Tragedy Denies Augusta Trip
I started playing golf about the age of 13. I am now 69 years old and am more enamored with the game now than I ever was as a youth. During the intermediate years I continued to play on a somewhat regular basis but took a hiatus for 28 years, starting in 1973 and lasting till 2001. The reason for the hiatus was I had elected to resign my commission in September of 1973 and return to college to finish my education which I had started years ago. Going to school on the GI Bill, I did not have the time or the money to continue with my golfing career and just quit the sport all together.
In 1999 I bought a lake house on Lake Lanier which is just north of Atlanta, GA. The house is about a hundred yards from a brand new course that had been built in Dawsonville, GA that same year. Even though I almost lived on the 18th fairway I did not take up the game again as I was more into water skiing than golf. My brother in law, Jack, an avid golfer, admonished me quite often about not taking up the game again. I finally gave in when he got me up to the range and had me hit a few balls. The results were about the same as when I was playing regularly years ago. Enter, the Golf Channel. I started watching all the infomercials and was utterly amazed at the changes in equipment. They must have seen me coming. I bought just about every gimmick I saw. Some good, some bad. I will say this, I was a 18-20 handicap years ago and now have reached single digits. I am still amazed at the transition. But on with the story.
After returning to the game, I would hold a mini tournament on my brother in law's birthday which occurs the on the 5th of July. One particular year after the tournament, we were celebrating the '19th hole' at my house when his daughter, Robin, brought a new boyfriend to the event. His name was Howard. We all welcomed Howard into the fold and suggested that he needed to bring his clubs the next year to take part in the tournament. Howard accepted but only on the premise that we would play at his club. Of course we all asked Howard where his club was and he responded.... August National!! Well immediately we all became Howard's best friend. Howard could do no wrong the rest of the evening.
Howard, true to his word, confronted his father, Howard Sr., a well known surgeon in the Augusta area and a member of Augusta National, that he had committed him to inviting us for a round of golf. Soon thereafter Jack notified me that we were invited to play on February 19th, 2005.
On Friday the 18th I packed my bags and clubs and went to work. I had a hard time concentrating on my work as all I could think of was the up and coming golfing experience of my life. I was giddy to say the least. Then our receptionist said I had a phone call. It was my sister. She said our mother was not doing well and I needed to drop everything and come home (Birmingham, AL). I informed my sister that I had just left our mother on Monday and she was fine. She had serious advanced dementia but her physical health seemed fine. I also asked my sister if she knew where I was going and she said she knew I was going to Augusta to play golf but that I needed to come home. All I could think was, this can't be happening! Well I knew I had to do the right thing so I got my business associate to take my place and reminded him that he would owe me forever. I got in my car and headed west to Birmingham while my brother in law and my replacement headed east to Augusta. As it turned out I am so glad I made the right decision as my mother passed away that evening about midnight. I would have never gotten over it if I was not there. I thought life was pretty cruel at this point and if this wasn't the definition of a 'double whammy' I don't know what is. How often does someone forfeit his chance to play Augusta National and lose his mother on the same day? However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel here.
Howard, with the help of his mother, petitioned the good doctor to re invite us to play on January 20th, 2007. This time Jack and I were really on the road to play August National. We left a day early and checked into a motel to make sure we would make our tee time. I got up early the next morning and sauntered up to the lobby with a feeling of great exhilaration to have some coffee and doughnuts. My cell phone rang. The voice on the other end identified himself as the good doctor. He asked to speak to Jack but I told him Jack was in the shower but I would have him call back as soon as possible. The doctor said he had to go to Atlanta to perform some emergency surgery on Billy Payne's son and doubted if he could get back in time to make our tee time but he would be in touch. I was devastated. I thought again, HOW CAN THIS BE HAPPENING???!!!
As I have previously mentioned, my business associate had taken my place on the first invitation but what I didn't mention was he is about the biggest practical joker I have ever met in my life. He had pulled numerous practical jokes on me over the phone that I will not go into here but this one was the product of a very evil mind. He did his best impression of the good doctor on the phone when he called me on my cell phone and I failed to recognize his voice. I've only known him for 18 years but he has gotten me every time. After he finally fessed up to who was on the line, I dog cussed him for about 20 minutes after which Jack and I got in my car and took probably the slowest ride down Magnolia Lane that has ever been taken. After what I had been through to get there I thought I deserved it.
We had lunch with the good doctor at the clubhouse then went and played our round. Its hard to put into words playing Augusta National for the first time so I won't bother. All I can say is it was like being in a twilight zone that you never wanted to leave. I just thought the journey was more of a story than the actual round itself. And on a real positive note, Howard and Robin were married last weekend. Bot Jack and I are looking forward to the party that is forthcoming. Hopefully another round of golf is in the offering.
George, Dawsonville, GA
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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal
Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.
Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.
Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.
"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."
Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:
Disappointing. Clearly misunderstood my explanation. pic.twitter.com/YcKHMPf2v7— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) July 15, 2018
Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.
Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker
A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.
The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.
There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.
But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.
As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.
This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.
Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie
There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.
Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.
Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.
Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.
The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.
Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.
Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field
Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.
Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.
Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:
Sorry...really tried these last 2 days to compete & walk, my rt knee osteoarthritis is unbearable. It would have been nice to have gotten a cart but unfortunately was turned down by our tour board. I couldn’t even hit balls this am!— John Daly (@PGA_JohnDaly) July 14, 2018
This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.
Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.
The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.