Your Chicago suburb resident and Sony Open Champion, Mark Wilson, decided to play this week despite his beloved Packers teeing it up against the Bears. The game will be broadcast approximately the same time they’re playing in Palm Springs so you can count Wilson out this week, his concentration will be on the oblong ball or he may miss the cut (purposely?) and have his feet hiked up in front of the screen sipping a cold beverage with a brat or two.
Miking the PGA
Golf Channel wants microphones on tour players. Why? Golf is a quiet, pastoral sport; nothing much goes on inside the ropes, except golf. Why would anyone want to listen to conversation amongst player and caddie or other players in the group, the gallery, their wives, tour officials, volunteers, or anyone they feel like talking with including themselves? It’s the inner sanctum golf viewers know nothing about and think there’s exciting tête-à-tête in the fairway. Believe me, it’s about 75% drudgery, 20% fun, and 5% who knows what the hell is going to happen.
While my quiche was finishing up in the oven, yes real old caddies eat quiche, I checked emails and received a quick note from Sandy, Tom Kite’s caddy. The Champions Tour just released the following statement:
Robert Garrigus, Good Guy - Cub Fan
He didn’t win it this weekend but he didn’t whine, cry, or blame others when he jammed his tying putt through the break late Sunday afternoon. When he finished his round he didn’t go hide waiting for the playoff, he stuck around, signed autographs, tousled kid’s hair, kissed his baby and hung out with the crowd. He blew a big lead on the last hole in Memphis last summer; there weren’t any excuses then either. The last tournament of the year he needed a bunch of money to keep his card; he won it. A few years back he was abusing himself with drugs, alcohol and anything he could get his hands on. A late night infomercial convinced him rehab was the answer and four years later he was hovering around the PGA Tour.
Caddying Comes Full Circle
Next week I’m heading for TPC at Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, FL. Twenty-two years ago last March I was pulling into a parking lot ready for my first job on the PGA Tour with Phil Blackmar. There were no houses, no trees, and not many roads, nothing surrounding Eagle Trace except the Everglades to the west. I haven’t been there since 1991, I’m sure things have changed but thinking about that first week sure conjured up memories.
AT & T Championship – Champions Tour – San Antonio, TX
Albert Warren Tillinghast created Oak Hills CC in the early 20’s, back then it was perched on a hill about ten miles north of San Antonio. The city has grown up around it but his masterpiece is still one of the finest courses the Champions Tour visits. The traffic is horrific but once behind Oak Hills’ walls and shady oaks lining the tight fairways the golf is exquisite. The PGA Tour played the Texas Open on this short, shot-makers course until 1994 when it out grew the track and sponsors enticed the tour to move to LaCantera, a resort course most caddies despised.
The PGA of America chose the Colorado Golf Club for the Senior PGA less than two years after it officially opened. I’m sure there are some folks regretting that decision. The course is magnificent but a bit difficult for spectators. Someday there will be an opulent 30.000 square foot clubhouse but this week there are open receptacles, the dining area is unfinished forcing the players and families up the dusty path to a small cottage with few tables. Usually folks like to see a little grass around the clubhouse but the sod was taken back after bills went unpaid. With the high winds this week it has actually been dangerous walking around the clubhouse area. The blowing dirt and gravel permeated my old skin a few times.
It’s very frustrating leaving a tournament site when you arrive with high expectations. Birmingham held a lot of special memories, Jim had been working hard, plus his best friend and instructor were planning on a little celebration Sunday night after the win. The best I could do was laundry Sunday evening and then a long rainy drive home Monday. There were no special plans for the week off and when I left Jim he wasn’t sure if was playing the PGA the next week. Sunday afternoons are like that after a smooth 79.
My Tiger Take
He’s coming back, not when I thought, but at a place that will provide all the protection he needs. Augusta National, once you step behind the clubhouse, is off limits to press, photographers, and paparazzi. There may be an occasional discreet interview on the lawn under the oak and the Masters allows their networks limited access to the players but once a player leaves the driving range or parking lot, passes through the clubhouse and walks to the putting greens, he is off limits to the patrons. There are no autographs behind the clubhouse only golf.
Transitions Championship – Innisbrook – Tarpon Springs, FL
The Transitions Championship (a few other sponsors also) has been coming to Innisbrook since 2000 and prior to that the Mixed Team PGA/LPGA was held here in the late 80’s and early 90’s. It was a lot of fun back then, still challenging, but it was the off season and a chance to make a little Christmas money. Now the course has been redesigned (1999), lengthened, and toughened up enough that a major could be staged here.