Golfer Hunter Mahan walked away from a possible million-dollar payday to be at his daughter’s birth. Scott Behson says the overwhelmingly positive reaction demonstrates society’s attitudes towards fathers’ roles are changing.
Talk about putting family priorities ahead of money.
Pro golfer Hunter Mahan was in the lead half-way through the Canadian Open tournament, in line for a career-best payday of $1 million if he held on to win (and even had he choked and fallen to 10th place, he would have earned $151K).
However, shortly before teeing off on Saturday, Mahan got the phone call that his wife had gone into labor with their first child.
So, the dilemma:
- A—Miss the birth of your first child and maintain a good chance of earning $1 million
- B—Be there for the birth, turning down all prize money including the possible $1 million
Mahan chose B. And most seem to think he chose wisely.
Tournament leader Hunter Mahan withdrew from the RBC Canadian Open on Saturday after his wife went into labor.
The 31-year-old American was at 13 under after 36 holes and had yet to tee off in the third round when he got a call saying wife Kandi had gone into labor. The American rushed to the airport for a flight to Texas. . .
About 16 hours later, here’s Mahan’s twitter reaction, courtesy of PGATour.com:
“What a whirlwind of a day, but I’m happy to announce the birth of my daughter Zoe Olivia Mahan born at 3:26 am. Thanks for all the support! . . . Both Baby and Mom are doing great. Thanks to all my sponsors who appreciate what’s important in life and all my fans for being Awesome!”
Good for Hunter, and congratulations to the Mahans on the birth of their healthy baby girl.
I’ve written elsewhere about trying to align our actions with our priorities. I’ve never had to face a test of my principles with so much money on the line*. I bet none of us has. It is nice to see a role model we can look to when we face a choice—even one with much lower stakes.
Even more encouraging than Mahan’s decision was the reaction from Mahan’s fellow golfers and the golf community. From Yahoo sports:
“Zoe will be getting a very nice baby gift from me,” said [eventual tournament winner] Brandt Snedeker after his three-shot victory at Glen Abbey Golf Club. “I can’t thank Kandi (Mahan) enough for going into labor early, otherwise I don’t know if I’d be sitting here if she hadn’t.
”But that is a way more important thing than a golf tournament. I missed a golf tournament when my first was born and it was the best decision I ever made.”
Here’s the reaction of two commentators from GolfChannel.com:
Hunter Mahan is blessed with a rare combination of perspective and priority. He will have plenty of chances to win the Canadian Open in his career, but he had only one chance to be by his wife’s side on the day his daughter Zoe Olivia was born. Rex Hoggard
Mahan’s decision to walk away from a potential million-dollar payday to be there for the birth of his first child, that’s such a refreshing blast of news in a sports world so skewed by misplaced priorities. Winning and big paydays got trumped by selfless love this weekend. . . Mahan has a baby girl who can look at her father and know he’s a winner. Randall Mell
And from CBS Sports:
Hunter Mahan takes a “WD” for the tournament but gets an “A” for foregoing (sic) a potential million-dollar windfall to attend the birth of his first child. First rate, Cowboy.
Heck, even the Wall Street Journal applauds as they report on Mahan’s newfound fame as “father of the year”:
Hunter Mahan was being more celebrated than if he’d won the actual title. . . The Mahans were besieged with interview requests. “I don’t think any one of us anticipated it would develop into the story it has,” [Mahan’s agent Chris] Armstrong said. “But the more we think about it, the more we are craving a positive story in sports right now. There seem to be more negatives stories than positive ones.”
And maybe that was it. But it was also possible to see something bigger, a message about priorities in the frantic rush of modern life. “When I am done playing golf, I’d rather be noted for being a good husband and good father than anything else,” Mahan said. He explained that golf and golf titles were fleeting, that “success comes and goes,” and that there were more important things. “Seeing your daughter every day, having a family—that is stuff that makes you happy to your core,” he said.
Hunter Mahan regretted nothing. He’d made the perfect choice, and it wasn’t a choice at all.
I see the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this story as yet another sign that society’s attitudes are changing, and that it is becoming increasingly acceptable for men to visibly prioritize their roles as fathers and caretakers. Hunter Mahan’s decision, along with MLB’s paternity leave policy, Yahoo’s generous paternity leave policy, and even Prince William’s example, is adding momentum to the awareness of fathers’ work-family issues.
* Yes, I understand that Mahan’s 2013 earnings-to-date total over $2.3 million (and over $22M for his career), so the million-dollar-payday was a bit easier to resist. But still, one million dollars. . .
A version of this article first ran at Fathers, Work and Family.
Photo: AP/Nathan Denette