He occasionally called his father “Big Bob.” For a world famous golfer bound for the Hall of Fame with multiple majors in his bag, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark O’Meara’s favorite moment on the golf course came in 1990 when he won the pro-am at Pebble Beach for the third time. He would win the event twice more, but that year was special because his amateur partner was a furniture salesman who lived a few doors down from his Isleworth home, a man he often called Big Bob.
My brother and I sat at the 18th green as Mark made birdie to win the 1998 Masters. I watched on television later that year as he won the Open Championship. Over the years I’ve heard him mention those victories only on occasion. The 1990 Pebble victory? Probably as much as all his other tournament experiences combined.
Bob O’Meara was born during the depression in New York City and died Tuesday at 81. He would become a furniture wholesaler who relished the art of the deal. His pleasant demeanor must have made him a formidable salesman. I imagine it would have been very difficult to say no to Big Bob. His middle child was born in Greensboro, N.C., and the family soon moved to Mission Viejo, Calif. With a drive to succeed fueled by a fear of failure, Bob O’Meara worked into his 70s.
When Mark joined the Champions Tour Bob sought me out, recounting a conversation he’d had with my father regarding our family name. A derivative of O’Meara, dad told him it was shortened to Marr at Ellis Island and our familial link to Big Bob was lost, though he always treated me as kin.
Whenever we saw one another we would chat about the game, our families and life in general. He was kind, engaging and always amiable. Last Octover in Sonoma, Calif. we all got together for dinner and had a grand time. Mark was playing in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, had recently remarried and Bob and I were enjoying new romances of our own.
The ladies hit it off well, the guys laughed it up and at the end we parted knowing we would do it all again soon. Seeing Bob would always bring me comfort and a smile and I always looked forward to the next encounter. Sadly for me, Sonoma would be the last.
It was easy to see that Mark’s success in the game brought delight to his father, but I always sensed that it was his son’s manner that made Big Bob most proud. How Mark handled interviews, sponsors and autograph seekers was especially significant and noted. It has been said that it is not flesh and blood, but heart that makes us fathers and sons. And, while his cherubic smile may be gone Bob O’Meara’s warm heart still beats in the lives of his children and grandchildren.