Its highly possible that the self-professed sports fanatic Trevor Immelman was a tad disappointed, and perhaps even bored, by the lack of player star-power and intrigue at the sporting event the other day. No, not at Augusta on Sunday. (That was me.) Im talking about Tuesday nights Boston/New York match-up at Madison Square Garden. I doubt Immelman envisioned taking in an NBA game to watch the magnificent hoop stylings of one Tony Allen ' rather than Ray Allen. Nor was he itching to see Kendrick Perkins, James Posey and Leon Powe play, I imagine. Doc Rivers had benched the Big Three (no, not Palmer, Player and Nicklaus) for the entire game while the freshly-minted, newly-cloaked Masters champ sat on his own bench, the celebrity court-side one, watching the makeshift Celtics team beat a beleaguered lame-duck Knicks club 99-93. The South African was making the requisite and well-deserved victory rounds in the Big Apple, with this particular stop as the special guest of his Lake Nona, Fla., neighbor Coach Rivers. And keeping with the prevalent coaching trend of having random celebrities give half-time speeches (Im thinking Rich Rodriguez will NOT be asking Russell Crowe back to Ann Arbor this fall.), the green-jacketed hero apparently energized the green jerseyed Cs scrub squad in the lockerroom with his champion-like feel, whatever that means.
It was great, Rivers said. Half the guys didnt know him. It was really cool. (This is where I lose him. How is his anonymity cool?) They all gave him a nice standing ovation and shook his hand. We wanted everyone to touch what a champion felt like.
Yeah, because we all know Larry Bird is not walking through that door! Kevin McKale is not walking through that door! Robert Parrish is not walking through that door!
Chalk it up to Karma:
Maybe it was too much to ask from the sports gods to be blessed with a crazy, improbable Super Bowl, an incredible NCAA Championship title game (even if was all-chalk), AND a compelling Masters all within the first few months 2008. As sports fans, inherently, we really are a greedy, gluttonous breed. We want theatre. We want unpredictability. We want astonishing feats, last-second heroics, sexy story-lines, records broken. All of it. If our favorite players or teams cant win, at the very least, we want the game or event to hold our attention. Make it interesting, we say, We want a close one. So going into this week, I was praying for a half-dozen of the world's top golfers all tied for the lead with a few holes on a late Sunday afternoon. I was holding out for some Mario Chalmers-like antics on the back-nine sending the action into overrrrrr-time. (Especially in this, the only major with a sudden-death play-off system!) But as it turned out, Billy Packer could have called this one early on Sunday. Shoot, maybe we all could have predicted it on Saturday when Immlemans third shot somehow stopped on the bank of the 15th green, in what would turn out as the ONLY really memorable shot of the entire tournament. But despite the dearth of drama, despite all the missing elements we lust and long for in our championships -- because these supposedly define THE BEST -- and separate the rest -- what we had left standing on Sunday was a hero in every sense of the word. And we didnt need an on the-edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting ending to enhance or validate this victory. Because in the end, there stood a true, courageous, humble champion in Trevor Immelman and that was more than enough. (And who, apropos of nothing, could probably fall back on acting or modeling if this golf gig doesnt pan out. Can we start running that FedEx commercial again with him and Vijay where hes talking into his brush in the mirror? People will recognize him now!)
I heard the news today, oh boy:
Why is it that upon hearing the news of Tiger Woods knee surgery and his subsequent 4-6 week stint on the DL, my thoughts immediately jumped to two South Africans, but for two different reasons: Trevor Immelman and Ernie Els. Id like to not be a cynic here, but does Tiger realize how the timing of this news looks, only two days after he back-doored a second-place finish at Augusta, thanks in part to some choking newbies in front of him on the leaderboard. And does he realize it might be a slight slap in the face to the newly-crowned Immelman?
The Masters champ barely had 48 hours to soak in the glorious rays of triumph and heres Tiger taking the spotlight away. Oh, yeah, you won Trevor, but let me throw out a subtle disclaimer that I had a bum knee all along, not exactly full-speed, partner. Did Tiger REALLY need to release this information THIS week. Curiously, his swing coach Hank Haney didnt even know about it until we did, when it hit the wires. On another note, Ernie Els had to be rejoicing -- and licking his chops -- with the possibility of a few imminent non-Tiger tournaments he can win now with his buddy side-lined. Just the other night, I told my dad that Els would never win another major as long as Tiger was in the field, because the Big Easy was just too much of a head-case at this point -- and far from being a closer on a big stage. HOWEVA, if he could pull it off (without Tiger in the field), THE PLAYERS could now be a huge confidence-breeding win for Ernie before heading to San Diego for the U.S. Open. By that time, Tiger will have just returned from rehabbing the knee, and Butch Harmon will have had time to work his magic (still skeptical) with his newest pupil. Might be perfect timing for Els to win his first major in over five years! Naw, what am I saying? The last time Woods had knee surgery, he came back and won three of his first four tournaments, starting with the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, just one of the six times hes one at that venue in the last four years.
What I learned this week:
Course of Life:
I am a lifetime member of Kountryside Golf Course in Cope, S.C. This may not mean anything to anyone else, but to me, it means more than I could have ever imagined. Its value cannot be measured with a paycheck. And Augusta National couldnt begin to come close to matching the special nature of Kountryside. A pocket-sized laminated card bearing my name and this honor given to me by two of the most unique, honest, hard-working people I have ever come across, hangs in my office proudly on display. And I look forward to using it one day soon. You see, I have never even set foot in Cope, S.C. I have yet to play a single hole on the charming track there. But I cannot wait for the day I get to do just that. Moreover, I am most eager to meet the owners, Bobby and Len Kilgus, in person. Because it was their remarkable story that I found last fall while searching the Internet ' a tale of making something out of nothing in pursuit of a dream ' which ended up touching me and inspiring me in ways I had not expected. Not only did we get to cover their course for 'Golf Central,' everyone involved in the shoot, Rich Lerner on down to the camera man there, to the producer and editor back in Orlando, we all got to know the Kilguses and the lovely people of Cope. And we all became better for it. Bobby and Lens story reminds me every day at work how blessed I am to do what I do -- and how fun and rewarding my job is when I get to meet folks like them. You just never know when you might have the chance to strike up a friendship of a lifetime.
Rich Lerners 3-part feature on Kountryside Golf Course airs this weekend on 'Golf Central' Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
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