Missing Links: Sean Foley's reaction ('not a sad day'), and Los Angeles Country Club's change of heart (maybe)
Stories of interest you might have missed
How did Sean Foley handle the news that Tiger Woods had fired him? Better than most, probably. “I know the world won't want to believe that two people can go in different directions without being upset with each other,” he told ESPN’s Bob Harig. “It was a wonderful opportunity. I'm very grateful. This is not a sad day.”
Sean Foley working with another of his charges, Hunter Mahan (Getty Images photo)
“All you see at the entrance on Wilshire Boulevard is a simple numerical address: 10101. Nothing to advertise the expansive clubhouse and championship golf courses behind the trees on either side of the driveway. The 1,500 members can speak of the facility in great detail; not many others can. That is about to change.” The Los Angeles Times' Mike James has the story of the likelihood that the U.S. Open will finally be going to the ultra-private Los Angeles Country Club.
“To listen to [Justin Leonard] talk about his week at Camp Mati is to suspect that Leonard's week in Colorado brought the same measure of satisfaction as being an NCAA champion at Texas, a U.S. Amateur champion, a British Open champion at Royal Troon, a Ryder Cup hero at Brookline or anything else he has done on the golf course.” The Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson writes about Leonard’s experience spending a week at Colorado’s Camp Mati, where kids with cancer and their families for for a respite.
Knowing history sometimes is more problematic than making history, as U.S. Amateur champion Gunn Yang demonstrated last week. Yang, from San Diego State, played a round of golf wilt another Aztec with a U.S. Amateur championship on his resume, Gene Littler. Yang had to Google him to learn that Littler is in the World Golf Hall of Fame, Tod Leonard writes in this story in U-T San Diego.
The headline to this story in the Vancouver Sun was sure to get golfers’ attention: “World’s best golf courses virtually packed into Vancouver’s downtown.” The story is about a restaurant/bar — the One Under, Urban Golf Club — that will feature six golf simulators featuring 22 golf courses (so far), including Pebble Beach and the Old Course at St. Andrews.
When Tommy Morrissey was 13 months old, he began watching golf telecasts with his father Joe and “he’d watch it as though he understood what was happening,” his mother Marcia said.
At 18 months, he began mimicking what he was seeing on those golf telecasts, meanwhile, getting angry when someone changed the channel.
So his parents gave him a plastic club and ball and he began swinging away and hitting the ball with uncommon efficiency for a toddler, more so for one born without a right hand.
“My husband plays golf and I play golf,” Marcia said. “Thomas became obsessed with it. He started watching YouTube instruction all on his own, mostly Bubba Watson, really. So we began nurturing his obsession. It’s unreal.”
Tommy is now three, has real equipment and plays as often as time and his parents allow, which is frequently, given that they’re members at Frenchman’s Reserve Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, near their home in Jupiter, and Linwood Country Club in Linwood, N.J., where they spend summers.
They took Tommy to Linwood’s professional Jeff LeFevre this summer. “He immediately took a very nice, natural square setup,” LeFevre said. “He took the club back to parallel and paused at the top. When he hesitates at the top he looks at the target, then back to the ball.
“He never whiffed one. And after watching him hit a couple hundred balls now it’s amazing to me that he never ever whiffs.”
Doctors at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia predicted that he’d have exceptional hand-eye coordination, Marcia said. “His body and his brain think he’s right-handed, but without a right hand his brain has to compensate in ways yours and mine would not.”
Marcia, meanwhile, is reading “Imperfect: An Improbable Life,” Jim Abbott’s autobiography. Abbott, who was born without a right hand and played 10 years in the major leagues, often spoke about his indifference to not having a right hand.
The same holds true with Tommy, Marcia said. “Thomas has no idea he’s any different than anybody else,” she said. “He just never even questions it.”
The first time LeFevre saw him hit balls, tears came to his eyes, he said, a reaction others have had, too. “You’re heartfelt for what he’s going through,” he said, “then you realize he doesn’t see it as a handicap, that he was just born with one arm and that’s the way it is.”
As for his passion for the game, he once temporarily lost his putter. “Boy, was he upset. He had such a fit,” LeFevre said. “His passion is just incredible.”
Brendon de Jonge got off to a worse start than most amateur golfers playing over Labor Day Weekend will
After a 280-yard opening drive in the fairway on No. 10 (his first hole of the day), things went bad quickly for the 34-year-old Zimbabwean. De Jonge found the water with his approach shot and after taking a drop, he took four more shots to finish.
On the par-3 11th, he found a greenside bunker. His first shot from the sand didn't get out. His second went well over the green. Three shots later, he had recorded a disastrous second straight triple bogey to start his round. "Triple doubles" are good in basketball. "Double triples" in golf? Not so good.
The top 70 players on the FedEx Cup points list will advance to next week's BMW Championship at Cherry Hills. De Jonge entered this week's event at No. 79 after advancing to the Tour Championship last year for the first time.
De Jonge certainly won't be thrilled with today's round, but he should be more upset with himself about how he finished at the Barclays last week. Following an opening 66, he shot over par the final three rounds to finish T-61 and miss out on a great opportunity to pick up points in the volatile playoff system. Now he needs to pick up shots fast if he's going to make the cut and move on.
Los Angeles Country Club has a colorful history that includes its proximity to the Playboy Mansion (adjacent to the 13th green) and Groucho Marx’ failed bid to join, prompting him to famously say, “Why would I want to belong to a club that would have me as a member?”
Its history, too, has included occasional flirtations with the USGA about playing the U.S. Open on its renowned North Course, the latest chapter revealed on Thursday.
The ’54 U.S. Junior Amateur, meanwhile, was played at LACC and was to be a prelude to its hosting the U.S. Amateur in ’56 (and likely the U.S. Open sometime after that). But when a crowd of 3,500 showed up for the Junior Amateur final, the membership recoiled at the thought of crowds traipsing across its course that it withdrew its offer to host the Amateur.
The last time that LACC entertained U.S. Open overtures was 1982. Sandy Tatum, a past president of the USGA and a powerbroker within the organization, grew up playing LACC (his father was a member) and was a strong advocate on behalf of the 1986 Open going there.
Tatum also had an ally in the club president at the time, Judge Charles Older. His Honor was no obscure judge, incidentally. He was the presiding judge in the trial of serial killer Charles Manson in 1971 and was the man who sentenced Manson to death.
Eddie Merrins, then the head pro at nearby Bel-Air Country Club, once said that Older wished to bring the Open to LACC “so [the public] could see that the members of the club weren't so bad after all.”
Two years before Older’s death in 2006, I reached him by phone to ask about the Open discussions. “I don’t think I want to talk about that,” Older said, hewing to the club’s policy of keeping club business private.
Older reportedly was one of four on the LACC board in favor of the club hosting the Open. But five were opposed. End of discussion. Until now.
On Friday, August 18th, a day after telephoning his cardiologist and family physician Dr. Robert Staffen to report that he was feeling poorly, Palmer immediately was sent by helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh. Three days later, he underwent a pacemaker implant procedure for an irregular heartbeat.
"I'm fine, and I'm continuing to feel better," Palmer said Thursday morning in his office located across from Latrobe Country Club, his boyhood golfing home that he now owns.
Palmer had just returned from a checkup with his doctor, and he was told that his recovery is progressing on schedule. "Except for the fact that I have a hole in my chest, I'm OK," he said with a wry smile. "I don't even know it's there, really, except it itches."
And except for the fact that he can't play golf for 10 more days. He is not yet allowed to lift his left arm above his shoulder (though he insists on demonstrating that he can do it), a post-operative precaution so he doesn't adversely affect the new wiring. He can, however, resume his three-times-per-week workouts with his personal trainer.
Palmer was back at work the day after surgery, and among his current tasks is getting through a mountain of notes, letters and get-well cards stacked in a wicker basket behind his desk. One of his favorites is a handmade note written in crayon on orange construction paper.
"They come from all kinds of people of all ages -- and they're still coming in," said Palmer's longtime media representative, Doc Giffin.
Palmer, 84, is reluctant to say how serious his condition became. He explained that during his checkup earlier in the day it was determined that he is using only about two percent of the capacity of his pacemaker. "And I'd be happy if that's all I ever had to use," he said. "So things are good. I feel good. I wish everyone felt as good as I do."
What seemed to make him happier than his own well-being was news that a close relative had weathered a more serious health crisis. He expected the worst when his mobile phone rang late Thursday morning, but instead he was pleased to hear the voice of his in-law, Robert Saunders. The 85-year-old father-in-law to Arnie's daughter, Amy, underwent a heart procedure a few days ago in which doctors gave him a 50-50 chance of survival.
"He sounded great," Palmer said, smiling broadly. "We talked about five minutes. He said he wanted a milkshake."
Palmer turns 85 on Sept. 10, and he said he had no special plans that day. "Is that coming up again?" he said, pretending he was not aware. "Just peace and quiet, nothing else, really."
Of course, it will be around that time when he can start hitting a few balls on the driving range again.
Most people who get a pacemaker might find golf difficult. But Arnold Palmer won't. He showed why. The seven-time major championship winner unzipped his tan Ryder Cup jacket and pulled back his white shirt. Under clear medical tape there was a bulge on the left side of his chest, high up, just under his collarbone and near his shoulder -- far higher than for most anyone else who receives a pacemaker.
That's right. It was put there so it wouldn't interfere with his golf swing.
Recalling that time Gary McCord was banned from the Masters (Oh, and Tiger Woods won his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs)
Both were important for different reasons. We'll start with Woods, who made a lot of history that week at TPC Sawgrass. The 18-year-old Californian became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur as well as the first golfer to win the tournament in addition to winning the U.S. Junior.
Woods also made the biggest comeback in the history of the event, rallying from six down in the final match to Trip Kuehne. In the cover photo, Woods reacts to making a 14-foot birdie putt on TPC Sawgrass' famed 17th hole -- the 35th hole of the match -- to take his first lead of the day.
The thrilling victory gave Woods his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs (he won three straight U.S. Juniors from 1991-1993), an accomplishment that might trump anything he's done as a pro. But Woods nearly didn't have a chance to make that putt when his tee shot on the island green landed about a foot from the water, but spun back to stay dry.
"That was divine intervention," said Ernie Kuene, Trip's dad and caddie, in Brett Avery's story for the magazine. "And (Tiger's) had it for three years."
Whatever you want to call it, it's fair to say Woods had a better week than McCord. In that same issue, Golf World reported CBS confirmed the broadcaster would not be allowed to participate in the following year's Masters telecast. No one at Augusta National commented in the story, but Susan Kerr, then CBS director of programming, said the network's decision was made because Masters officials "were not comfortable with his style."
The reported quotes that got McCord in trouble? Saying "there are some body bags down there if that keeps going," when a ball was rolling toward a water hazard, and joking that "bikini wax" is used to make Augusta National's greens so slick. The incident seems minor, but it was another example of the immense power the club wields. Two decades later, CBS still televises the Masters, but McCord, still an otherwise vital part of the network's golf broadcasts, remains banned from being part of the coverage.
"There's no going back in time. That's who I am. That's what I did," McCord said in an interview with USA Today last year.
There's no going back in time for Tiger, either -- but it's fun to look back. Draining a clutch putt to win a huge tournament? That's who he was. That's what he did. Twenty years later, it's just as impressive.