If Howard were alive today, I would assure him that the greatest threat to the sports reporting profession is not a former athlete behind a microphone ' it is me.
By the third round of my new career as an investigative sports reporter at the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika, all I had done was laugh through an interview with Natalie Gulbis gleaning insight into her dream date with Brad Pitt and her sincere desire to be 6-feet tall so she could add another 25 yards to her drives. Clearly, I was after the human side of the game.
While the other reporters filled their pages with talk of birdies, pars and bogeys, I sought out the back story of life at an LPGA tournament talking with caddies, scorers, guys picking up the range and parents and relatives of players.
At one point, I wrote myself a note to interview some of the men who caddied for their wives. Having been married for the better part of two weeks, I dreaded carrying my ex-wife's purse in a mall, let alone an 85-pound golf bag for 18 holes. Clearly, these caddie/husbands are a different breed.
I can just imagine the conversation in the hotel room after misreading the break on 18 and costing my soon-to-be ex-wife her first U.S. Open title, ...We'll maybe if you learned how to pack your bag, I wouldn't be seeing double because of heat stroke. Do you really think we'll ever need a Bose Wave Radio on the course? Learn to pack, that's all I'm saying! I played that game before, and, brother, I'd rather not relive it.
I had also played the game of golf. I can't compare my lone victory at the 1980 Al Esposito Junior Invitational to the level of golf that was played at the Ginn Tribute, but I can say that because of that experience, I could appreciate the skills of LPGA touring professionals. They may not hit it as far as the guys on the PGA TOUR but they hit it 50-70 yards further than you and me, and smell so much better. And, brother, from 180 yards in, they're every bit as good as the guys of the PGA TOUR.
The joy they bring to the course every day, the way they treat their fans and their dedication to the game is inspiring.
To me, the most inspiring golfer in the world is on the LPGA circuit. Her name is Jamie Hullett.
Jamie is not inspiring because she has won countless tournaments. She has won none on the biggest Tour. Yet.
To me, Jamie is the greatest because I have seen her do things that only the greatest athlete would do. On a beautiful Saturday, the day after she missed the cut at the LPGA's Ginn Tribute by one measly stroke, Jamie was alone at the RiverTowne practice range, in 90 degree heat of the day, hitting bucket after bucket of balls working toward magic.
Jamie could have been out at the beach surfing, trying to put the disappointment of missing the cut and losing money for the week behind her. But no, Jamie Hullet was working, hard, to get better.
Jamie stands 5'3 and barely breaks 100 on a scale, she claims. I believe Jamie doesn't want me to know that she is actually closer to 97 pounds. At that weight, competing in a world with 170 powerhouses of solid muscle would be like sending jockey Steve Cauthen in to a cage fight against a young Sugar Ray Leonard. And, Jamie climbs into that ring every week.
On this Saturday, as I watch her hit range balls 30 yards farther than I have ever hit a drive off the tee, Jamie is all smiles. Jamie could easily be lost in her struggle of trying to figure out how to beat her fellow friends and competitors on the tour, most of whom have significant physical advantages over her. Jamie could be worried about money as she lost money on this week as there were travel costs, tournament fees and her caddie, Steve to be paid But, instead, she is just works harder.
Jamie cares about getting better as a golfer. And I can tell by speaking with her, she also cares about getting better as a person'which, to me, is far more important.
Life Is Good, a brand of clothing know for their upbeat messages. Life Is Good could sponsor nearly any player on tour. They choose Jamie. It certainly isn't because Jamie is the leading money winner.
Jamie knows that there will be a life after the tour. Last year, she and her family opened Genuine Jake, a Life Is Good store in her hometown of Rockwall, Texas. It's a brilliant move because Life Is Good has a chance to be the LaCoste for her generation.
Through it all, Jamie continues to strive for that first win. Just one week earlier, Jamie saw her pal, Leta Lindley all 105 pounds of grit and determination, win for the first time after 295 attempts and 15 years on the tour. Surely Jamie knows that if one 105-pound woman can beat the best female golfers on the planet, so can she.
There are still a few courses out there that test a golfer's skills, not just distance off the tee, and Jamie feels that her day is coming. You should have seen her excitement as she talked about how the U.S. Open is being played this year in Minnesota that could be won by anyone, including one Jamie Hullet.
Howard Cosell's vaunted professional sports reporters will surely pick up on Jamie's story after that first win. But to anyone who has, on some level, actually played the game, Jamie's story today is perhaps even more inspiring.
Note: Jamie made the cut at the LPGA Championship the week after the Ginn Tribute, equaling Annika Sorenstam with a 2-under-par first round. Something I will never do.
Tom Werner contributed to this column.
Email your thoughts to Michael Fecheter
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.