One of the biggest reasons that I first fell in love with sports (and why my brother and I started up this site) is the way in which it can touch our hearts and our spirits and lift us up even when the rest of our world has seemingly let us down. The way in which sports can give us hope, that just like the team that everyone counted out came back to win the championship, we too can recover and triumph even when set against the greatest of odds. Sports also provides us with the simplicity and optimism of a young kid dreaming about their future, something that is fostered when you see adults playing what are essentially kids’ games. I say all this because these same elements are why I believe sports can also be so powerful in facilitating and easing the healing process after one experiences tragedy. After what happened in Newtown, I wrote an article urging our sports stars to understand and own their responsibility in showing these grieving families how sports can help them remember and, ultimately, move past the unfortunate events. The athletes and teams that stepped up to the plate have forever earned my respect. And that is where I come to the real subject of this article: a story of an aspiring athlete’s tragic end and how his little known sports hero gave him and his family a Master’s of a tribute.
William “Billly” McGuire III was born and raised in Chappaqua, New York and knew sports would always play a huge role in his life. He played several sports growing up and quickly found he had a passion for two in particular – baseball and golf. Baseball became part of the foundation of Billy’s future as he followed it through high school and into college, playing all four years at Franklin and Marshall College and culminating in a senior season where he captained his team to a 21-14 record. Although his baseball career came to an end as Billy decided to pursue a career in finance after college, his love for the game of golf continued to live on. Billy used the same dedication and passion that helped him excel in baseball to push himself on the golf course. He was a scratch golfer who was so proud of his work on the golf course that he even chose to list his handicap on his resume.
And these very qualities – passion, dedication, pride, courage – are exactly what led Billy to his favorite player (and idol) on the PGA Tour: Robert Garrigus. Now you likely haven’t heard of Garrigus before (I hadn’t), but in doing some research on him you’ll quickly find out that Garrigus is a proud yet humble player that seems most happy in earning every shot, every putt and every dollar he makes on Tour. Garrigus is also bold in the way he plays the game, unafraid to let loose on his driver (he lead the Master’s in average yards per drive) and eager to take riskier approaches.
In other words, he was the perfect role model for a young man like Billy who always strived to get better every day. Who excelled in his career as well as on the golf course and was eventually accepted into the prestigious Columbia Business School in 2012 where he became an active member of the Sports Business Association and Columbia Student Investment Management Association. Who had such a bright and promising future ahead of him. And who so tragically saw the curtains close on his dreams and his future endeavors in an instant. With a seemingly harmless slip and fall during a trip to Boston in March 2013, Billy McGuire the baseball player, golf enthusiast and top business school student could no longer pursue his passions. It was a devastating blow to his family, his friends and his classmates. It was beyond tough to figure out where to start picking up the pieces, where to begin to move on while still always remembering.
But this is where sports stepped in to help and, why not, as sports had always been a centerpiece in Billy’s life. Shortly after Billy’s death, his family left a few simple messages on Robert Garrigus’ Facebook page (where Billy had been an active contributor) and reached out to him directly as well. Quickly following those posts, Garrigus responded as any athlete who understands their responsibility as an inspiration to fans – he told Billy’s family that his thoughts and prayers were with his biggest fan and that he would be proud to wear a blue ribbon at the Master’s in honor of Billy. And so, on the biggest golf stage, in front of thousands of fans and on television around the country, Robert Garrigus paid tribute to a young man whose bright future was cut short. In doing so, he also helped provide that young man’s family with the courage to get through these tough times and the hope that Billy’s heart and passion will live on with each stroke. There may have been more talked about stories and better rounds this weekend at the Master’s, but I truly believe that the most important leaders weren’t on the “Leaderboard” – they were a few strokes back, a blue ribbon in honor of Billy accompanying Robert Garrigus as he navigated the course at Augusta National.
Rest in Peace, William “Billy” McGuire III
A little background on how I got hold of such a tragic and yet inspiring story: One of my good friends from undergrad at UVa recently reached out to me regarding a story about a friend that was in his business school class. Given my passion for sports and the purpose of my blog, he thought that the story might be a good fit in how it showcased a real life intersection of sports and our lives. Now, I admit I was a little bit wary of writing an article on just any story, but I became quickly intrigued and engulfed by the story that he told. In fact, one of the most gripping parts of this young man’s story was how much it was like mine. How much this Billy’s interests and passions (e.g. baseball, business school, sports business) were so much like my own. That is why it hit home. That is why I so respected and appreciated the gesture that Robert Garrigus provided at the Master’s. That is why I felt so compelled to write an article in respect and honor of Billy McGuire.
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I’m a mom, of three boys (well, now men) who played sports all their lives. I’m not athletic, but was always supportive my what my boys wanted to do. As the years went on, I saw what sports did for them – teaching so many more lessons than the rules of a game. I found your blog through one of sons, who is a friend of Billy’s, and just wanted to thank you for the article, the blog, and your attitudes toward life. In the midst of the horrible things that happen in our world, I know we need more love and understanding. And I can see that this is what you are trying to do. Keep doing it. Sports itself is not going to solve the world problems, but it is a way to unite us. Your mom must be very proud.
Denise, thank you for the kind words and compliments, my brother and I both can’t say how much we appreciate you sharing some of your thoughts. I’m really glad that you enjoyed our blog and connected with our message as I agree that sports may not be the solution to everything, but they can definitely help us learn how to navigate, understand and enjoy our lives. Lastly, I felt extremely honored to be able to be the voice for Billy’s story and take comfort in that I could help others make it through trying times. I didn’t know Billy personally, but based on every one of his family and friends that I’ve been lucky enough to interact with in the last few days, I definitely know he had an amazingly strong support network. Thank you again for reading and sharing!
This piece was a lifejacket that saved me from drowning.