Father-son bond strengthened by golf and Pinehurst

By Will GrayJune 15, 2014, 12:05 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – I was sitting next to my father the first time I fell in love with Pinehurst.

Fifteen years old and fresh off the golf course from a junior tournament, I grabbed a seat with my dad, Bill, at a hotel lobby bar in Orlando, Fla., and we watched the final round of the 1999 U.S. Open together. For much of the afternoon, we were the only two people in the room, munching on popcorn and watching as Payne Stewart and Phil Mickelson dueled in the foggy mist at No. 2. We sat transfixed as the drama unfolded across a course the likes of which I had never before seen, one where every mound and undulation appeared to be crafted with such distinct purpose.

We passed hour after hour watching Stewart will himself to victory, then shared in celebration when he holed his famous putt. It was one of those rare instances in life when you realize the gravity of a moment in real time: by that point, the two of us had watched a ton of golf together, but we both knew that the round we had just witnessed was special.

That afternoon remains one of my favorite childhood memories.

I was with my father when I first visited Pinehurst. Inspired by the events of ’99, I signed up for a winter series of tournaments in 2000 across several of the resort’s layouts. He and I flew up from Florida, scouted some of the venues and shared a first-hand appreciation for all that the place had to offer to those who love the game. We returned again in 2005, the week before Michael Campbell won his U.S. Open, and took a resort tour that allowed us to walk the fairways of the final three holes of No. 2.

From watching on a TV screen six years prior to strolling the tournament grounds, our appreciation for this place had only grown.

I remember getting my first set of golf clubs from my father when I was 9 years old. Over the next two decades, he instilled in me a passion for golf – the man loved a good challenge, and in his mind there was no greater challenge than trying to conquer a game that remains unbeaten. I grew up immersed in golf, spending summers scuttling from tournament to tournament, with my father/caddie/swing coach/sports psychologist at my side every step of the way.

A 1992 car accident crippled my father, crushing his back and leaving him in a wheelchair for most of the subsequent years. Despite the pain, he would hobble into a golf cart and ride along while I played thousands of rounds, either coaching me from the seat beside or watching tournament play from afar. Regardless of venue, or weather, or how wrecked it would leave him at the end of the day, he was there.

He and I both knew that while his physical condition kept us from sharing many activities, we would always have golf.

This week, I returned to Pinehurst without him.

Last June, I was covering a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, trading texts with my dad about the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the event. About 45 minutes after our last exchange, he suffered a heart attack and died at age 63.

I have been filled with mixed emotions over the past few days, back in a place that he loved, that I loved, and that we loved together. I have walked through rooms where we once dined, and crossed holes that we once played, and I have thought of him often. But I have also enjoyed being at a tournament that we both cherished so much.

More so than any other event, the U.S. Open is about bridging generations. It is an annual ode to fathers and sons, to men who teach their children the game with the hopes that they might someday pass it on to the next generation. It is grandfathers describing the 1962 playoff between Arnie and Jack to their grandchildren, who will someday recount the duel between Tiger and Rocco with similar passion.

Two weeks after my father died, I watched Justin Rose cap off his U.S. Open win at Merion and point to the sky to his father Ken, who passed away in 2002. Given my circumstances I found it especially poignant, but it served as a reminder that every golfer can trace his roots in the game back to the person that first handed them a club.

Today the tournament will end on Father’s Day as it has for many years, a staple on the calendar that allows us to recall with ease past Opens. For nearly 20 years, I spent that third Sunday in June in front of a TV along with my dad  – watching Tiger’s romp at Pebble, or Tom Lehman and Phil Mickelson both come up painfully short so many times, and of course Payne’s putt in 1999.

I’ll walk the fairways as another Open winner is crowned on Father’s Day, and while I still miss the man that first introduced me to the game, I know exactly the words he would impart were he here.

“Well, my son … ain’t this something."

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.