New Orleans Event Hits Home for Journeyman

By Associated PressApril 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Zurich ClassicNEW ORLEANS -- Kelly Gibson used to make fun of his greatest contribution as a golfer.
Ten years ago in the Las Vegas Invitational, he was in the lead on the back and poised to capture his first PGA TOUR victory. But he hit into the water on the 16th, three-putted for bogey on the 17th and finished one shot out of a playoff won by a 20-year-old rookie.
I delivered Tiger Woods to the world, Gibson said.
The room filled with laughter, as it does every time he tells the story.
Only now, everyone knows better.
The PGA TOUR returns to New Orleans as the first major multiple-day sporting event since Hurricane Katrina, and Gibson is treated like a star.
His golf career is going nowhere, except maybe toward retirement. Gibson never came close to winning another PGA TOUR event, and he hasnt had his full tour card since 2000. He is playing the Zurich Classic on a sponsors exemption.
But he is celebrated as the player who had only a little and gave all he had in the aftermath of Katrina, feeding relief workers and eventually starting a foundation to support the cause.
Its like I won a major or something, Gibson said. Ive been stopped 80 times in the locker room, guys saying, Great job, weve been following you on The Golf Channel, some of the stories that they had on you in sporting magazines. ... Its an unusual experience for a guy that has never won a tournament.
Gibsons career never turned out the way he hoped.
His best year on tour was in 1996, when he was 69th on the money list. He has been trying to make do on the Nationwide Tour, frustrated that he still has not conquered golf from inside 100 yards, the money part of anyones game.
And now, he wonders if he hasnt been called in another direction.
Gibson was born and raised in New Orleans. He lives downtown, and doesnt put more than 2,000 miles on his car each year because he walks just about everywhere he goes. And while he would love to play well at the Zurich Classic'he has never finished in the top 10 in 16 tries'he finds himself being pulled toward helping rebuild his city and looking after the people who cared for so many victims.
If a guy gets in a temporary home and his child needs books for school, and we can provide him with a $500 gift card to go to wherever ... something to give back to make their life a little bit easier, then I feel like we accomplished what we intend to do, he said. Its been difficult. Its harder than playing golf, Ill tell you that. And golf is pretty hard.
So I dont really know where its taking us, but well figure that out shortly.
More than just another stop on the PGA TOUR, the message from the Zurich Classic is about rebuilding.
Tournament director John Subers said skyboxes have sold out and about 35,000 people are expected to come out on the weekend, typical numbers for an event that first showed up on the PGA TOUR landscape in 1938.
By Sunday, it will be raucous like it is every year, Olin Browne said.
On Tuesday, eight women from the PGA TOUR Wives Association went to a flood-damaged neighborhood and spent the day gutting a house that once had water to the ceiling. Some players have taken detours from their hotels on Canal Street to the golf course at English Turn, driving past upper- to middle-income houses that remain vacant. Rotten wood, ruined furniture and appliances and debris are piled for removal in front of some houses.
These neighborhoods of beautiful homes and nobody in them, it was a little surreal for me, said defending champion Tim Petrovic, who first toured the area a month ago. You feel a little helpless. This is our week to step up and show what we can do. Were just glad that were here, and were hosting the first major sporting event since the hurricane.
Gibson felt like he had no choice.
He was in Milwaukee playing a charity event for Skip Kendall when Katrina turned into a Category 5 and bore down on New Orleans. Once he finally got home, he was stunned by the destruction. And he was curious about those on the front lines.
Im sitting here watching this and Im like, Whos taking care of the people who are helping the people? Whos going to take care of the police officers, who have lost everything, too? Whos going to take care of the fireman, the guy in the water? Where is the food for them? So it just kind of evolved.
He started Feed The Relief, making it up as he went along. He contacted everyone he ever met through his golfing career, asking for their help. Some of the biggest aid came from his peers.
I was the one who ordered the food, and you have to pay the caterers, Gibson said. I started reaching out to people that I knew could help. David Toms called immediately. I told him, Im on the hook pretty good.
Toms had begun his own relief efforts and sent Gibson a check for $50,000. Before long, Vijay Singh inquired and sent $40,000. The PGA TOUR contributed $50,000 and there has been a steady flow of help'even if some of it was delayed. The week before the Masters, Gibson noticed mail from the PGA TOUR that was postmarked March 1.
It was a check from Phil Mickelson for $83,000.
For him to give his time, to give his money ... thats what we need, Mickelson said. No one person can do it alone. But he has made a big difference.
Gibson, Toms and Hal Sutton were honored three weeks ago by the Golf Writers Association of America with the Charles Bartlett Award, given to those for their unselfish contributions to improve society.
It was Gibsons first trip to Augusta, Ga., and probably as close as hell ever get to the Masters. The guy who feels like he won a major has only played six of them, and only made the cut twice.
The only thing thats really been bad about my career is that I didnt win on the tour, he said. I dont want to walk away from the game, but I know my game is not where it used to be to compete day in and day out on any level.
But weeks like this remind him that his career paid off in ways he never imagined'perhaps more for others than for him. Gibson did not have the celebrity or the resources as others, but he had a desire to help, which was enough.
I didnt want to sit back at this moment in my career'in my life'and not do something, Gibson said. I think I owed it to the city of New Orleans.
Related Links:
  • Golf Chronicles: After Katrina
  • Full Coverage ' Zurich Classic of New Orleans
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.  

    Getty Images

    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.”

    Getty Images

    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.