Memories of Willie Kane

By Jerry FoltzJanuary 15, 2006, 5:00 pm
The eerie silence was all to common to those of us in the team van one spring day in 1984 as we pulled away from the Sanford Intercollegiate en route to our next college tournament in Northern California. Once again, we had performed well below our capability, and our coach wasn't impressed in the least.
The University of Arizona was considered to be a premier college golf program, yet once again, we didn't deliver.
Shortly into the trip to Stockton, we disguised our own disappointment with a game of high ball-low ball. As a six-man team we went through our hole-by-bole scores to determine our team best ball followed by our team worst ball. Sixty-seven was the best we could do, meaning that out of six players, we only had five birdies for the entire day. But when we started calculating the worst ball, we quickly realized that we couldn't be touched. Surely no one could match 98.
I pitched in two doubles and a triple. Dave Pooley added a couple of 'others' of his own. But it was Willie who brought it home with a 9 on the final hole. It was understandable if coach Rick LaRose didn't share in our enthusiasm for this unequivocal title assumption, but the rest of us were enjoying our own personal carnage assessment nonetheless.
Knowing that our conversation was the only way to make the long drive to Stockton tolerable, we continued. We proceeded to sound-off our three-day individual totals. Par was 216, and John Schoonover started the procession with a proud team-low proclamation or 224. Next was Magnus with something like 228. Myself, 242, and on down the line. Willie was last to speak, and instead of stating a 34-over-par 250, Willie drew the biggest laugh when he proudly proclaimed his score -- two............and...........a half.
Last Saturday, Willie completed another challenge in two and a half, but the result couldn't be further from the humor we found in his first.
Last Saturday, Willie Kane completed the Disney Half-Marathon in roughly two and a half hours. Moments later, he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The 43-year-old father of two lived, and died, his worst nightmare.
Willie was just 5-years-old when his father died at the age of 42 of a brain tumor. Being the youngest of six children, Willie only knew of the void in his life left by the early passing of his father. His memories weren't near as vivid as his siblings. But his goal in life was to not leave his two boys with the same void. And Willie knew how to accomplish goals.
It's reported that Willie essentially talked his way onto his high-school golf team. It wasn't his talent that got him a roster spot, just an undeniable and contagious belief in himself that his coach accurately sensed. From there, he walked-on to the University of Arizona golf team with little hope of ever achieving a spot on the traveling squad. But nobody told Willie that. He worked harder than any human I've ever met, and he knew deep in his heart that someday he would earn that spot regardless what others thought. By the time he received his degree, Willie had earned All Pac-10 honors as a standout on the golf team.
During college, Willie earned his way by working ridiculous hours at the Randolph Municipal driving range. His boss was former PGA Tour star Homero Blancas, and Willie revered him. Homero took Willie under his wing and taught him what it took to not only be a good player, but what it took to be a champion.
At the time, Homero had what was considered to be one of the cushiest head pro jobs in the area. Head pro at a public facility meant very few headaches with members, and little to tolerate in terms of politics and oversight. Homero could have handled any situation, but this one seemed to fit him perfectly. And Willie used to talk about it all the time. Somehow, the rest of us knew that someday, Willie would end up with Homero's job, and for the last five years, that's exactly what Willie had'his 'dream job.'
As a professional golfer, Willie chased the dream for quite a few years. That quest took him to the far-off reaches of the globe. It found him struggling to make ends-meet on many occasions. But somehow, everyone who knew Willie knew that he would succeed -- that he would be ok.
Eventually, Willie settled on the life of a club pro. Sometimes life happens, and for Willie, that life would entail getting married and starting a family. Willie pursued life, and golf, with a passion, and now his passion was redirected. His passion became that which he really never had -- to be the best dad in the world and be there for his two boys the way he'd often dreamed his dad could have been there for him.
Before Willie landed his dream job at Randolph, he spent time as head pro at another public course. From time to time, our paths would cross, and each time Willie was the same exact person that I met in 1982.
Willie and I were roommates when I first got to U of A, and of the many memories that I'll take with me forever, none are more prominent that his ability to make you smile and feel good about yourself. You see, Willie took his responsibilities very seriously. He took his golf and his education seriously. He took his role in the community seriously and volunteered to help coach his old high school team. He gave of himself anytime a junior golfer needed advice, or instruction, or just somebody to listen. Obviously, he took his role as a father very seriously. Willie took everything in the world seriously, except himself.
Willie never once complained when things didn't go his way. He never got discouraged, he never looked back. He just continued to astound when he would grit his teeth, work harder, keep a positive attitude, and finish whatever job he set out to do. He might have seemed like a dreamer, or a hoper, but he wasn't. He was a doer. Willie got things done -- he never stopped until his goals were accomplished.
Willie started to train and get into shape for a number of reasons. He still had some things to accomplish as a player and conditioning was a big part of the process. But mostly, he wanted to be as healthy as he could to insure that he would be around long enough to watch his kids grow. He saw jogging and running the marathon as one step in that direction.
While training, Willie would get frustrated when his body wouldn't cooperate. When he couldn't make it that extra mile, he got mad, but he pushed. He had seen a doctor to make sure that he could handle the physical exertion, and although some caution was urged, nothing was detected that would suggest he couldn't handle the training.
Willie Kane finished 4,871st out of a field of 11,761 in the Disney Half Marathon, and although we'll never know what Willie was thinking coming down that final stretch, we do know that Willie was going to finish the race.
Willie Kane finished every race.
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    Woods: New putter should help on slower greens

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 11:35 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods’ ice-cold putting showed at least a few signs of heating up earlier this month at The National, where he switched putters and ranked seventh in the field on the greens.

    The mallet-style putter is still in the bag as Woods prepares for The Open, and he’s hoping the heavier model with grooves will prove valuable at Carnoustie.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “To be honest with you, I’ve struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career,” Woods said Tuesday. “So for me, it’s going to help on these greens, for sure.”

    To combat the slower greens, Woods usually applied a strip of lead tape to his putter. But this heavier model of putter doesn’t need the extra weight, and the grooves on the putter face allow the ball to get rolling faster and hotter.

    “You don’t necessarily have to do that with the grooves,” he said of the lead tape. “When I putted with the Nike putter, I didn’t have to put lead tape on the putter to get a little more weight to it. I could just leave it just the way it was. This is the same type.”  

    For all of the talk about his putting woes this season, Woods still ranks 56th in strokes gained: putting. More crucial this week: He’s 102nd in approach putt performance, which quantifies how well a player lag putts.

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    Woods: Open best chance for long-term major success

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 11:26 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods is more than a decade removed from his last major title, but he said Tuesday that The Open is the major that gives him the best chance for long-term success.

    “I would say yes, because of the fact that you don’t have to be long to play on a links-style golf course,” Woods said during his pre-tournament news conference. “It certainly can be done.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Woods pointed to the late-career success for both Greg Norman (2008) and Tom Watson (2009), both of whom challenged for the claret jug deep into their 50s.

    “Distance becomes a moot point on a links-style golf course,” he said.

    That’s certainly not the case, however, at the Masters, where bombers long have thrived, or the U.S. Open, which places a premium on long and straight driving.

    “You get to places like Augusta National, which is just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately,” he said. “But links-style courses, you can roll the ball. I hit a 3-iron that went down there 330. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”

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    "Vantage Point with Mike Tirico" set to debut Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 17, 2018, 10:15 am

    Special Hour Complementing the Network’s Week-Long Golf Central Live From The Open News Coverage; Premiere Scheduled to Include Interview with 2014 Open Runner-Up Rickie Fowler On-Site from Carnoustie

    Features Include Tirico and Curtis Strange Re-watching ’99 Open at Carnoustie & Jim “Bones” Mackay Facilitating Exclusive Conversation with Caddies Michael Greller, John Wood Recounting Final Round Pairing at 2017 Open

    To help set the table ahead of The 147TH Open at Carnoustie, Golf Channel will premiere Vantage Point with Mike Tirico on Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET. An extension of the network’s week-long Golf Central Live From The Open comprehensive news coverage, Vantage Point will revisit landmark moments in The Open’s history, uncover personal stories relevant to the fabric of the week and feature a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year” on golf’s original championship.

    “It’s a thrill to be going back to The Open again this year, which is a fitting setting to launch this new opportunity,” said Tirico, NBC Sports host who this week will celebrate his 22nd consecutive year covering The Open. “I love being a part of the Golf Channel team during golf’s biggest weeks, and anticipate contributing to our commitment to great storytelling with Vantage Point.”

    Kicking off the premiere of Vantage Point will be Tirico’s exclusive interview with 2014 Open runner-up and 2015 PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler on-site from Carnoustie. One of Fowler’s favorite events, he has missed just one cut in eight previous appearances at The Open. Other highlights within the show include:

    • Jim “Bones” Mackay facilitating an exclusive conversation between caddies Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth) and John Wood (Matt Kuchar) recounting the final round pairing at The Open last July.
    • Tirico hosting a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year”: David Duval, Tom Lehman and Justin Leonard.
    • A recollection of one of the most unforgettable collapses in major championship golf, when Jean van de Velde surrendered a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole in 1999 at The Open. Tirico and Curtis Strange – both on the live tournament broadcast that year for ABC/ESPN – recently re-watched the telecast together for the first time since calling it live.


    “This is harder to watch than I thought it was going to be. I’ve never seen anything like

    that in my life. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that again.” – Curtis Strange


    “I think I got caught up in the whole deal and felt human for the guy.” – Mike Tirico


    Vantage Point with Mike Tirico will complement the network’s Golf Central Live From The Open, which will feature nearly 60 hours of comprehensive news coverage from Carnoustie. In total, NBC Sports will dedicate more than 350 hours to showcasing the third men’s major championship of the year, including nearly 50 live hours of the network’s Emmy-nominated tournament coverage – annually the most live hours of coverage from any golf event – spanning from Thursday’s opening tee shot to Sunday’s final putt.

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    How to watch The Open on TV and online

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 8:40 am

    You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

    Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

    In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

    Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

    (All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

    Monday, July 16

    GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

    GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

    GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

    Tuesday, July 17

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

    Wednesday, July 18

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

    Thursday, July 19

    GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

    GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

    Friday, July 20

    GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

    Saturday, July 21

    GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

    NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

    Sunday, July 22

    GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

    NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (