The Ballad of Fred Daniels

By Michael FechterMay 10, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: Michael Fechter, orphan worker and humorist, has the best job in golf: he's paid to be the Ambassador of Fun for golf courses across America. His 'job' is to make the courses he represents across America more interesting, unique and fun. Enjoy his humorous series on getting back into the game as he struggles to get his game into the shape it was nearly 30 years ago when he won his only personal junior 'major,' the Al Esposito, on America's easiest muni with rounds of 71-71-75.
 
You probably wouldnt suspect this from the winner of the 1980 Al Esposito Junior Invitational and the current Ambassador of Fun for the Malibu Country Club, but there is a rather glaring 24-year gap in my golf resume.
 
Except for a brief period of time between my mediocre college golf career and my current pledge to recapture my golfing form of nearly 30 years ago, I somehow transitioned from being an avid, nearly obsessed, golfer to what those in the golfing industry disparagingly refer to as a non-golfer.
 
I discussed this transition with my tennis partner and friend, Fred Daniels. Fred is a college administrator, former basketball coach, athlete and all around genius. When he talks, I listen.
 
Fred told me that he played golf ONE time. 'My father-in-law had a heart attack and gave me his golf clubs, he said. Early one morning, I took his clubs to the university course and parred the first hole. I thought, Well, here is another game I've mastered. I was a great swimmer. A pretty good runner. I played basketball really well. And I figured there's nothing much to this game. You hit it where you want it to go then hit it again and then hit it in the hole.'
 
'On No. 2, I lost every single ball that I had in the bag ' all 17 of them -- then walked into the clubhouse. I never played golf again.'
 
As I try to pinpoint the moment when I stopped being a golfer, I wonder if Fred got it right.
 
I never stopped enjoying watching the last round of a major. And I always enjoy watching Tiger. But when did I quit enjoying playing? There must have been some moment. Because for the past 24 years, there has only been one period in which I even played a little:
 
I was struggling to be a comedian and writer in L.A. in 1991. For fun, and a little bit of extra money, I caddied at the most famous courses in L.A. Not only was this a paying gig, but I got to play the courses on Mondays when they were officially closed.
 
I especially enjoyed the uber-private Los Angeles C.C., a club that would not allow anyone to join that was connected to show business...or Jewish. I was, marginally, both. On my Monday rounds there, I took especially large divots...and kept them. It was just my way of saying 'Bite me!!' to The Man' as I ripped area rug size divots on Yom Kippur.
 
About that time, I flew back to the South to play in a golf outing in Charlotte with one of my best friends, Steve Dickerson, the day before he got married.
 
Steve grew up on the seventh hole at Harbor Town where The Heritage Golf Classic was played and won by the best ball strikers in the game, guys like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Hale Irwin. I met Steve and his family when I was 17 and stayed with him and his family after being invited to play in the 'Junior Heritage', a tournament played from the same tees as the pros. I don't recall breaking 80 and felt humble after a high school season of averaging 74.
 
On the day before Steve's wedding his closest friends, teaching pros, former college golfers, everyone with a long background in golf had flown from across the country to be with him and play one last 'single' round before his marriage. It wasnt the wild bachelor party most of us guys had hoped for, which probably explains why Steves marriage is still going strong today.
 
I played in Steve's foursome. Even with all on his mind, Steve played great.
And, somehow, I played over my head. I was getting up and down from tough bunkers on 2 and 3. Birdied three out of four on holes 5-8. And I just kept bunting the ball straight, shooting 73, beating everyone in the group, pros and all. Like Fred Daniels after his first hole, I felt I had mastered the game. And, it felt damn good.
 
One of the pros in our foursome invited me to play the Ocean Course at Kiawah with him the next week...for free. Thats the course where Bernard Langer missed a putt on 18 on Sunday to lose the Ryder Cup now known as the 'War By The Shore' to the Americans. Officially the Ocean Course was designed to test a professional golfers skills. In reality, the course is more of a test of an average golfers will to live.
That slightly breezy day, we played The Ocean Course from a bit back -- but not the tips ' and, well, I might not have broken 110. I'm surprised I had enough balls to finish the second hole, let alone the entire round. It was my most humbling day on a course, ever. I quit playing golf, and quit thinking of myself as a golfer, soon after.
 
In hindsight, my frustration with the game started just weeks after winning The Al as the courses I played on the college team went from 6,100 yards to 7,100 yards. I could no longer reach most of the par-4s in two. I could barely see the green from where my tee shots left me. Even on par-3s, it seemed I was hitting everything from a 7-wood to a driver. There's no way to score when youre hitting woods into par-3s. It was a slow grog all day as I fumbled and did my best to get up and down enough to break 80.
 
The first week of my freshman year, I discovered that I really made people laugh. Then I discovered certain girls that liked me ' for this I have no explanation. And I soon discovered that going to the beach was more fun than trying to get 20 more yards by pumping iron and eating raw eggs. (Actual measures inspired by 'Rocky,' weight lifters and ignorance of salmonella.)
 
And then there was the fact that I had those great three days at Muni with 71-71-75. Nothing I was doing in college golf felt even remotely like those days. Golf was feeling like a job. A job in which I wasn't very skilled.
 
There is nothing more frustrating than a plateau that I can't get past. My game really plateaued after the 'Al.' And then it plateaued again after 73 with Steve and 110 at The Ocean Course. I moved away from golf toward a woman and marriage which plateaued some two weeks into the whole happily ever after thing.
 
What started me on this journey back to again being a golfer were memories of three magical days of 71-71-75. But, as I think about it, I really just want to enjoy the game again ' the way I did when I was 17. Joy of the game should have no plateau, no matter what the score, unless you're Fred Daniels and lose 17 balls on the second hole.
 
Tom Werner contributed to this column.
 
Email your thoughts to Michael Fecheter
 
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    Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

    By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

    Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

    Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

    “Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

    Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

    “When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

    Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

    “Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

    In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

    “Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

    Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

    Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

    “Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

    Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

    Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

    Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

    Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

    ''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''


    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


    Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

    ''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

    Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

    ''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

    Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

    Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.