Memories abound from Hall of Fame inductees

By Randall MellNovember 3, 2009, 4:42 am
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Jose Maria Olazabal wandered through the World Golf Hall of Fame exhibits in awe of where his life has led him.

In a wing for the newest inductees, in his first trip to the facility, he found a wall celebrating his achievements.

This was Sunday, a day before he would join the Class of 2009 in the induction ceremony, but he was moved to see he was already a part of the history that’s celebrated here.
Lanny Wadkins
Lanny Wadkins chats with the media prior to his Hall of Fame induction. (Getty Images)
Olazabal, 43, found his story with photos and artifacts documenting his achievements as well as those of his fellow inductees: Lanny Wadkins, Christy O’Connor and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

There’s a grainy, old black-and-white photo here that shows a 5-year-old Olazabal taking one of his first swings growing up in Spain. He’s playing cross-handed. The photo is here with the complete set of MacGregor irons Olazabal used to win the Masters in 1999 and the TaylorMade metal woods he used to win the Masters in ’94.

“I gripped the club left-handed even though I was hitting right-handed,” Olazabal told reporters in a news conference before Monday’s ceremony. “As soon as coaches turned their backs on me, I was back to hitting left-handed.”

The memories Olazabal shared with fellow inductees and their family and friends moved him in powerful ways.

Olazabal told Arnold Palmer Monday at the Hall of Fame luncheon, six hours before the induction ceremony, that the experience had already made him cry.

“I spent a couple hours yesterday just looking at all the history,” Olazabal said. “It’s a very special place, and it’s a privilege and great honor to be a part of this.”

There was sure to be more emotion at the ceremony with Seve Ballesteros scheduled to introduce Olazabal in a recorded message. Ballesteros, a fellow Spaniard and five-time major championship winner, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor a year ago. He’s fighting back after four surgeries to remove the tumor. Ballesteros invited Olazabal to play with him in a charity match at his home club in Pedrena when Olazabal was only 15. They immediately forged a bond that would lead to their formidable pairings together on the European Ryder Cup teams. They were 11-2-2 as partners.

“Something special happened that day,” Olazabal said. “It's very hard for me to say, but you can call it chemistry, call it whatever you want, but it was the base of a great relationship through the years, and it showed at the Ryder Cup. When I had the chance to come over here to the States and play a little bit more here, we spent a lot of time together, practicing, working together on the driving range, out on the chipping green. I learned a lot, especially around the greens, from him. I think that was quite important.”

Like Ballesteros, Olazabal would develop a reputation as a short-game wizard.

“Seve showed me how important it was not to give up at any point or any stage of the match or the round,” Olazabal said. “He always had that fighting spirit. He never gave up, and I learned a lot from that. I think that has been very helpful in my career, at several points in my career, where things are not going your way. You think, `Wow, is it worth all the work that I'm putting in?’ And then you look at a guy like him, and I say, `Well, there is no shortcut here, so you'd better keep on working hard.’”

Olazabal is the winner of 21 European Tour titles, four PGA Tour titles. He played on seven Ryder Cup teams, but it’s the relationships he forged growing up in golf that have stayed with him. That was the theme in the afternoon interviews before the induction ceremony. Wadkins, 59, shared special moments in the game with Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and family. Palmer also visited to share his memories of Eisenhower, who died 40 years ago but was selected to the Hall of Fame via the Lifetime Achievement Category.

Wadkins’ display included the custom-made MacGregor driver he used to win the 1977 PGA Championship and a number of trophies and other artifacts, but it also includes a $4 check that Hogan wrote him on June 12, 1981. Wadkins never cashed it. The letter from Hogan that came with the check also is on display.

“Dear Lanny,” the letter begins. “Enclosed is my check for $4 for your skins yesterday. With all the confusion of our intruder, I simply forgot this. I can’t imagine this fellow doing that. It was my first experience of this kind, and I really didn’t know how to handle this situation, except to just quit.”

Wadkins, who won ’70 U.S. Amateur and 21 PGA Tour events, including the ’77 PGA and ’79 Players Championship, explained that he received the check as payment from Hogan for a friendly money game at Shady Oaks, Hogan’s club in Fort Worth , Texas .

“We got on about the 14th, 15th hole at Shady Oaks, and a guy rides up in a cart, and he's got shorts on and he's got a beard,” Wadkins said. “That's probably two of Hogan's least favorite things on a golf course. The guy doesn't ask anything, he says, `I'm going to join you guys the rest of the way in.’ Didn't even ask. Now, would you ride up to Ben Hogan and say, `Hey, I'm playing with you today?’  That didn't fly with Ben. He looked at me and said, `Are you ready to go?’ I said, `I'm with you, Ben.’ We drove off and left him sitting there. The frustration, he was so embarrassed, because this happened at his club, Shady Oaks, where he was a member, and thus the letter apologizing for the intruder. I was two skins up at the time. So I got the check for $4. His secretary's name was Clara Bell. She called me every month for the next six months wanting me to cash Mr. Hogan's check so she could balance his account. I said, `Clara Bell, there's no chance I'm cashing that check, ever.’’’

Palmer praised Eisenhower for helping to popularize the game as the 34th President of the United States, but Palmer spoke mostly of the friendship they forged. It’s been reported that about 3.2 million Americans played golf when Eisenhower took office in 1953 and double that played when he left office eight years later.

Palmer said Eisenhower typically shot in the mid-80s but probably never broke 80 in his life. Still, Palmer said Eisenhower was passionate about the game, something that really hit Palmer after they played a charity exhibition at Merion one year. Eisenhower wanted a tip from Palmer before the round.

“I said, `Well, Mr. President, if you kept your right elbow in a little closer to your side, I think you could get a little more power into your shots,’ never thinking what was going to happen,” Palmer said. “As you probably remember, if you saw any of the military people, they always wore their belt [buckles] on their right side. He kept [his elbow] so close that when we finished practicing and playing, his elbow was all bloody from keeping that elbow in close. That was how intent he was on playing the game of golf.”

O’Connor, 84, the accomplished Irishman, wasn’t able to make the pre-induction news conferences, but his presence was strong in the Hall of Fame, where his display included the 1962 Harry Vardon Trophy, given to the winner of the European Tour Order of Merit. O’Connor is the only Irishman to win it twice. O’Connor won 24 European Tour titles and made 10 Ryder Cup appearances.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.