The Ballad of Fred Daniels

By Michael FechterMay 10, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: Michael Fechter, orphan worker and humorist, has the best job in golf: he's paid to be the Ambassador of Fun for golf courses across America. His 'job' is to make the courses he represents across America more interesting, unique and fun. Enjoy his humorous series on getting back into the game as he struggles to get his game into the shape it was nearly 30 years ago when he won his only personal junior 'major,' the Al Esposito, on America's easiest muni with rounds of 71-71-75.
You probably wouldnt suspect this from the winner of the 1980 Al Esposito Junior Invitational and the current Ambassador of Fun for the Malibu Country Club, but there is a rather glaring 24-year gap in my golf resume.
Except for a brief period of time between my mediocre college golf career and my current pledge to recapture my golfing form of nearly 30 years ago, I somehow transitioned from being an avid, nearly obsessed, golfer to what those in the golfing industry disparagingly refer to as a non-golfer.
I discussed this transition with my tennis partner and friend, Fred Daniels. Fred is a college administrator, former basketball coach, athlete and all around genius. When he talks, I listen.
Fred told me that he played golf ONE time. 'My father-in-law had a heart attack and gave me his golf clubs, he said. Early one morning, I took his clubs to the university course and parred the first hole. I thought, Well, here is another game I've mastered. I was a great swimmer. A pretty good runner. I played basketball really well. And I figured there's nothing much to this game. You hit it where you want it to go then hit it again and then hit it in the hole.'
'On No. 2, I lost every single ball that I had in the bag ' all 17 of them -- then walked into the clubhouse. I never played golf again.'
As I try to pinpoint the moment when I stopped being a golfer, I wonder if Fred got it right.
I never stopped enjoying watching the last round of a major. And I always enjoy watching Tiger. But when did I quit enjoying playing? There must have been some moment. Because for the past 24 years, there has only been one period in which I even played a little:
I was struggling to be a comedian and writer in L.A. in 1991. For fun, and a little bit of extra money, I caddied at the most famous courses in L.A. Not only was this a paying gig, but I got to play the courses on Mondays when they were officially closed.
I especially enjoyed the uber-private Los Angeles C.C., a club that would not allow anyone to join that was connected to show business...or Jewish. I was, marginally, both. On my Monday rounds there, I took especially large divots...and kept them. It was just my way of saying 'Bite me!!' to The Man' as I ripped area rug size divots on Yom Kippur.
About that time, I flew back to the South to play in a golf outing in Charlotte with one of my best friends, Steve Dickerson, the day before he got married.
Steve grew up on the seventh hole at Harbor Town where The Heritage Golf Classic was played and won by the best ball strikers in the game, guys like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Hale Irwin. I met Steve and his family when I was 17 and stayed with him and his family after being invited to play in the 'Junior Heritage', a tournament played from the same tees as the pros. I don't recall breaking 80 and felt humble after a high school season of averaging 74.
On the day before Steve's wedding his closest friends, teaching pros, former college golfers, everyone with a long background in golf had flown from across the country to be with him and play one last 'single' round before his marriage. It wasnt the wild bachelor party most of us guys had hoped for, which probably explains why Steves marriage is still going strong today.
I played in Steve's foursome. Even with all on his mind, Steve played great.
And, somehow, I played over my head. I was getting up and down from tough bunkers on 2 and 3. Birdied three out of four on holes 5-8. And I just kept bunting the ball straight, shooting 73, beating everyone in the group, pros and all. Like Fred Daniels after his first hole, I felt I had mastered the game. And, it felt damn good.
One of the pros in our foursome invited me to play the Ocean Course at Kiawah with him the next week...for free. Thats the course where Bernard Langer missed a putt on 18 on Sunday to lose the Ryder Cup now known as the 'War By The Shore' to the Americans. Officially the Ocean Course was designed to test a professional golfers skills. In reality, the course is more of a test of an average golfers will to live.
That slightly breezy day, we played The Ocean Course from a bit back -- but not the tips ' and, well, I might not have broken 110. I'm surprised I had enough balls to finish the second hole, let alone the entire round. It was my most humbling day on a course, ever. I quit playing golf, and quit thinking of myself as a golfer, soon after.
In hindsight, my frustration with the game started just weeks after winning The Al as the courses I played on the college team went from 6,100 yards to 7,100 yards. I could no longer reach most of the par-4s in two. I could barely see the green from where my tee shots left me. Even on par-3s, it seemed I was hitting everything from a 7-wood to a driver. There's no way to score when youre hitting woods into par-3s. It was a slow grog all day as I fumbled and did my best to get up and down enough to break 80.
The first week of my freshman year, I discovered that I really made people laugh. Then I discovered certain girls that liked me ' for this I have no explanation. And I soon discovered that going to the beach was more fun than trying to get 20 more yards by pumping iron and eating raw eggs. (Actual measures inspired by 'Rocky,' weight lifters and ignorance of salmonella.)
And then there was the fact that I had those great three days at Muni with 71-71-75. Nothing I was doing in college golf felt even remotely like those days. Golf was feeling like a job. A job in which I wasn't very skilled.
There is nothing more frustrating than a plateau that I can't get past. My game really plateaued after the 'Al.' And then it plateaued again after 73 with Steve and 110 at The Ocean Course. I moved away from golf toward a woman and marriage which plateaued some two weeks into the whole happily ever after thing.
What started me on this journey back to again being a golfer were memories of three magical days of 71-71-75. But, as I think about it, I really just want to enjoy the game again ' the way I did when I was 17. Joy of the game should have no plateau, no matter what the score, unless you're Fred Daniels and lose 17 balls on the second hole.
Tom Werner contributed to this column.
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    Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

