New York Stories

By Rich LernerOctober 3, 2001, 4:00 pm
Those foursomes with a hundred laugh-filled Saturdays past are now threesomes with an empty feeling.
The Father-Son tournaments will, for some, forever be tearful times of reminiscence. Fathers without sons, sons without fathers. This has, so sadly, 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 four handicap and leaves behind two small children.
Sally Alameno laughs 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 worked as a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. A recent New York Times article on fallen fathers who were at-home heroes said of Andrew that he brushed the hair of his two year old daughters Barbie doll, played endless rounds of Monopoly Junior with his five year old son and skipped dinners with clients to hurry home to Westfield, NJ by six oclock. Andrew Alameno was also an amateur clubmaker, 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.
On September 11, 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. Ken Eichle is a New York City fire chief. He was told of the news by a fellow New York City firefighter whod yet to tee off.

All the bridges into the city closed, there was no way at that moment that Ken could get to ground zero, though 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.
Hes been to seven funerals, with three more in the next several 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 September 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 either this year or next. Ken, grateful for the USGAs gesture, has decided that hell play next year.
He says that had he not been on a golf course he might have been among the legion of his brethren who were lost. Golf, he says, saved my life.
Bruce Schaulk was a New York City fireman. That was until he got trapped in a burning building. With severe injuries, Bruce was, in the parlance of the profession, put out of the job in 1987. He was 40, in the prime of his life. Now 54 and married with two children, Bruce Schalk is a golf professional in Brooklyn. He gives upwards of 60 lessons a week at Marine Park, a Robert Trent Jones course built in the early 1960s. If youre a resident, you can play for $21 weekdays, $24 on the weekend. In good years, they handle up to 90,000 rounds. I love teaching, says Schaulk. Thats why I got into it. Schaulk was giving a lesson when The World Trade Center, visible from the golf course, was attacked. Today, he admits that its been hard on us.
Were mourning the deaths of loved ones, of people we ate with, slept with, fought fires with, he says in a low tone, the hurt palpable. Part of your hearts been torn away and it will never be replaced. And along with the heartache comes anger. Its a very difficult time.
Some foursomes will never be whole again. Some fathers will never play golf with their sons again.
Some sons will never have that chance.
Perhaps this sport, which has always been such a powerful connector of people and generations, can also help to heal in the days and years ahead.
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Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

“I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

“[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

“He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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This week, let the games(manship) begin

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

“Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

“There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

“Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

“I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

“It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

“Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

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Spieth vs. Reed random? Hmm, wonders Spieth

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Monday’s blind draw to determine the 16 pods for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play didn’t exactly feel “blind” for Jordan Spieth, whose group includes Patrick Reed.

Spieth and Reed have become a staple of U.S. teams in recent years, with a 7-2-2 record in the Ryder and Presidents Cup combined. So when the ping-pong ball revealed Reed’s number on Monday night Spieth wasn’t surprised.

“It seems to me there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness,” laughed Spieth, whose pod also includes Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel. “It's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List and Justin [Thomas] in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.”

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Spieth will play Reed on Friday in the round-robin format and knows exactly what to expect from the fiery American.

“I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match-play scenario,” Spieth said. “I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us.”