None other than the king himself, Arnie, once played on Monday. Another year it was John Elway playing (Tuesday this particular year) the day after his jersey was retired on Monday Night Football. The list of past invitees is impressive, and this year didn't disappoint.
John Daly and Hank Kuehne were present. Both men of legendary length off the tee, who make the golf ball wish it was a hockey puck, had a go at each other for nine holes.
But they weren't alone. Nancy Lopez, the Hall of Fame former LPGA star of 48 career wins, was Kuehnes partner. And if the event didn't have enough star-power, Michelle Wie was Dalys partner.
Ironically, it could be argued that Wie and Lopez are roughly equal distance from their primes, but on opposite sides of the spectrum. Perhaps the same for Daly and Kuehne - time will tell. Nonetheless, it was an intriguing cast of characters, and the fans came out of the woodwork to witness something akin to golf's heavyweight tag-team match. And speaking of woodwork, the enormous drives of Kuehne and Daly, and even Wie for that matter, were worth the price of admission.
Daly and Kuehne were the source of most of the awe-inspiring moans throughout the crowd, and the curiosity surrounding the 13-year-old phenom was very evident. And of course, Nancy Lopez is always a fan favorite and one of the classiest people in all of golf.
Most interesting to me was the interaction between four players who don't really know each other that well and come from four distinctly different corners of the golfing world. And did I mention four completely different personalities? I was curious to see if Daly would crank it up a notch to show the new long drive leader, Kuehne, that respect for ones elders is a virtue. But I was most curious to watch Michelle's interaction with Nancy.
At 13 years old, political correctness and interpersonal manners arent a given. But from the press conference preceding the event through the entire day, Wie was obviously respectful of the legend even though the dominance Nancy had on the LPGA Tour occurred before Michelle was born. And Nancy acted exactly as weve come to expect'in a nurturing manner with the best interest of the game, and its fans, at heart.
It would have been understandable if Michelle Wie would have felt a bit out of place amongst some of the games brightest stars. However, as shy and uncomfortable as a 9th grader might seem on camera, inside the ropes and over the shots Michelle looked as poised as a veteran three times her age. The innocence of youth was evident at every interaction, but her game is scary. The length, the accuracy, the touch, the game-management decisions, the entire package is eerily vintage.
Whether she ever lives up to her immense promise is pure speculation, but given the way she plays the game, conventional wisdom becomes obsolete, and the unthinkable becomes believable. Could she someday become the greatest golfer in the world - period? Impossible! Right? Frightening that the thought could even cross my mind. But Annika proved me wrong, Suzy Whaley proved me even wronger, and Im determined not to be a slow learner. After all, this is professional golf'part of the PGA Tour'anythings possible.
In the end it was the power, the reputations, and the curiosity that brought out over 15,000 fans to watch an exhibition, but it was the short game that made the difference.
From tee to green, Michelle Wie played the best golf of the group. But it was the flatstick that made the difference. With the two longest hitters in the history of the PGA Tour in the group, it all came down to who holed the putts'many of which were for par. And Lopez and Kuehne beat Wie and Daly by a narrow margin to win more money for their charity.
Now the fun begins. Michelle is teeing it up Thursday in the Albertsons Boise Open. Shes the first female ever to play in a Nationwide tournament, and the first ever female amateur to tee it up in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
Can she make the cut? Can she contend? I beg the forgiveness of my chauvinistic brethren, but Im trying not to be a slow learner. Absolutely not, but definitely maybe. Tune in this week to find out. You wont be disappointed.
One last parting shot: The Nationwide Tour was started three months after Michelle Wie was born.
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