It took him 19 years and 73 career starts, but on Sunday, Spaniard Sergio Garcia, 37, ended his long wait for a major championship victory when he defeated Justin Rose in a sudden death play-off to win his first Masters.

So, what made the difference for Garcia to finally break through and push past his history of collapse at the majors?  An inner peace that never seemed to be there before.

Today, I felt the calmest I’ve ever felt on a major Sunday,” he said yesterday. “Even after a couple of bogeys, I was still positive. I still believed.

Indeed, Garcia needed every bit of internal composure he could muster as he went toe to toe with Rose all day on Sunday and was even on the ropes at times.

Like when his three-shot lead went away after he bogeyed 10 & 11.  We wondered if this was going to be another flop for him at a major.  But, Garcia managed to save par on 13 after an errant tee shot, then rallied to eagle 15 which ultimately saved his round.

And, then there was the relatively easy putt on the 18th hole that could have gotten him the victory at the end of regulation, which he missed.  Luckily, he would come back and sink a 10-foot putt in sudden death for the win.

Maybe Garcia channeled his two biggest idols and fellow countrymen: the late Seve Ballesteros (1980 and 1983 Masters champion and who would have been 60 years old yesterday) and Jose Maria Olazabal, whose 2nd Masters title was won the year Garcia made his debut at the tournament as an amateur (1999).

Garcia told CBS’ Jim Nantz after the win. “Jose sent me a text on Wednesday night telling me how much he believed in me and what I needed to do and just pretty much believing in myself and being calm and not let things get to me like I’ve done in the past.”

More likely, Garcia’s newfound calmness seems to stem from recent happiness in his personal life.

After many years of heartbreak that mirrored his majors career, Garcia finally found true love with 31-year-old Texan, Angela Akins, who he is to wed in July.  A reporter for the Golf Channel and former golfer for the University of Texas women’s golf team, her father is Marty Akins (an All-American quarterback for Texas) and her cousin is Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees.

Reportedly, Garcia has been influenced by the “positivity”, “competitiveness” and “encouragement” of Akins and her family over the course of their relationship, all traits that could have guided him to finally put the pieces together.

Would the old Sergio Garcia have recovered from his adversity during yesterday’s final round and realize a turning point?  Not likely without the support he experienced this year from his friends, peers, and fiancee.

However, make no mistake: Garcia’s success in Augusta didn’t all just happen by accident.

He may have surrounded himself with great people who encouraged him to trust his talent and keep the faith, but he never lost hope in himself while many doubted he’d ever get it done.

What we should all take from Sergio’s success yesterday at the Masters: Validation will only come if we believe in ourselves and our dreams wholeheartedly.


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