A Long Trip Across the Pond With No Guarantees

By Associated PressJuly 12, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Bob Estes thought the phone call was a prank. The Scottish brogue was so thick that he didn't catch the man's name or half of what he was trying to say. There was something about an alternate list and travel plans, whether he was interested in coming. Estes wasn't sure what to make of all this until he saw the phone number.
'I realized that it matched the number on the entry form of the British Open,' he said.
That was Monday morning in Austin, Texas.
Twenty-four hours later, Estes was dressed in blue jeans and a shirt as he stood outside the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, soaking up a sun-splashed view of St. Andrews Bay and anticipating a chance to play the Old Course.
He might have to settle for only a practice round.
What makes this appearance so compelling is that Estes wasn't even guaranteed a spot in the field when he decided to fly through the night across the Atlantic Ocean.
He was the second alternate when he left Texas. By the time he arrived in Scotland, Padraig Harrington had withdrawn following the death of his father, and Estes was next in line.
The 39-year-old Texan still might not being teeing it up Thursday, but so what?
'I wasn't worried that I might not get in. I would be more concerned if my number was called and I wasn't there,' Estes said. 'This is the most prestigious championship in the world, played on the most famous course in the world. And it was killing me that I wasn't here.'
Estes played his first major in 1990 at the British Open, when he qualified at nearby Ladybank, then missed the cut at St. Andrews. He returned in 1995 and finished three shots out of a playoff, done in by a three-putt late in the final round. Five years ago, he played four consistent rounds and tied for 20th.
He loves St. Andrews.
More than that, Estes has deep respect for golf's oldest championship. He would have risked flying 5,000 miles as an alternate even if this Open were held at Royal Birkdale or Carnoustie.
The same can't be said for some other Americans.
Some of them didn't even bother trying to qualify, even though the R&A has made it easy by staging final rounds of qualifying in the United States. A year ago, 52 tour players didn't show up for the 36-hole qualifier at Congressional, and six players snubbed the R&A further by not calling to say they weren't coming.
The R&A even offered a spot for the highest finisher in two straight PGA Tour events, the Western Open and the John Deere Classic, and two spots for PGA Tour players atop a special money list. Billy Mayfair captured one of those spots, then decided not to go to St. Andrews because he had 'personal and professional' commitments to honor.
'I love Billy,' Estes said. 'But he just doesn't get it. And it's a shame. I feel sorry he's not here.'
Arnold Palmer must feel the same way.
The King restored the Open to its glory when he came over to St. Andrews in 1960, leading a resurgence of American interest. Jack Nicklaus never thought twice about coming, recalling how Bobby Jones once told him that a great champion's career is not complete until he wins a British Open at St. Andrews.
Estes wants that chance, and a transoceanic flight with no guarantee he would play sure wasn't going to stop him.
Ditto for Brad Faxon.
Faxon couldn't play in the U.S. qualifier this year because it was opposite his CVS Charity Classic, a two-day event that has raised some $3 million.
Instead, he flew to St. Andrews with the odds against him. Faxon had to play 36 holes on the links of Lundin, where only three spots were available for 96 players. He made it by one shot.
'If you win a tournament like this, it changes your whole life,' Faxon said. 'And I'm not going to win it staying at home. There is a special feeling playing these links courses and competing in the oldest major in the world.'
Turns out Faxon did not have to qualify. Because five players have withdrawn through injury or a death in the family, he would have made it on his world ranking, which was above Estes.
Estes was in search of something to eat and then on his way to the practice range when Faxon, of all people, walked out of the clubhouse with his bag over his shoulder.
He looked at Estes and smiled, two Americans with a common love for the British Open.
'It's awesome that he came over,' Estes said.
Even more impressive was Estes' willingness to play, even realizing that his 17-hour trip to St. Andrews might turn into a waste of time.
Of course, Estes doesn't see it that way.
'I imagine there are some players who look back on their career and are kicking themselves that they didn't come over here more often,' he said. 'This is like the world championship of golf. In my opinion, this is the most important championship you can win.'
And what if he doesn't get into the tournament? How will he feel flying home?
Estes turned toward the Old Course and gazed out at the rolling links where golf has been played for 500 years.
'At least I get to play St. Andrews,' he said. 'And you never know when you're going to get that chance again.'
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    Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

    By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

    MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

    Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

    Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

    The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

    On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

    Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

    He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

    In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

    Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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    Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

    By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

    In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

    This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

    Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

    Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

    The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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    Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

    Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

    Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

    Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

    “There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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    Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

    By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

    Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

    Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

    Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

    “Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

    Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

    “Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

    Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.