    By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

    Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

    Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

    Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.

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    S.H. Park, Salas co-lead rain-soaked Indy Women

    By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 1:42 am

    INDIANAPOLIS - Sung Hyun Park relied on the same, steady style that has helped make her one of the LPGA's top players. When her putts kept rolling in Friday, she was virtually unbeatable.

    Park shot a 9-under 63 for a share of the lead with Lizette Salas during the suspended second round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    ''The best round of the year,'' the South Korean player said through an interpreter. ''My putting overall was what really helped.''

    Salas, the first-round leader after a 62, had a 69 to match Park at 13 under at Brickyard Crossing. Danielle Kang and Nasa Hataoka were two shots back.

    ''It was going to be hard to top that 62 yesterday but I stayed patient,'' Salas said. ''This was a completely different golf course, so I had to change my mentality a little bit and I had to forget about the 62 in a way and just go back to what I was doing.''

    Park has two majors and four overall LPGA victories the last two years, winning the U.S. Women's Open and CP Women's Open last year and the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic and KPMG Women's PGA Championship this season.

    Nothing rattled Park on a sticky, overcast day.

    ''I worked on my short game the most, especially measuring the distances,'' Park said. ''It paid off.''

    After more rain drenched the already saturated layout around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Park completed the round by putting out in a downpour that forced the afternoon groups to contend with a delay of nearly four hours.

    Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

    In between the showers, the world's fourth-ranked player performed like a two-time major champion.

    She birdied three of the first five holes to reach 7 under, started the back nine with three straight birdies then took the lead with her ninth and final birdie of the day on the par-4 17th.

    Salas took a different tack one day after tying Mike McCullough's course-record 62.

    Rather than take advantage of the course's soft greens, the 29-year-old American needed patience Friday. She opened with 12 consecutive pars then made three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6. After her first bogey of the tournament, on the par-4 eighth, Salas closed out the round with another birdie to tie Park.

    Salas hasn't won since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship, but she's developed a real affinity for the Indy course where she's had five consecutive sub-par rounds dating to last year's fifth-place finish.

    Kang, who kept Salas composed during a 77-minute rain delay Thursday, had a 68 to get to 11 under.

    ''I've been giving myself a lot of birdie chances,'' Kang said. ''That was my goal this week. I just have been feeling like I was in a little bit of a funk, so I told my caddie we were just going to pick a number, play my game, forget all the swing thoughts, forget everything and just kind of play it by feel.''

    Kang hasn't recorded a bogey over the first 36 holes and is in contention for her first tour victory last year's KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

    Hataoka shot 69.

