professional Golf Tour, Rickie Fowler was voted as "the most overrated" golfer. (Truth be told, he tied with England's Ian Poulter for that dubious honor.)

As the dictionary tells us, the term "overrate" means "to rate or appraise too highly." In other words, Rickie -- you aren't as good as you think you are. That is the message or the label that Rickie had on his shoulders this past week going into one of the great golf championships played anywhere in the world -- The Players Championship contested over the famed TPC Sawgrass course in Ponte Verde, Florida. I know something about that course having played it personally probably 20 times over the years. Here is a photo of my daughter Angela and I playing the Famous 17th just two short months ago.


Bottom Line: It is Hard!

So to win at TPC Sawgrass takes extraordinary talent. To Rickie's credit, he laughed when he saw the poll. Instead of taking offense (I would have), Rickie commented: "I thought it was funny. It's fine by me. I'm going to try and play as well as I can this week and take care of my own business."

A Greek Philosopher, Epictetus, told us this 2000 years ago when he said:

"It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." In the end, things only have the meaning that we attribute to them.

I don't know what this amazing victory will do for this young 25-year-old. Will the money ($1.8 million for the week) go to his head? Will he allow his bikini model girlfriend, Alexis, to turn his head? Or will this signature moment propel him into the golfing stratosphere of the Tiger Woods' and the Rory McElroy's?

But at least for one sun-drenched, shining week in Northern Florida, Rickie Fowler took the labels that had been placed upon him by his fellow golfing pros and shoved them back in their collective face and refused to allow them to define who Rickie is as a golfing professional. No one ever won the Player's Championship the way Rickie did. He needed just 11 strokes on the last four holes making three birdies and a tap-in Eagle to drive him to victory.

On Sunday, I learned everything I will ever need to know about Rickie Fowler's competitive fire. On the intimidating 18th hole, both in the regular tourney as well as the playoff, Mr. Fowler took the driver out of his bag while his competitors shied away by only hitting three woods. Rickie's two closing drives on the 18th were not just the longest drive hit on that hole on Sunday, but the longest of the week measuring over 330 yards.

In fact, I have a new label for Rickie Fowler -- FEARLESS. Congratulations Buddy. Awesome job!