CROMWELL, Conn. – There’s an exclusive club of which every golfer wants to be a member … and no, it’s not Augusta National.
Its initiation process is so rigorous that most simply don’t have what it takes to pass the test … but it’s no tribal ritual.
The chosen few who are accepted into this club undergo plenty of interaction with their fellow members right away … though there’s no hazing period.
Call it the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – and Webb Simpson received membership into the club with his U.S. Open victory on Sunday.
The all-time list of major championship winners reads like a who’s who of the game’s greatest legends and most talented players. Upon claiming the title at The Olympic Club, Simpson heard from many of them, offering both their congratulations and advice for dealing with the newfound glory.
“I got some emails from older guys who I've looked up to my whole life that I didn't expect,” Simpson revealed on Wednesday in advance of playing the Travelers Championship. “So that kind of just congratulatory reception from them has been great. And I've got a couple of emails from older golfers that I'm probably going to print out and frame and guys that I've respected so much in so many areas of life. They've just given me invaluable advice through these emails that I didn't expect.”
It’s a list straight out of Major Champion Fantasy Camp.
It was the type of reception that could leave a 26-year-old major winner looking like a wide-eyed child amongst his heroes.
“I reread the email from Tom Watson last night,” Simpson said. “Coming from a guy who's won eight majors, just the things he told me and as a good friend will do, just kind of encouraged me and warn me against feeling certain things I think are really going to help me because obviously I've never won a major. I don't know what to think or expect, but it's something I'm going to try to put into practice and try to remember.”
Simpson’s contact with major champions of the past hasn’t been limited to those who won long ago. Less than 48 hours after winning, he was already leaning on a few current professionals who have been through similar experiences in recent years.
“I even talked with Zach Johnson yesterday for a few minutes just about what advice he could give me after what he went through winning the Masters,” he confided. “I like to learn. And I have no clue really what I'm doing or what to expect, so I'm going to reach out, hopefully, and get some advice from the guys who have won a major and just see what to do and what not to do after.”
He will have even more chances to accomplish that this week.
For the first two rounds at the Travelers, Simpson will be grouped with a pair of recent young American major champions in Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley, the reigning Masters and PGA Championship winners, respectively.
“I've talked to Keegan already about it,” he said. “I haven't had a whole lot of time with Bubba because he hasn't played as much, but it's probably something I won't do during the round because we'll be trying to beat each other. But I have all their numbers, and probably when I know they're having a week off and I got a week off, I'll probably call with some questions and just see what to do.”
Watson has already offered some advice to his Presidents Cup partner.
“He texted me and asked what was going to be different,” he said. “I just told him, I said, ‘You're going to have more fans. You're going to have more people wanting you to sign, and your agent's going to have more things for you to do. You're just going to have to be able to say no. You're the boss. Your agent works for you. You’ve just got to be able to say no and do what's right for you and your family, not what's right for other people. It's always what's right for you and your family who comes first.’ So I tried to give him my little advice because he asked me, but who knows if he'll listen.”
Trust this much: Webb Simpson is listening.
He's soaking up information and advice from Watson and Norman and Irwin and Palmer and Johnson and Bradley and the other Watson. Everybody who has been through his situation before, in fact.
It’s all part of the membership process in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.