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Reid soft, gentle but tough on the course

Former BYU golfer Mike Reid won the JELD-WEN Tradition golf tournament in a playoff last weekend.
Former BYU golfer Mike Reid won the JELD-WEN Tradition golf tournament in a playoff last weekend.
Don Ryan, Associated Press

From a sport dominated by Tiger Woods' fist-pumping, obscenity-muttering persona, there also comes the mild-mannered Mike Reid.

The original tender-hearted softy.

You have your icy-cold killers, your club-throwers and your snooty country-clubbers. Then you have the courtly Reid, who gets choked up buying postage stamps.

"There are fellows, I think, who are like me, who are more emotional, and you have to kind of park those emotions on the first tee and pick them up again on the 18th green," said Reid. "You have to be pretty tough-minded and a little bit detached to play your best golf. Then there are fellows on the other end of the scale, who are perhaps too tough-minded and detached. I think they have a different set of challenges."

Killer instinct? Yes, he has that. At least he had it last Sunday when his 12-foot birdie putt clinched the JELD-WEN Tradition winner's trophy. Yet to hear him describe winning his second major on the Champions Tour was like hearing a man reciting wedding vows — all reverence, gratitude and sincerity; not just for winning, but for the experience.

"I just don't feel deserving," he said. "But I'm so grateful."

You don't hear people talk like that much nowadays. Sports are filled with big personalities like the ongoing soap opera/train wreck of a golfer named John Daly. You have your mouthy athletes like Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. You have paparazzi bait like Alex Rodriguez and wafflers like Brett Favre.

Then you have Reid. How nice is he?

The man makes Arnold Palmer look like a jerk.

That's probably where the comparisons should stop, because the wins have been far fewer for Reid. He claimed two victories during his PGA career and has won two on the senior tour. On the other hand, he was the first golfer ever to win a million dollars before claiming a single tournament.

He was "bank" before "bank" was a word.

Through the years, the former BYU All-American never changed. Humble has always been his handle.

"I've tried to never take golf and what I achieved too seriously," he said. "There are so many people making great contributions to this world and who never get any ink on the sports pages or front pages."

I was once in an airport back East, reading a newspaper in the boarding area. Reid and his son were nearby, waiting for the same flight. I overheard him say quietly to his son, "That's Brad Rock, the sportswriter."

You have to wonder what his kid was thinking.

You're Mike Reid and that guy is WHO?

It's not like my picture was on the cover of People magazine.

"Rudyard Kipling said fame is an imposter," Reid said, this week, paraphrasing from the renowned author. "I've achieved a very small measure of fame, but enough so to have an understanding that that reference is really true. Everyone has value. I've looked at it like this: I'm a pretty boring fellow trapped in an interesting occupation."

Another time, a colleague of mine was considering writing a book with Reid. He asked me to meet them in the conference room of the Deseret News. It surprised me that Reid would drive from Provo to Salt Lake City to talk with a writer about a book proposal, instead of the other way around.

When I got there, Reid was as unassuming as a clerk — contemplative, pleasant and not remotely condescending.

If you saw Reid choke up doing interviews on Sunday, you know his emotion was twofold. First, he has always been that way. But second, it had been a long time since he won. A five-year Champions Tour veteran, he had slipped from 21st on the money list to 64th. Until Sunday, he hadn't finished higher than 12th in an event this year and only placed in the top 25 in two of 12 events.

But things improved when he picked up $392,000 on his match-winning putt. That vaulted him to No. 20 on the list.

"I knew he had it in him," his son/caddy Daniel Reid told me on Tuesday. "I didn't necessarily know he was going to do it then, but I knew he had the potential."

He also knew his dad would react the same, win or lose. He would politely remove his hat and shake hands. He would be a man. But not a mocking, self-aggrandizing man. Rather, he'd be the kind of person you wish your own kid could caddy.

e-mail: rock@desnews.com