She was born with a neurological condition that led to Autism. As a result, she has challenges speaking and interacting with others. But while she may not realize it, she changed the world of professional golf.
She is Ellie Spieth, sister of Jordan Spieth, the top-ranked player in golf today.
For those who are not golf fans, Jordan Spieth is the hottest phenomenon in the game. In 2015 he won two major championships (The Masters and the U.S. Open), very nearly won the two other majors, wrapped up the 2015 season by winning The Tour Championship tournament and the PGA Tour’s season-long championship, The Fed Ex Cup.
Last week, Spieth won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, his 7th win on the PGA Tour. The win added $1.3 million to his career earnings, now totaling $21.6 million. Only 42 golfers in the history of the game have won more money.
Oh by the way, Jordan is only 22 years old. The only other player in the modern era to win seven tournaments this quickly was a guy named Eldrick Woods. They call him Tiger.
Tweet This: Jordan Speith points to sister as, "champion behind the champion." #PGATour @KirkWalden
The golf analysts want to know, what makes Jordan Spieth so special? Why is he unmoved by mountains of pressure in the big events? Was it his parents who drove him to excellence, as Tiger’s father did by pushing him from the age of two?
Not really. While Spieth’s parents were both college athletes, and Jordan’s brother is a standout basketball player at Brown University, we can’t find that either parent is a “helicopter” type at all.
Is it a sole focus on success at any cost? As Tiger was coming along, he had little time for fans and while he had a few friends on the PGA Tour, he was often at odds with the media. His personal life behind the scenes was in shambles.
Not so with Jordan Spieth. He is one of the most-liked players on the PGA Tour, known for his incredible sportsmanship (when he lost the British Open on the final hole last year, he came out of the clubhouse to congratulate winner Zach Johnson) and he gives extra time to fans and the media. He is always cordial, always kind.
Already, Jordan faces the inevitable comparisons with Tiger. After the eight-stroke win in Hawaii Sunday—gargantuan by PGA Tour standards--Spieth reminded reporters it is too early to talk about his chase of Tiger’s records. “What he (Woods) has done for the game of golf is something special and I just don't feel I deserve to necessarily be compared to him right now, but maybe I do. I don't know. Personally I don't think so,” Spieth said.
Spieth’s humility continues to draw fans. As Sunday’s tournament in Hawaii wrapped up, analysts raved about Spieth’s gentlemanly demeanor, his sportsmanship, his respect for the game and its traditions and his approachability. They wanted to draw a distinction between Woods and Spieth, pointing out that it is certainly possible to be a winner and a good guy as well.
Jordan will tell you, his sister is a major factor in his success. “Ellie certainly is the best thing that’s happened in our family,” Spieth told the Akron Beacon Journal. “It helps put things in perspective that I’m lucky to play on tour and to compete with these guys, it’s been a dream come true. I definitely attribute a lot of that to her.”
Jordan calls Ellie his hero, and every time he visits a new city, Jordan brings a key chain back for Ellie. Jordan told Global Golf Post, “I try to get back home all the time to be with her and regroup things. She sets everything in perspective for me. She is so happy for the littlest of things. Spending time with her, you can see she is learning and adapting every day, and getting smarter.”
Tweet This: Special needs siblings, children, present unique blessings, opportunities, for families. #whywemarch @KirkWalden
A family raising a child with a disability faces financial and emotional challenges, but for the Spieth’s, Ellie’s situation only made them stronger. The Spieth’s work together as a team to work with Ellie, and Jordan is a beneficiary.
Jordan’s Family Foundation reaches special needs youth, another reminder of the impact of sister Ellie’s life.
In a world where those with special needs are sometimes seen as a burden, Spieth sees his sister as a blessing and an opportunity to stay grounded. It’s hard to complain about finishing second in a golf tournament when you see your sister bravely overcoming the obstacles in her life.
With Ellie as his hero, Jordan understands what makes a person truly valuable. It’s not athletic prowess, but an ability to bring courage and a can-do attitude to every situation.
I don’t know the future for Jordan Spieth, but I do know his present. His faith, his priorities and his concern for others keep his feet on the ground. He may win several golf tournaments this year and another $12 million as he did last year. Or he may not. Either way he will make golf, and our world, better.
Keep this in mind, friends in the pregnancy help community, as we assist those facing unplanned pregnancies and reach out to those who are told their child on the way may have a “problem.” What one views as a problem, another—like the Spieth family—embraces as an opportunity.
Jordan Spieth’s sister, in the world’s eyes, is somehow less than perfect. But without her and her courage, the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world would not be where he is today. Millions of golf fans would be without a new superstar in the game. In addition, hundreds of thousands of aspiring young golfers would not have a hero they can emulate, one who brings dignity, respect and honor to their sport.
Ellie Spieth is the champion behind the champion. Jordan tells us so. And that’s enough to help me remember every child brings a potentially wonderful contribution to this world. When we embrace these contributions, we all win.