New York Stories Revisited
Those foursomes with a hundred laugh-filled Saturdays past became threesomes with an empty feeling.
The father/son tournaments, for some, are forever tearful times of reminiscence.
Fathers without sons, sons without fathers. This has always been an unbearable cost of war.
Husbands without wives, wives without husbands, too many left with the beauty of a setting sun but no late afternoon golf partner with whom to share it.
That great connector of people, that connector of generations, this sport called golf, is for many surviving family members the good in the good times remembered.
Susan McDermott honeymooned at Pebble Beach with husband Matt, a 34-year-old equity trader lost with hundreds of others from the Cantor Fitzgerald family. It was incredible, recalls Susan of their days at Pebble. Matt grew up as a caddie on Long Island, played New Jersey National to a 4-handicap and left behind two small children when the worlds light went out Sept. 11, 2001.
Susan was three months pregnant at the time, and early the following year gave birth to a boy. He looks just like his dad, said Susan last week from her home in New Jersey. Named for his father, Matthew McDermotts now 4 and bears a striking resemblance to his late father. You should see his golf swing, muses his mom.
Susan has not re-married, devoting all her energy to raising her three children. I feel Matts presence strongly, she said. This is where I want to be. Im so content.
Sally Alameno laughed when asked if she was familiar with The Golf Channel. Are you kidding? Channel 69. Andrew watched it all the time! Thirty-seven-years-old, Andrew Alameno worked as a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. A New York Times article on fallen fathers who were at-home heroes said of Andrew that he brushed the hair of his 2-year-old daughters Barbie doll, played endless rounds of Monopoly Junior with his 5-year-old son and skipped dinners with clients to hurry home to Westfield, N.J., by 6 oclock. Andrew Alameno was also an amateur club maker, a hobby he pursued from the basement of his home. Hed just finished making a first set of clubs for his son. He loved golf, Sally said. And he was loved by all.
His son, Joseph, is now 10 and recently went to golf camp. For the first time, he used something other than the set his father had made for him. He did wear his dads old baseball cap, said Sally. Daughter Nina arrived at her first day of second grade with her fathers college ring tucked inside her backpack.
To have young children is the greatest gift, Sally told me early September of 2006. You keep going. You compartmentalize.
Sally did not remarry. She started a business creating hand-made stationary and greeting cards, conceding that she needed an outlet. I feel happy and fulfilled.
Of course, its always there, said Sally. She pays close attention to world affairs, reading several newspapers each day but added that the politics of finger pointing serve little purpose. To live with that level of anger, well, you cant do that, she said.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Ken Eichele was an early starter in the qualifier for the USGA Mid-Amateur championship at Bedford Country Club outside the city. He was even par through 14 holes when he learned of the full weight of the attacks, which hit home particularly hard for him.
Eichele was a New York City fire chief. He was told of the news by a fellow New York City firefighter whod yet to tee off.
With all the bridges into the city closed, there was no way at that moment that Ken could get to ground zero, although he badly wanted to be there to do his job. He finished his round in confusion, his mind racing and with no idea what hed ultimately scored. He rushed home, then to his station house in Manhattan on 85th between Lexington and Third. Nine of the 12 men from his house called to the site of the attacks perished. Ken got to ground zero later that night, some 12 hours after the attack. He worked 48 straight hours, pulling out just one live body. So exhausted was Ken that he admits to falling asleep behind the wheel of his car on the way home from a shift, luckily without serious injury.
He went to 10 funerals in a span of a few days. There were scores of others for friends hed met in his 28 years with the New York City Fire Department that he could not attend.
As for that Mid-Am qualifier, it was scrapped early on Sept. 11, the few completed rounds wiped off the books. It would be replayed in its entirety the next week. Eichele did not play. Obviously, there was much work to be done at ground zero, and too many friends and colleagues to bury. There was just no way I could play, he said. The USGA learned of the situation. And happily, they extended a special invitation to Ken to participate in the national Mid-Amateur Championship the following year.
Today, Kens retired and living with his wife, June, in Pinehurst, N.C. He estimates that in 2005 he played some 260 rounds of golf. At 55, hes one of the finest over-50 players in the southern region, finishing sixth in the recent North and South Senior Amateur.
Im enjoying every minute of it, Ken said last week. As for the events five years ago, Ken explained, I have a poster of the 343 men who died in my office at home and I look at it every day. Ill never forget them and Ill never forget what happened. But I dont dwell on it.
He did express concern for some of his brethren who have suffered and died from lung disease as a result, Ken and many others believe, of the dust inhaled at ground zero. Ken, never a smoker, says he lost 16 to 18 percent of his lung capacity but otherwise feels strong, and lucky. After all, he was on the course on Sept. 11 five years ago.
Golf, he says, saved my life.
Today, it gives his life meaning and purpose.
Some foursomes will never be whole again.
Some fathers will never play golf with their sons again.
Some children will never get the chance.
The hope is that golf, which has always been such a powerful connector of people and generations, can in its own small way help to heal in the years ahead.
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Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return
Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.
Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.
Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.
“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.
As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar
Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.
With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.
That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.
That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.
And that’s a magic word in golf.
There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.
Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.
The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.
Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.
A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.
The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.
Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.
For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.
The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.
The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.
“It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida. “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’
“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”
And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.
“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”
The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.
Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.
The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.
Parity was the story this year.
Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.
Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.
The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.
The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.
“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”
If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.
Parity was the theme from the year’s start.
There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.
This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.
Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.
Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.
She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.
The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.
Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return
Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.
“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”
Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.
According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.
Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.
Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.
“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”
Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.
Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018
He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.
The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.
Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:
3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth
5/2: Rory McIlroy
7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day
9/2: Justin Rose
5/1: Brooks Koepka
15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey
10/1: Adam Scott
12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed
15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson
20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer
25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman
30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes