Remembering A Year of Loss

By George WhiteDecember 16, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Stories of the Year Editor's Note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is story No. 4 from this past season.
 
They were the legends: Byron Nelson and Patty Berg. And they were related to famous golf names: Earl Woods, the father of Tiger; Norma DiMarco, mother of Chris; and Heather Clarke, wife of Darren.
 
Byron Nelson
Byron Nelson was regarded as golf's greatest gentleman.
Now all five are gone. All, however, will live in memory long past 2006, their last year on earth. All made a huge impact and the memory of each will light the way for many, many years to come.
 
Nelson and Berg cast giant shadows across the golf landscape with their deaths. Each owns an enviable record -- Nelson with his 11 consecutive victories in 1945, Berg with her 15 LPGA major championships.
 
Nelson died Sept. 26 at his home in Roanoke, Texas, at the age of 94; Berg Sept. 10 at 88 in Fort Myers, Fla.
 
Nelson won his first professional tournament in 1935 at the age of 23, and the years from 1944 to 1946 were some of the best in PGA TOUR history ' Lord Byron entered 75 tournaments and won 34 times, finished second 16 times, and only once was out of the top 10.
 
But in 46, he retired from tournament competition, having made enough money to purchase his Roanoke ranch at the young age of 34. He later became a television commentator, and then lent his name to the tournament outside Dallas that has grown with his help into one of the best on the PGA TOUR.
 
A man regarded for his character, Nelson was called golf's greatest gentleman.
 
It's very unfortunate for all of golf, said Woods in the wake of Nelson's death. Mr. Nelson actually passed on his best wishes this year at Augusta through Ben (Crenshaw). I got a note from him not too long ago saying that hopefully he can make it to see us play at the Byron Nelson, but it wasn't likely that he was going to be able to do that. He must have known something, but unfortunately hopefully he went easy. Hopefully there wasn't any complications, and he moved on to a better place.
 
Jim Furyk seconded those sentiments. I think he's so special because he went out of his way to do the very most he could to help other people, he said. You know, that's what I think, why we should all learn so much from him. He'd be a really tough role model to follow because he was so wonderful.
 
Berg, a founder of the LPGA, was one of the greatest women players in history. From 1948 through 1962, Berg had a run that will endure as one of the best in the history of professional golf. She won 44 titles in that span, including nine majors.
 
If it weren't for her, said Cristie Kerr, I wouldn't have been interested in the game. She has led a very blessed, a great, long life, and her contribution to the game will be forever commendable. There's a lot of things that she did do that you can't put your finger on. I know she had a great lust for life, a very long life. She meant the world to me.

Earl Woods was 74 years of age when he died on May 3 of cancer. He had been in failing health for approximately 10 years. Son Tiger missed nine weeks of the season after his death, stretching from the Masters Tournament until the U.S. Open. He then missed the cut at the Open, the first such occurrence in a major in his professional career.
 
I had so many great memories of Dad, said Tiger ' Dad with the game of golf, things that I kind of had forgotten about. But since I was out there practicing alone, it would come back to me. As I said, it always put a smile on my face.
 
The love that we shared for one another and the respect that we had for one another was something that's pretty special, it really is. To have had my dad in my life and have him be that supportive and that nurturing, it's pretty cool because obviously there are times when I would have easily gone down the wrong path. But Dad was always there.
 
Norma DiMarco died suddenly on the Fourth of July during a family vacation, leaving behind her husband of 46 years and family. With her help, son Chris became one of the world's best golfers.
 
She was a special lady, obviously touched a lot of lives out here and at home, DiMarco remembered. The outpouring was amazing. It was solace for me to know that there were that many people that actually cared about her, and she was a special woman. She touched everyone's lives that she met. In that way it's a good thing.
 
I know she's going to be watching every shot I hit. Obviously my mindset is perspective, without a doubt. I mean, I'm going to go out and try and give it my all and be there, but bad shots aren't really going to matter so much as they used to, at least for a while, and I'm still going to have my drive and give it my all. I know she wouldn't want me to play any other way.

Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke received overwhleming support at this year's Ryder Cup.
Heather Clarke, who was only 39 at the time of her death, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. It returned last year and spread throughout her body. She died Aug. 13, a little more than a month before the Ryder Cup. Making the death even more tragic was the fact that she was the mother of two young sons, ages 8 and 5.
 
Woods and Darren shared a warm embrace at the Ryder Cup, which Darren participated in for the European side. U.S. team captain Tom Lehman also made it a point at his opening news conference to welcome Clarke back to the game.
 
'I think having him here means a great deal, probably to him personally and to his teammates, as well as to the U.S. team and all the fans,' Lehman said. 'I think having him as part of it makes this Ryder Cup significantly better. When it comes right down to it, we're all human beings, and whether or not we're playing in the Ryder Cup, you see a man who has had a tragedy like he's had to go through with he and his kids and you have an incredible amount of empathy for him.'
 
Clarke was obviously overwhelmed by the vast outpouring that he received. Close friend and fellow Irishman Paul McGinley even pulled out of the PGA Championship to attend Heathers funeral.
 
A lot of people have helped in a lot of different ways, said Darren. You know, I've had a lot of support from all sorts of people from all sorts of different walks of life around the world. The people that have been close to me have been very close to me and have given me lots of words of support and wisdom some of them and some of them not so much wisdom but the majority of them have.
 
It's great to feel that much support from a lot of people, but all of the people that have helped me with my golf have continued to do so and probably even more. So they are all delighted I'm back doing what I'm doing and they are all wishing me well this week.
 
Clarke, Woods and DiMarco all shared their grief together at the Ryder Cup.
 
Obviously Tiger, losing his father and Chris DiMarco, losing his mum - you know, there are more important things than trying to win this week, Clarke said at the Cup. But in the end, we're all professionals. We all want to win for our teams. And as friendly as we are, I'm sure we're going to try to beat each other as soon as we stand on the first tee. But I'm sure that we'll be - what's the right word? - in a friendly manner, we're trying to beat each other. But at the end of the day, it's not life and death.'
 
DiMarco said there is nothing that can replace Heather, but Darren had chosen the right place to search for healing.
 
'His only solace is the golf course, because that's what he does,' DiMarco said. 'That's a way for him to get away and not be thinking about it all the time. It's great for him to be around friends and around people that are going to care for him. The only thing that's going to heal him is time.'
 
Related Links:
  • Reviewing 2006; Previewing 2007
  • Earl Woods Succumbs to Cancer
  • Byron Nelson Dies at Age 94
  • LPGA Founder Berg Dies
  • DiMarco's Mother: Best Seat in the House
  • Heather Clarke Dies After Battle with Cancer
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    Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

    Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

    Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

    Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

    Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


    FALLING

    Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

    Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

    Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

    Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

    Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

    Getty Images

    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

    Getty Images

    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.