Before I share stories about my  encounters with two of the world’s great athletes, I want to share this:

The all-time world scorer in professional basketball was Semian Flores from Romania. He scored 31,456,546 points in his life. His net worth was $3,704 when he died. 

The all-time best score on an 18-hole golf course was shot by Jou Pin from China. His score was 18. His teammate, Jou Fung, claimed that he himself had shot a 17, but everybody knew that he cheated!

I am taking some time to make fun of professional sports and of money accumulation because they are both wonderful pastimes. Both are fun to play — and follow! Yet, they are both ultimately meaningless.

Let me get to my title. Yes, I did meet Fred Couples at Rancho San Marcos Golf Course here in the Santa Ynez Valley, and at least I saw Michael Jordan there. 

The encounter with Couples was embarrassing. I pulled into the parking lot and was walking to the clubhouse with my clubs. I saw him bending over arranging his clubs or something in his car.

I walked over to say hello and to welcome him the Santa Barbara. But when I got there, he was still very preoccupied and not looking up. I stood there for a moment and sort of backed away several steps so as not to startle him.

But he kept fiddling around with his clubs. I was getting tired of waiting for him to finish because I wanted to get to the clubhouse, but I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity. So, I approached him again, trying to make some noise as I approached.

Sure enough, I startled him! He stood straight out of his car and just glared at me. I said something lame like, “I am sorry to surprise you, but I just wanted to welcome you to Santa Barbara.”

I am not sure what happened next. Maybe I said something like, “La-di-da. Nice to meet you. Bye now!”

While playing on the same course another time, I saw this guy riding by in a golf cart to the tee in front of us playing alone. I said, “That looks like Michael Jordan.” My buddy said, “It is. He comes here to play sometimes.”

Then, later, I see him zipping across a fairway going to a different hole out of sequence. My buddy said, “Yeah, I think he just moves around and finds a hole which he can play on immediately.” Well, of course! He is freaking Michael Jordan!

I do admire him for reaching such summits in basketball and moving to professional baseball to try that out for a while. I imagine it was humbling for him to play in the minor leagues for a couple of years. But he stuck it out for a while. He experimented!

Before I get to the point of all this, I apologize for pulling your chain in the first two paragraphs. You were probably astute enough to realize that. Athletic goals — and financial goals — are wonderful. But how far do you want to go?

I, too, have goals in life and in golf. Although I have never shot par, I hope to live long enough, and with enough vitality, to shoot my age! I have reached another goal: I have succeeded in avoiding being trapped on the Forbes Billionaires List!

By the way, Rancho San Marcos has gone the way of all flesh. Or, at least the way of all businesses that don’t last. Its income did not surpass its expenses.

In the game of life, however, by how much should our income surpass our expenses? In a previous column, I wrote about a man who died with 2.4 billion screwdrivers. Accumulating a billion screwdrivers, or dollars, or trophies, or points, or having observed others do these things is OK.

But what is the achievement in the game of life that makes a difference? It’s not playing in made-up arenas or games or meeting the people who do them, or making the money they do.

I think the real measure is the close encounters we have with others while working on a world that works for everyone. Doing that, everyone can always be “game until the end!”

Frank Sanitate is a Santa Barbara author of three books: Don’t Go to Work Unless It’s Fun, Beyond Organized Religion and Money - Vital Unasked Questions and the Critical Answers Everyone Needs. He was a monk and high school English teacher before starting a successful seminar business. Over his 40-year career, he presented seminars throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. He can be reached at The opinions expressed are his own.