Never Too Old

By Michael FechterOctober 28, 2008, 4:00 pm
Great victories do not have to be celebrated by millions. Sometimes it can be the silent victory of one. Although, the greatest victory is the one shared by two, which makes my friends win in the Charleston City Senior Amateur ' a triumph shared and understood by his twentysomething son, Mark ' perhaps the greatest victory since Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters.
Warren Peper is no seasoned touring amateur. Warren is not Buddy Marucci. Warren is our local Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man on local TV. Warren has been the most popular sportscaster for 20-odd years and the lead anchor for the past four or five at WCBD. As Pep said, 'I can't take myself too seriously. I put on make-up and read aloud.' So not only is Pep our local Walter Cronkite; he also easily channels Rodney Dangerfield.
OK, you may not think that winning the Charleston City Senior is a big deal, but it is when you look at Warren's background in golf. He did not even pick up a club until late in college, when he tagged along with buddies and used their sticks when they were far enough away from the clubhouse. As Warren said, growing up, golf seemed like a game of 'privilege and opportunity' and it had 'no appeal' as he became a local high school and college basketball star. But when he saw his 'cool' buddies enjoying the game at local municipals, Warren was hooked.
I remember Warren from when I was 18 years old and playing for the College of Charleston golf team. Warren was already a successful sportscaster and as we practiced on a local range, my only thought about Warren was 'Wow, he is such a nice guy; it's a shame that he's such an awful golfer.' At the time, I thought that shooting 83 was a disease and Warren was badly afflicted. Such is the arrogance of youth.
So, last fall when I saw that Warren had shot 68 in the last round to win some local tourney and then saw that he had won the City Mixed Championship with an 18-year-old girl, Ellie O'Brien, I wondered what in the world had happened to our universe? If Warren Peper was now a tournament winning champion then truly anything was possible. I half expected Fidel Castro to rise from his deathbed and win the New York City Marathon.
And if Warren Peper could become a champion then certainly I could rise from the ashes of my golf game and get at least as good as Warren is now.
Then, as the final cherry on top, I read in the local paper that Warren had won the City Senior by again shooting 68 on the final day to come from nine strokes back to beat 'golfing royalty' Bubba Hightower, our local John Daly, and Tommy Ford, our local Bobby Jones.
Was Armageddon upon us? Or had the planets mysteriously aligned? I had to get the story from Pep and he graciously met with us after his 7 p.m. show at the WCBD conference room.
First, I was straight with Warren. I told him that while I always admired him, I thought his golf game was pitiful all those years ago. Pep readily agreed with a laugh. And so I queried, 'What happened to make you a champion?' 'And how can I do the same,' I silently wondered.
These are the basics of my time with Senior Peper:
At age 50, about six years ago, after a lifetime of playing pick up and league basketball Warren decided that he 'hadn't hurt anybody and nobody had hurt him' and it was time to give up competitive basketball. He decided to devote himself to golf and was looking for a place to play with his college-age sons, Mark and Brad, figuring that 'golf is a sport that we could always play together.' Discovering the Saturday Morning Blitz at the Charleston Muni, Warren and his boys found a home where Warren says he has had the 'best times' of his life. Yes, golf will do that for a family.
But how did Warren get better?
Well, it turns out that Warren did not get a coach. He did not tinker with clubs. He did not sell his soul to Satan. Warren just played.
As Warren said, 'One of the beauties of having a job from 2 p.m.-midnight is that I have my mornings free and I filled it with golf.' Warren was on the course four days a week and when you do that for years, you can get pretty good. I remember that. To get good at golf, you have to play golf.
And to get good at tournament golf, you have to want to 'hit the shots when it matters the most,' as Warren told me. You have to want the pressure, relish the pressure, want the ball in your hands as the clock ticks down, and you have to want to win.
And when you figure that Warren does have great hand-eye coordination from his basketball days, is highly competitive from his basic nature, has good flexibility from genetics and exercise, then I did see that there was no reason for Warren to not become the scratch golfer that he is today. Even if I could not see it through the cloud and arrogance of my youth.
As Warren told me all about the 68 that he shot to win the City Senior, I realized that Warren and I shared something minor to everyone in the world except us: We both were former hacks, whose greatest victories were both at the Charleston Muni.
On that fateful final round, Warren tossed in six birdies with a single double-bogey and 'gagged two 5-footers in on both 17 and 18' to win by one shot. Warren Peper beating Bubba Hightower and Tommy Ford was the equivalent of Jack Fleck beating Ben Hogan. Only this time, the TV and print people were interviewing Warren about his grand victory instead of Warren interviewing Phil Mickelson. How sweet that had to be for Warren.
After giving his acceptance speech in front of friends, TV cameras and gracious losers on that day, Warren told me that he fell back on the many Masters he had covered as he remembered to thank 'the greenskeepers; the guys I played with; the assistant pro, Jim, who suggested I move the ball back a couple of inches.' And as I made this speech I realized this 'meant a lot to me.'
Then my pal, Mr. Peper, took his trophy and headed to the local Mount Pleasant Christmas parade where he was riding and waving from the WCBD float.
And that's just 'the way it is' as Walter Cronkite would say. When you have 82 victories like Sam Snead the meaning for each one is not the same as when you are Warren Peper or me and you have one single victory. That victory is as sweet as a grape that somehow never leaves your mouth.
After the round, at the suggestion of his wife, Warren made a call to his son, Mark. As they went over every shot on a course they had enjoyed hundreds of times together, Mark said, 'No matter what, no matter if you never play again, you'll always be the City Senior champion. That's something that they can never take away.'
Every Masters and U.S. Open champion know this and now, Warren Peper knows it too. Nothing could make me happier, because Warren has got this feeling. And better yet, he got to share it with his sons.
Email your thoughts to Michael Fechter
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.
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    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 8:56 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – The Race to the CME Globe’s season-long series and its big-bang finish at the CME Group Tour Championship are secured for another six years.

