NYC - The Heart of a Champion

By Rich LernerJune 15, 2002, 4:00 pm
We got a check in the mail in late April, a donation to Harbor House, which operates shelters in the Orlando, Florida area for victims of domestic violence. My wife, Robin, is on the board of directors for Harbor House and together we help to organize the charitys annual golf tournament. The check was also accompanied by a brief letter of gratitude, thanking my wife and me for being a part of the most serendipitous golfing moment of the year 2001.
Matt Corrigans 46, a captain in the FDNY, ladder 121 Engine 265. Hes married to Nancy, and they have two sons, Matt, 6 and James, 3. Matts salt of the earth, with dark curly hair and a thick, hearty regional accent that says New York instantly. A Jerry Garcia lover, he gave to his oldest son a middle name of Jerry. Matt played in a band when he was younger. Now he plays golf, and very well I might add.
One of his golfing buddies is another fireman, Chief Ken Eichle, a 50 year old veteran of 28 years with the FDNY, stationed on the East side of Manhattan in Battalion 10. Together over the last several years with other friends ' firefighters, police officers ' they frequently played Bethpage Black, site of the upcoming U.S. Open. In fact, Ken will be a marshal on the second hole during the tournament. Theyre members of The Nassau Players Club, a group of mostly low handicap, public golfers who play together and hold tournaments at daily fee golf courses. Over the years, Ken and Matt were partners and opponents, enough times to have developed a playful, jabbing banter with one another as to whos gotten the better of the battles.
I mentioned that they were good players, good enough in fact to attempt to qualify for various amateur events staged by the United States Golf Association. On September 11, Ken and Matt were both trying to qualify for the U.S. Mid Amateur Championship, albeit at different courses in the metropolitan New York area, for guys 24 to 55. Ken was entered at Bedford Golf and Tennis Club in Westchester, while Matt was at Shackamaxon Country Club in Scotch Pines, NJ.
Ken had an early tee time and was playing well. He was even par through 14 holes. Then it happened. The bridges to the city were closed. He had nowhere to go. He saw the horror on TV in the locker room of the club. When the towers crumbled, he knew immediately that he had lost many, many comrades.
Matt Corrigan never did tee off. He, too, lost many friends and colleagues.
About a week later, as America tried to return to some corner or small part of the world it knew, the golf tournament, that U.S. Mid Amateur, re-played its qualifier for its upcoming event. Neither Ken nor Matt, of course, could come back. They were dealing with the grimmest situation possible, burying co-workers, attending memorial services and helping at ground zero.
The United States Golf Association oversees 13 national championships, from the U.S. Junior Girls to the U.S. Open to The U.S. Senior Amateur. They decided to extend Ken Eichele a special invitation to bypass the qualifier ' at which he was playing very well, remember ' and complete in next years national mid amateur championship. Ken accepted. The USGA has always been a paragon of egalitarianism in terms of the score you shoot being the ultimate arbiter. Here, though, they felt the circumstances were such that Ken should be given a spot in the field.
By early October, Ken and Matt and their friends had returned to Bethpage Black to play golf again, a reminder for them that not all the good in the world was stolen on that terrible day. The trees could still be enjoyed, and so too could a laugh with your pals, or the thrill and wonder of a well-executed golf shot. It was therapeutic.
I was there on that October day when Ken and Matt and two buddies teed off in the fog at the spot where Tiger will stand this week. I was at work on an assignment for The Golf Channel called New York Stories, five accounts from victims of the terrorist attack, all of whom were in some way connected to golf.
Ken and Matt shared their story. The program, one hour, aired over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday last year. The board at Harbor House, upon hearing their story and of their love for golf, extended an invitation of its own to both Ken and Matt to play in their December 10th charity tournament in Orlando, Florida. Among the pros were John Cook, Lee Janzen, Chris DiMarco, Laura Diaz, Skip Kendall, as well as famed instructor David Leadbetter. Ken and Matt had, like many of their brethren, experienced a traumatic and exhausting several month period and were anxious to get away from New York. They came to Florida.
They were paired with tour pro Mike Sposa and me. We had played five holes, beginning on the 15th in a shotgun start, when we arrived at the 166 yard, par three 2nd hole at ChampionsGate, a new Greg Norman design not far from Disney. As is customary at charity golf tournaments, there was a car up for grabs to anyone who makes a hole in one. The car in this case was a 57-thousand-dollar Cadillac Escalade.
Matt teed off with a six iron, and quickly said, Oh thats way right.
The pro, Sposa, just as fast and lightheartedly snapped, Right? Whaddya mean, you got the Escalade!
Two bounces later it disappeared, we screamed and hollered and hugged and woke up the entire city with happiness. The story made USA Today, The Orlando Sentinel and The New York Post. Just as his friend, Ken, had gotten his just reward, so too had Matt.
And soon after, we had ours in the form of that letter plus the donation to the charity. It was signed by Matt Corrigan.
New Yorks filled with every imaginable kind of person, most assuredly heroic, big-hearted types. Some would say that this week at The U.S. Open New Yorkers will demonstrate to the world that theyre back. Id say they never went anywhere.
Editor's Note: Dont Miss A Special Encore Presentation of
New York Storiesof Enduring Spirit
Saturday, June 15 @ 5 PM ET on The Golf Channel
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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.