Suddenly it’s December. Seems like just last week that the first little grass plants of spring were popping up, and now the birds of snow are flocking from North to South.
What a year it was, too.
So let’s look back and give credit where it’s due with my annual awards column.
Drum roll please:
Best quote delivered by a friend that used to be in the turf business: The award goes to Dan Tower: “If you’re washing golf balls on the first tee, you’ve already lost.”
Design 101: Is this really how Jack Nicklaus makes design decisions?
“I thought they looked ugly from the air,” Nicklaus said as one of the reasons he altered bunkers on the 18th hole at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, host of the Memorial Tournament. This is about the 322nd reworking of the place since it opened in 1974.
Don’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Jack was at it again, this time explaining ways to get more people golfing.
“The game of golf is too slow, it’s too expensive, and it’s too difficult.”
No kidding, too expensive? Aren’t you the same guy who took his full fee when designing Trump Golf Links in Ferry Point – a New York municipal golf course that charges exorbitant rates – and also the guy who has a reputation for producing layouts that beat up golfers of average ability?
I Don’t Need to Grow the Game, I Need to Grow My Bank Account: Trump Golf Links in Ferry Point, New York, opened to much fanfare. Run by Donald Trump, green fees top out at $215 for nonresidents on weekends and $169 for residents. The good news is nonresident juniors pay only $104! The place is just one giant middle finger waved in the face of golfers of average means.
Even a Blind Caddie Occasionally Finds a Golf Ball: Paul Azinger has spent years behind a microphone uttering sentences that were better left unsaid, like when he informed viewers during this year’s Open Championship that the New Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, is twice as old as the United States. One problem – the New Course opened in 1895.
It was during the same tournament, though, that Azinger made square contact with the head of the proverbial nail.
“Everyone wanted to swing like Tiger, except Tiger … Somebody needs to remind him how to think. I think he’d be better off with a good conversation than another lesson.”
Maybe Azinger should talk to him, just not about U.S. or golf course history.
He Drank the Kool-Aid, Twice: This one goes to Michael Breed, who runs the teaching program at the aforementioned Ferry Point. He described the facility, where you are charged a $25 practice area fee even if you don’t use it, as a “a gift to New York golf.”
The guy probably describes second-hand cigarette smoke as a gift to lungs.
Best Shot(s) I Didn’t See: John Bertola playing in the final round of the men’s club championship at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain, Connecticut, made two holes-in-one to capture his first title. Admittedly nervous at being the overnight leader of the two-round event, he missed a short putt on No. 1, bladed a sand shot on the second and then aced the third. His second one came on the 17th. He prevailed in the championship for the first time.
Best Shot I Saw: He’s all of 14 years old and playing in a four-ball with his Dad and his Dad’s friends. The kid is not paired with his dad but trying like the dickens to beat him. On the eighth hole of the day, he finds himself with a bad lie in a greenside bunker, 30 yards from the hole. All eyes are on him, including those of the twosome they’ve just allowed to play through. As he steps into the hazard, the kid realizes he has grabbed the wrong wedge. The right one is 150 yards away so he makes do and sinks the shot for birdie to win the hole and the side.
My Finest Historical Discovery: I spend an inordinate amount of time scanning old digitized newspapers in search of golf architecture nuggets. My favorite find in 2015 involves a 1902 story of an assistant butler who stole from a number of wealthy clients, including Charles Blair Macdonald, the first U.S. Amateur champion and designer of the National Golf Links of America. Items taken from C.B. by the thief, in addition to gold and silver medals, were “several suits of silk underwear.”