    Tour commissioner Mike Whan announced a contract extension with CME Group through 2023 in his annual state-of-the-tour address Thursday at the Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club.

    Whan also outlined changes to next year’s tournament schedule and detailed specifics of the revamp of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament, with a new Q-School Series devised as the final stage beginning next year.

    Highlights from Whan’s address:

    Extending the CME Race . . .

    The Race to the CME Globe, a season-long competition for a $1 million jackpot, will be played at least six more years, with Whan announcing a contract extension through 2023.

    “We’re pretty excited about that,” Whan said.

    The LPGA is also close to finalizing details that will keep the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club.

    2018 schedule will include two new West Coast events . . .

    The LPGA is likely going to lose three events next year, but it will gain three new ones, leaving the tour with 34 events, including the UL International Crown. That’s the same number of events being played this year. Total prize money is expected to reach $69 million, up from the record $65 million played for this season.

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    The Manulife LPGA Classic in Canada is off next year’s schedule, and the Lorena Ochoa Match Play also is not expected to return. The McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open is not returning, but only because it is sliding off the schedule to move up early on the 2019 schedule.

    Whan said two new West Coast events are being added, and they will be positioned on the calendar next to the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, to give players more reasons to stay out west.

    Whan said there’s also a new international event being added to the schedule, but details of the new events won’t be released until the full schedule is released sometime after Thanksgiving.

    “I hope you’ll agree that stability and predictability haven’t always been the calling card of the LPGA, but it has been the last few years,” Whan said. “I’m proud to tell you that the revenues of the LPGA in the last five or six years are up almost 90 percent. We have added 20 title sponsors and over 20 official marketing partners in the last five or six years. Don’t know too many sports that could claim that.”

    Q-School officially overhauled . . .

    Whan said the LPGA Qualifying Tournament will still be played in three stages next year, but the final stage will get a makeover as the Q-School Series.

    The LPGA will continue to host first and second stages, but instead of a five-round final stage, there will be an eight-round finals series, with two four-round tournaments scheduled in back-to-back weeks in the same city, with cumulative scores used over eight rounds. The new Q-Series site will be announced early next year.

    A field of 108 will make the Q-Series finals, with 40 to 50 LPGA tour cards up for grabs.

    The Q-Series field will be filled by players finishing 101st to 150th on the LPGA money list, players finishing 31st to 50th on the Symetra Tour money list, with up to 10 players from among the top 75 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings who don’t have LPGA membership. Also, the field will include the top five in the Golfweek Sagarin College Rankings. The rest of the field will be filled by players advancing through Q-School’s second stage, which could be anywhere from 23 to 33 players, depending how many from the world rankings and college rankings choose to go to the Q-Series.

    Ryu, S.H. Park among winners at Rolex awards

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 5:51 pm

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    Heather Farr Perseverance Award – Tiffany Joh, who had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma earlier this year, thanked the Farr family and all those who supported Joh through her diagnosis and recovery.

    “I found a great quote from Ram Dass, `We are all just walking each other home,’” Joh said. “I’ve really come to understand the value of all my relationships, no matter how fleeting or profound they seem.”

    The Commissioner’s Award – Roberta Bowman, outgoing chair of the LPGA Board of Directors, was honored for her service the last six years. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan called her “my friend, my boss and my hero.” Bowman deflected the praise for her back on to the tour, thanking Whan, LPGA staff, players, sponsors, fans and the media.

    “The world needs more role models for little girls,” Bowman said. “And they don’t need to look much farther than the LPGA.”

    Ellen Griffin Rolex Award and Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award – Sandy LaBauve, who founded the LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf program, was honored as the first person to win both these awards.

    The Griffin Award honors golf teachers and the Lopez Award honors an LPGA professional who emulates the values Lopez demonstrated. LaBauve is the daughter of Jack and Sherry Lumpkin, both teachers of the game.

    “This program doesn’t belong to me,” LaBauve said of LPGA-Girls’ Golf. “I merely planted the seed. The fruit belongs to all of us.”

    Rolex Annika Major Award – So Yeon Ryu won the award, named for Annika Sorenstam, for the best overall performance in women’s major championships this year. She won the ANA Inspiration and tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open.

    “It’s such an honor to win an award named after Annika Sorenstam,” Ryu told Sorenstam during the presentation. “It’s a special award for me.”

    Rolex Rookie of the Year Award – Sung Hyun Park won the honor, telling the audience in a message translated from Korean that she was disappointed failing to win the KLPGA’s Rookie of the Year Award and was grateful for a dream come true getting the chance to win it on the LPGA.

    Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

    By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

    At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

    Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

    In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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    Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

    Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

    Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

    ''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

    ''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

    Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

    ''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

    ''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

    Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

    Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

    ''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

    Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

    Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

    ''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

    The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

    ''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

    The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

    ''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

    Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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    ''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

    ''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

    ''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

    ''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

    Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

    ''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

    Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

    Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.