    Angel Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who was tied for second with Hataoka after the first round, was 10 under with eight holes left. Yin was tied for fifth with Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand and Amy Yang of South Korea, who also had eight holes to go.

    Defending champion Lexi Thompson started on the back nine and birdied the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th. She was 6 under with 10 holes remaining in the second round.

    And the course could change dramatically as it dries out.

    Saturday's forecast calls for partly cloudy conditions with highs in the low 80s and Sunday is supposed to be mostly sunny with highs in the mid-80s.

    Park promises to be ready for whatever weather arrives.

    ''I'm going to do really well,'' she said. ''I feel really good about my game, especially my short game. And it's just about the weather now, so hopefully the weather is good.''

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    Snapshot of 2018 U.S. Amateur semifinalists

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 18, 2018, 1:39 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – A U.S. Amateur Championship that began with 7,463 entries has been whittled down to just four players.

    Saturday morning’s semifinals not only will determine the two finalists for the most prestigious title in amateur golf, but also the players who will receive a likely invitation to the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – the greatest consolation prize in all of sports.

    It's Devon Bling vs. Isaiah Salinda. 

    And Cole Hammer vs. Viktor Hovland. 

    Here’s a snapshot of those left competing at Pebble Beach:


    In Bling’s player profile, he wrote that his mother, Sara, always wanted to see him compete in USGA championships.

    Unfortunately, she never got the opportunity – she passed away in 2013, to a mysterious ailment, when Devon was only 13.

    “It took us totally by surprise,” he said Friday night. “In an instant, she was there and totally healthy, and the next day she was gone.”

    The sense of loss was massive – Sara was always there, shuttling Devon to tournaments, walking with his group, supporting him.

    “Losing her was extremely difficult for my family,” he said. “I know she’s still in my heart and looking down on me, and I’m just hoping to make her proud.”

    Bling, now a sophomore at UCLA, has blossomed into a solid player who had yet to take his star turn. That’s beginning to change here at Pebble Beach, where his brother and father are whooping for his many great shots.

    They had plenty of reason to cheer Friday, after Bling flipped a late deficit and beat Davis Riley, 1 up, to advance to the semifinals.

    Bling led at only one point all match – when it mattered most, after the 18th hole.

    He took an aggressive line on the par-5 finishing hole, taking driver left of the tree in the middle of the fairway, while Riley, playing conservatively after twice putting driver into the water during practice rounds, flared his long iron into the greenside bunker. Bling rifled his approach into the greenside bunker and splashed out to 3 ½ feet for the decisive birdie.

    “I couldn’t be happier,” he said.


    Most golf fans’ only introduction to Hovland came last month. Playing on a sponsor exemption at the European Open, the Oklahoma State junior double-pumped during his backswing, regrouped and then drilled his tee shots.

    It was a swing drill that had crept into his full swing.

    “That helped for a little while,” Hovland said. “I found the center of the clubface and found the shot that I could hit on almost every hole.”

    Aggressive, straight tee balls have been the key to his success this week at Pebble Beach. He’s been able to set the tone and continue to apply pressure on his opponents by consistently finding the fairway.   

    Paired with a scorching-hot putter, Hovland sure doesn’t have the look of a player who counts only one tournament title outside of his native Norway.

    He's been manhandling his opponents at the U.S. Amateur.

    After trouncing Austin Squires, 7 and 6, on Friday – matching the largest margin of victory in a U.S. Amateur quarterfinal – Hovland has now led after 45 of 57 holes.

    He led throughout a Round of 16 thumping of Kristoffer Reitan.

    He led throughout a quarterfinal dismantling of Squires, too.

    In his last two matches, he’s a combined 9 under par and has won 16 of his last 23 holes.

    “I think I’ve definitely had the game to win more, but I’ve made a few bad decisions here and there and it adds up to you start being too far behind,” said Hovland, who won a college event last season at the Floridian. “My putter also hasn’t been good enough. My ball-striking hasn’t been super flashy, but it’s been consistent. It’s hard to win tournaments if you’re not putting well.”

    He's swinging freely and making plenty of putts so far.


    The hottest player in amateur golf ran his match-play record this year to 17-1 after a 3-and-2 victory over Alex Fitzpatrick.

    Playing the younger brother of 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Hammer went 3 under for his first five holes Friday and never gave his opponent a chance. He kept the ball in play, putted for birdie on nearly every hole and scrambled on the rare occasion he was out of position. In a near-impossible spot short and left of the ninth green, he played a soft pitch that landed on the crest of the hill and funneled into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

    “It was one of those one-in-a-million shots that just happened to go in,” he said.

    They all seem to be dropping recently.

    The incoming freshman at Texas won the Azalea Invitational at the start of the year, teamed with Garrett Barber to take the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior, went wire to wire at the Western Amateur and now has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur.

    “I’ve played a ton of match play this year and come back from deficits,” he said, “and that speaks to the confidence I have and knowing I can get it done.”


    After narrowly escaping in his Round of 16 match, Salinda once again dodged a worthy opponent on Friday afternoon.  

    Salinda built a 4-up lead through five holes but was only one hole clear as he headed to the back nine. On six separate occasions, Gordon hit the lip of the cup on a putt or chip, allowing Salinda to stay in front down the stretch.

    On 16, the Stanford senior finally put Gordon away: From 150 yards, he hit a controlled 9-iron that landed in the perfect spot, spun left and came within an inch of dropping for eagle. The conceded birdie gave him a 2-up cushion that he used to eventually win, 2 and 1.

    “He’s a really good player,” Salinda said, “and I expected him to fight back.”

    Salinda, who recently won the Pacific Coast Amateur, is playing in his first USGA event. Six times he’s been the first or second alternate out of a U.S. Junior or U.S. Amateur qualifier in Northern California. The trick this time was to head to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he qualified after playing the Trans-Miss Amateur.

    Salinda won’t need to worry about qualifying next year – he’s already exempt into next year’s event.

    He could earn a spot in even bigger events – the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – with another win Saturday.

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    Garcia among bubble boys keeping playoff hopes alive

    By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 12:34 am

    Sergio Garcia gave himself a chance to keep his perfect FedExCup Playoffs record going with his rally Friday at the Wyndham Championship.

    D.A. Points moved into position to make a historic leap into the postseason.

    And Johnson Wagner dunked his last shot of the day from long range to keep his hopes of making the playoffs alive.

    But the day didn’t end nearly as well for Tyrone Van Aswegen’s FedExCup hopes.

    Van Aswegen didn’t do himself any favors trying to hold on to the 125th spot on the FedExCup points list. He missed the cut by a shot.

    Only the top 125 advance to The Northern Trust and next week’s start to the playoffs.

    Van Aswegen wasn’t alone among “bubble boys” missing the cut. No. 122 Jhonattan Vegas, No. 123 Seamus Power, No. 124 Martin Piller, No. 126 Chad Campbell and No. 127 Robert Garrigus all failed to make the weekend.

    Garcia is among 13 players who have advanced to the FedExCup Playoffs every year since they began in 2007, but his run was in jeopardy of ending starting the week. He’s 131st on the FedExCup points list

    With a 65 Friday following his opening round 66, Garcia is in more than a great position to advance. He’s in position to win the Wyndham. He is tied for fourth, five shots off the lead. The day ended with Garcia projected to move up to 118th on the FedExCup points list.

    Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

    Current FedExCup points list

    “I'm just going to try to keep building on the things that I did well these first two days,” Garcia said. “Whatever happens, happens. Like I said at the beginning of the week, if I have a great weekend, then it will be great. If I don't have a great weekend, it will still be great because

    I'll get to rest.”

    Points started the week 214th on the FedExCup points list. With back-to-back 64s, he trails only Brandt Snedeker going into the weekend. He can crack the top 125, but only with a win. Nobody has ever started the Wyndham Championship that far back in points and qualified for the playoffs. Davis Love III was 186th when he won and advanced in 2015.

    Wagner, 136th on the FedExCup points list, went to spectacular lengths Friday to keep his playoff hopes alive. He was outside the cut line until holing his 153-yard approach at the last.

    Bill Haas, who is among those 13 players to have qualified for the playoffs every year, started the week 150th in points. He can keep his perfect playoff record going with a big weekend. He shot 68 Friday to make the cut. He’s tied for 52nd in the tournament.