Golf, perspective and the memories of 9/11

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 7, 2011, 3:02 pm

In episode 156 of “Seinfeld”, George Costanza receives a 90-day severance package from the New York Yankees and declares the following three months, “The Summer of George.”

By the end of the show, he’s is in a hospital learning to walk again, lamenting what could have been.

The 2011 months of June, July and August were supposed to be “The Summer of Tim.” In April, Minors protagonist Tim Hegarty was “jacked.” He was moving back home to New York with his girlfriend, Amanda. He was going to be working more with his swing coach, David Glenz, who teaches out of New Jersey. He was excited to put into practice the lessons learned from his new mental coach. And he had a host of area events on familiar courses he was excited to play.

Along the way, he didn’t lose the ability to maneuver on two feet like Costanza, but he did lose a feel for his swing and lost some love for the game. It wasn’t “The Summer of Tim.”

It’s been 47 days since we last caught up with Hegarty. In June, during the week of the U.S. Open, he was working on Operation Left-to-Right, trying to hit nothing but a fade. Early enthusiasm ultimately gave way to frustration as he struggled with consistency and missed cuts. The low point came when he failed to qualify for the Metropolitan Open held at his home course of Sleepy Hollow.

“It’s been so bad,” Hegarty said Tuesday evening. “I’ve been kind of glad we haven’t talked for a while. It’s been an unbelievable struggle so I was glad there haven’t been any articles for people to read about how I’ve been doing.”

Changes have been made; Operation Left-to-Right has been scrapped. Hegarty has also started working with instructor Kevin Sprecher, out of Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y.

“Trying to change my ball flight was a mess. Never in my life have I been a bad driver of the golf ball, but I became horrible with my driver,” said Hegarty, who places no blame on his friend and former coach. “It’s totally my fault. I’m the one who wasn’t able to hit the shots. Glenz is a great coach. We’ll probably work together again. I just needed to go back to what I know works for me.”

Despite the disappointment and the feeling of a summer lost – professionally speaking – Hegarty was upbeat as we talked. “Life is good,” he said. “I’m trying to keep an upbeat attitude, thinking: What you shoot on the scorecard doesn’t really matter.”

His dog encourages a positive frame of mind. He and Amanda recently got a 1-year-old lab-pit bull mix. “It’s nice to come home to people [and pets] who love you and don’t care if you shot 65 or 75,” Tim said.

Perspective is never far removed from Hegarty’s conscious. As the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001 near their 10th anniversary, he sees the images on the TV, in newspapers, on magazine covers, and in the recollections of his mind.

He was 18 that Tuesday, attending an economics class at Iona College in New Rochelle, about 10 miles from the World Trade Center.

“It was a picture-perfect day. I remember thinking that morning how beautiful of a day it was. I also remember my professor coming into class and saying, ‘America is under attack. School is asking that you get home or get somewhere safe,’” he recalled.

“It was really frantic. My old man was in the city, at the Met Life building. I tried getting in touch with my mother, but no one was home. I went to a friend’s house and watched it [on TV].”

Hegarty was born in New York. It lives inside him. Wherever he resides, New York is home. Three months prior to the acts of terrorism, he attended his high school senior prom at Windows of the World on the 104th floor of the North Tower. He was a union ironworker who tried in vain to assist at Ground Zero in the immediate recovery. He read the New York Times daily, the stories of those who perished, helping to keep their memories alive.

“It stays with you, even after all these years. I still go onto YouTube and watch videos,” he said. “Amanda and I will go to Ground Zero and there is still this intense feeling.”

Perspective is a harsh find. Its gain is usually accompanied by some level of pain. But it’s a necessity of life, allowing us to comprehend that which affects us isn’t always that afflicting. What you shoot on a scorecard doesn’t really matter, not when you’re talking about life’s importance.

But we each have a life to live, one to enjoy. And we can’t do the latter believing the things we do on a daily basis, those which have no affect on the world outside our myopic own, are insignificant.

Tim Hegarty is a professional golfer. A very good one. Shooting 65 or 75 might not make the world a better place, might not change the way he is perceived by those around him – human or canine – but those numbers do have meaning.

There was a time, during this oppressive summer, that Hegarty doubted his future in the game. Then he watched Keegan Bradley win the PGA Championship.

“I’ve played golf with him. He was a mini-tour guy, just like me,” Hegarty said. “I’ve played matches with him, and my buddy, Jesse Smith, and I beat him [and his partner] several times. Seeing him do that – I know how hard he works and how talented he is – but I feel it’s doable, what I’m trying to achieve.”

It’s been a tough few months for Hegarty. “The Summer of Tim” never materialized. But he’s not one to sulk, not one to feel sorry for himself. Quite the contrary. He’s an empathetic New Yorker who recognizes the struggles of others. He’s a wide-eyed 28-year-old who can breed confidence – not harbor jealousy – from the success of another. He’s a young man with perspective.

“I’ve got Q-School pre-qualifying coming up in Nebraska,” he said. “Sean [his brother] is going to be on my bag. I’ve got some good thoughts going through my mind.”

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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.