The Week’s Tenzing Norgay Award Goes to Butch Harmon

I see things all the time that consultants (or similar people) do that helps others get to whatever that next level is. When I was at Accenture, the partner I worked for (who was an amazing guy) created the Tenzing Norgay award for us. I never won it, but I’m totally going to rip it off and use it here to just call out things I see that are amazing. This week, because I’ve been getting ready to watch the Women’s PGA Championship, I’m giving it to Butch Harmon.

Tenzing Norgay

"Tenzing Norgay (cropped)" by SAS Scandinavian Airlines - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
“Tenzing Norgay (cropped)” by SAS Scandinavian Airlines. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

First, let’s talk about Edmund Hilary. Everyone remembers the name of the first person to summit Mount Everest. Few remember the name of his Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay.  (In truth, Time named Norgay one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th Century, but few remember that either).

Even less well known than his name is who Norgay was. He was a scrappy kid who never knew his birthday, ran away from home a few times, and dropped out of Buddhist monk school. Instead, he chose an adventurous life as a Sherpa and grew up with a Sherpa family in the foothills of the Himalayas. As an adult he stayed scrappy and tough. At some point his wife died and he crossed the Indian border with his two daughters without a train ticket, posing as a member of a Swiss mountaineering team.

Also little known is how Norgay became Hilary’s Sherpa in the first place. In 1953, on Norgay’s seventh expedition he met Edmund Hilary, who was also part of the expedition. During that expedition, Hilary almost died when he fell into a crevass. Only through Norgay’s quick reflexes did Hilary survive. So long before the two made it to the top, Norgay had become Hilary’s trusted advisor.

It’s that toughness, scrappiness, and dedication that led my old boss to name his award after Tenzing Norgay. Who am I to argue?

Butch Harmon

Photo by Wharrel. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Wharrel. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Butch Harmon is famous even among casual golf watchers because he was Tiger Wood’s coach up until about 2004. But he’s been a fixture in the golf world long before Tiger. He grew up completely differently from Norgay in that his family was heavily involved in the sport and Harmon himself was a professional player for some time.

What made me want to celebrate him here is that golfer Suzann Pettersen just recorded her first win in two years due to Harmon’s counsel. She said, “He took my game to a new level. He’s no sugar coater and gives me what I need every single time. It’s nice to finally see the results. Obviously, I can see the difference in my game but the general public might not see what I feel.”

See also, “Woods needs one thing at this time: Butch Harmon.

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