One Night In El Paso

By Rich LernerSeptember 3, 2002, 4:00 pm
Country clubs and golf clubs so often get cast as these bastions of elitism and snobbery. I guess some are. Most that I've been to, though, are anything but that, more haven to classic characters and bon hommie - good cheer and good fun.
El Paso Country Club is like that. They threw a party for Rich Beem last Thursday, just as they had done in the late '60s when another member, Lee Trevino, won the 1968 U.S. Open, and in 1998 when J.P. Hayes won The Buick Classic. Pretty strong list of graduates at El Paso C.C.
El Paso is the western-most spot in Texas, bordering New Mexico and Mexico. There's something sort of loopy about a place where if you make a wrong turn you could be in a different country. It's a diverse and tolerant culture, reflected in the faces of even the members of El Paso Country Club.
As Beemer sat on our Golf Talk Live set, a funky, tattooed female photographer from Sports Illustrated snapping shot after shot, he welcomed an endless stream of well wishers.
'Izzyyyyy!' Beem shouted. A spry, 80-year-old man with a big smile reached out to embrace the PGA Champion. It was Izzy Kahn, a longstanding member of El Paso C.C. I was instantly reminded of an Izzy that I knew at a club where I played as a youth. Izzy Heiklen, may he rest peacefully, taught me how to spot putt late one night with the lights of his automobile illuminating the practice green.
Izzy always said that he'd played enough golf in his life to walk to the moon and back. And even when his body would no longer allow him to play, he'd still come to the club every single day and sit in the same exact chair in the men's grill and order the same exact thing every single day - a bagel with cream cheese and marmalade with a cup of coffee. I rarely started a round unless I'd first said hello to Izzy.
Our show was starting in minutes so I didn't get Izzy Kahn's full story. But based on the warmth Beemer showed for the old timer, I'd bet it's a good one.
Just behind us, the young men and women of the University of Texas at El Paso golf team were soaking up the atmosphere on the putting green, at most any club the perfect gathering post. I had putted a few holes with them, each with an eye on a career as a touring pro, no doubt buoyed by the grand exploits of the guy they'd frequently played with during their practice rounds at El Paso C.C.
The Franklin Mountains framed the scene quite majestically, a cloudless, warm, late summer day in the Southwest.
A couple hundred people milled about excitedly just behind our set. Imagine if someone associated with your club had returned with one of the most coveted trophies in golf, returned as an unlikely but perfect hero, having out-dueled one of the two greatest golfers that ever lived. You'd want to celebrate that, wouldn't you?
During the show, several guests good-naturedly pointed out that Beemer was really not a very good assistant professional at El Paso C.C. in the mid to late '90s. Cameron Doan, Rich's current swing coach and now the head pro at a Dallas area club which is home to the likes of Lanny Wadkins, David Graham and Lee Trevino - Preston Trail - remembers that when he was head pro at El Paso C.C., he advised Rich to find another line of work, preferably using his talents as a player. Bill Eschenbrenner, whose understated aura and handsome, lived in look make him something of a Clint Eastwood of club pros, preceded Doan at El Paso C.C. and is now the beloved pro emeritus. He pointed out that Rich simply didn't have the temperament to spew the kind of niceties that all club professionals must to its membership. Beemer denied none of this, and laughed along as the memories were recounted lovingly.
After the show, people ate burgers and dogs and slaw and chips, enjoyed drinks while watching a replay of the magical moments from Minnesota on a big screen TV adjacent to the putting green. Beemer signed autographs for anyone who requested, and there were lots.
As the evening moved along, a gang of people retreated to the card room. There was a group behind the bar, and several more at the different tables around the room. It was pleasantly noisy, the way it gets when revelers gather steam and gather together.
At one table, a dice game called chiho had not so much broken out as it had erupted. It sounded like a fired-up crap table in Vegas, and no doubt wagers were won and lost.
All the while, I'd bumped into so many friends and acquaintances of the star of the show.
'What makes Beemer special,' said one 30-something guy, 'is that he has a great sense of occasion.'
Well put, I thought.
'He's got incredible instincts,' chimed another. Agreed.
'Think about this,' implored a 50ish man. 'Right now, if you were entered in a PGA Tour pro-am and were given a choice of any player you'd like to partner, you could make a strong case that Beemer would be near the top of the list, behind Tiger and maybe Mickelson. People really relate to Rich and like him.'
No question.
Another person felt strongly that Rich had changed for the better, that after he'd won Kemper in '99 he was possibly headed down a bumpy, partying path. Rich still enjoys a spirited time, he added, but now he's married to sweet Sara and aware that the skill he possesses should not be wasted.
My instinct told me that these people all knew Rich quite well. My instinct was only slightly skeptical when someone tried to convince me that they saw all of this coming. Achieving as Rich did on such a monumental and thrilling scale, I felt, would have been difficult to predict. But no matter, it had happened, and joyously so.
Beemer had come along at the perfect time, a tasty antidote to the clinical, disciplined and obviously ultra successful Tiger Woods. And that he came out of the kind of club environment that so many fans of golf understand made him more real. Beemer's one of us.
I fully understood that when late into the memorable night, the PGA champion stood up and announced above the din and clamor of the celebration, 'Taco Cabana! I'm buyin'.'
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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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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