Bubba, Willie K and the Masters

By Jason SobelApril 9, 2012, 3:53 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – William Harold Kellogg attended a Masters practice round this week.

It was a big moment for Willie K, as friends and relatives affectionately call him. Those closest to the man thought it might be impossible. Born May 4, 1923, in Jamaica, N.Y., the World War II veteran doesn’t get out much anymore. In fact, he hadn’t left the care of his family in years, remaining under their supervision in Florida every single day.

And yet, there went Willie K on Wednesday. Right through the front gate of Augusta National Golf Club, surrounded by fellow spectators, all eager with anticipation to witness the undulating grassy hills and hear the cheers reverberating through the towering pines.

It was the first time he had traveled to the venerable grounds since another practice round back in 1986, the precursor to an unmistakably magical occasion which saw 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus claim his sixth green jacket.

Willie K.

Willie K (above with grandson Chris, far left, grandson Tyler, bottom left, and Chris' uncle, Matt) was joined that day by his two sons, Jeffrey and Alexander, and grandson James. It was hardly an ordinary occurrence. He was never a man fortunate enough to be draped in a green jacket as a member of the club nor one for whom Masters badges come easy.

You won’t find a bigger fan of the game, though.

When he could still play, Willie K was the type of guy who infuriated opponents. Often donning a cap from his beloved University of Georgia – where two of his grandchildren attended college – he would plink drives that maxed out at 210 yards, but rarely missed a fairway. That wouldn’t intimidate anyone, but a few strokes later, he’d invariably be knocking in a par putt.

Not that it was always so easy. There was that one time when he got a little upright on a tee shot and topped his golf ball. You know that long-standing deal guys always have when it comes to not hitting it past the ladies tee? Well, Willie K made good on it. Played the entire hole that way, much to the roaring delight of the other members in his foursome. To this day, Jeffrey calls it the funniest thing he’s ever seen.

Another time, he walked into a Golden Pantry convenience store after a round. Still wearing his metal spikes, Willie K took one step onto the terrazzo floor and lost his footing. Slipping and sliding down the aisle, each time one foot hit the floor, the spikes produced sparks, like a cigarette lighter low on butane.

His most memorable moments were connected to golf, or Georgia, or family – and often all three.

On Wednesday, Willie K attended the practice round with grandson Chris Lange, his wife Amy and two of their friends. They made their way past the colossal clubhouse, around the back of the first tee and down the 10th hole. Right past the cabins on the left side, where Rory McIlroy’s infamous collapse began at last year’s edition of the event. All the way until they found two tall, skinny pines bordering a smaller, bushy, green tree.

That’s where they stopped. Chris opened two small plastic bags and turned them upside-down. He whispered, “I love you Grandpa and you’ll be a part of Augusta forever.” And then, at the base of that small, bushy, green tree, he poured out the ashes of Willie K.

William Harold Kellogg died on April 18, 2005.

He had cancer.

Bubba Watson never knew Willie K, but as a former attendee of the University of Georgia, there’s no doubt he’s known plenty of guys just like him. Mad about the Bulldogs football team and, when it doesn’t conflict with game day, mad about the game of golf.

He also knows about losing a loved one to cancer. Just 18 months ago, Watson’s father, Gerry, passed away after a lengthy battle with the disease.

As he always does, Bubba was thinking about his dad while competing at Augusta National this week. Gerry was an ardent supporter of Bubba’s golf, dating back to the days when his son would be whipping wiffle balls around the outside their Bagdad, Fla., house with all sorts of overstated hooks and cuts.

Even if he wasn’t in the forefront of his thought process when he was making four straight birdies on the back nine on Sunday or tapping in a par putt to force a playoff, somewhere in the recesses of Bubba’s mind recollections of his father were percolating.

Asked later what he thought Gerry would say if he had watched him during the final round, Bubba joked, 'You still need to practice. You missed that fairway. You were under the trees a couple of times. You missed the first putt.' Then he acquiesced, admitting, “No, he would be excited.”

Willie K would have been excited, too. After all, a good ol’ boy who went to the University of Georgia, in contention at the Masters? No question there would be a few, “Go Dawgs!” hollered toward the proceedings.

Coincidentally enough, when Chris is asked what Willie K would have thought of Bubba, his answer echoes Bubba’s assessment of his own father’s contemplations: “If my grandpa were to see Bubba Watson play, I’m sure he would like him, but I’m sure he would also shake his head and wonder what the heck he was doing sometimes.”

Call it serendipity. Call it dumb luck. Call it some strategically placed ashes.

Whatever destiny brought Bubba Watson and Willie K together on Masters Sunday can either be easily explained or forever mystifying, depending on your belief in fate. What we do know is that after Watson halved his opening playoff hole with Louis Oosthuizen, the sudden-death format continued at the 10th hole. Willie K’s new home.

After pulling his drive on the par-4 hole to the right, Watson found himself mired amongst some trees. Not the same trees under which Willie K now rests, mind you, but he undoubtedly had a brilliant view as Bubba lofted a wedge shot over those trees, authored his ball to make a right turn halfway there and landed it some 8 feet from the hole.

When he tapped in for a Masters-winning par putt just a few minutes later, Watson was thinking about his family. He was thinking about his father, Gerry, later saying, “It's just a dream come true. My dad is not here. I hope he's watching in heaven.”

At the same time, the family of Willie K was thinking of him, too. Of his love for golf, and for Georgia, and for family. And how on one special day at Augusta National, he was able to witness it all through the tall pines once again.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium Course to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time.

The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine – and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Mickelson misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.