Golf in the Middle Ages

By Michael FechterApril 19, 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.
This is tough for the winner of the 1980 Al Esposito Junior Invitational to admit, but I suck at golf. On August 24, 1980, Tom Watson collected 100 grand at the World Series of Golf, the biggest single-day payout in golf history at the time, but it was my win at the 'Al' that led the television sports report of two local stations in Charleston, S.C. Lets just say there were a lot of sluggish news days in 1980 South Carolina.
Now, on the rare occasions that I get to play, I hit a few good shots and the rest are embarrassments. When I nail a ball, I mean really nail it, I'm lucky to out drive my early-morning octogenarian speed golf playing partners. The thrill I get from out-distancing three men nearly twice my age is tempered by the fact that one guy, Mr. Davis, literally has an oxygen tank hidden in his golf bag.
While these guys are serious about their 30 cent-a-hole rounds, I tell them how nice it is to not care about the score. How I just enjoy their company, the weather and the connection between the earth, my body, the club and the game. I get all 'Gandhi of golf' on their ass, and it really fries them. They say I should take it 'serious.'
So, then, why have I set a goal of shooting the best scores of my life nearly 30 years after that steamy August weekend when my 71-71-75 beat the posterboy of 13-year-old local golf prodigies across America in the 'Al'. Because I'm a dumbass.
As my body gives in to middle age and atrophy, I know exactly why my golf game depresses even the best club manufacturers. I hardly ever play and my back can lay me out for weeks after a rousing game of ping-pong or an ill-timed sneeze. In a world filled with 18 million Orphans and various other calamities, why should I care about my golf score?
Because, I am a man. And, with that cruel onset of diminishing testosterone and dwindling clarity of mind comes the conviction that IF I just start practicing and playing and IF I put my mind to it, I can be 17 again.
So, here I sit at 45 with some vague memory after high school graduation when I would shoot 73 to 77 every day from the white tees at almost any course. At 5'11' and nearly 125 pounds, I was the Manute Bol of sub-6-foot suburbanites. Only, I doubt Manute had my excellent short game.
And as for my nonexistent long game, when I hit it on the screws of my father's old persimmon, I'd lay 210 yards straight down the middle. With today's technology, my extra 25 pounds and a pushup or two, I've gotta be good for 212. Hell, give Mother Theresa a Callaway X9 driver and a Pinnacle Gold and she's sitting 250 ' even a decade dead.
Thanks to the South Carolina summer sun, the Charleston Municipal Golf Course was playing short and fast for the 'Al.' At only 6,100 yards with lots of baked-out fairway roll, I was cranking the ball 230, and hitting the par-5s in two. Well, one par-5. According to my yellowed scrapbook news clipping, I had four birdies and an eagle in the second round to put me three shots in the lead.
I showed up three minutes before my tee time for the final round because I was up until 3 a.m. doing whatever it was that non-alcohol drinking college kids did while Carter hopelessly tried to keep Reagan out of the Rose Garden. Back then, there were no Ipods, text messaging, or Starbucks. We were living in the technological stone age and didn't even know it.
Certainly, I was feeling better than John Daly on his typical morning after sleeping in the parking lot outside Hooter's. Any way, there's a certain serenity that comes when you're 17 and riding on three hours sleep. I wasn't even bothered when my opening drive was a dead cold top. Thanks to fairways so hard you could land a C-17, the ball rolled to where I had a 7-wood -- yes, a 7-wood -- into the green.
After my 100-pound playing partner and nemesis, Chris Hunt, chipped in for birdie on No. 6, my lead was down to 2. On No. 9, a very long par-4 ' well, long for the Muni at 440, and really long for me -- I drilled my 3-iron second shot to 10 feet and missed the putt with my usually trusty Bullseye blade. I say 'usually' trusty because on this day, I had not made a single putt over 4 feet. Unlike Tiger Woods, but like most of humanity, the 'pressure' was getting to me. Who wants to get beat publicly by a kid three years your junior that barely pushes 3 digits on a bathroom scale?
Chris and I both made all pars until No. 12, when I missed a 2-footer -- a freakin' 2-footer -- for par, and my lead was down to 1. The gallery of 100 let their allegiance show, and it wasn't for me.
The hardest thing to do in sports is to 'right the ship' when you feel confidence draining. Harder still when every move is being covered by two camera crews.
Pars on Nos. 13 and 14 kept a 1-stroke lead. On the par-5 15th, I smacked a drive and felt I could reach the green with my Browning 2-iron. In 1980, Brownings were hi-tech, if mocked by everyone but me. They were low, fat, perimeter weighted and damn sweet to me. Even though I hit the ball thin, the Browning held true enough so that I had a chip from 10 yards off the green. My chip from light rough put me 8 feet away.
I read a 1/2 inch break to the right and told myself, 'You've been playing every day all year. Make this putt. Make this putt, you moron, or sell your clubs.' My classic, low-tech Bullseye came through. The putt slid in the right side of the cup and I had a two-stroke lead again ' a lead I held with solid pars through the final putt on 18 to win the 'Al.'
Later, when asked by a local newspaperman what he wanted to get out of the game, Chris Hunt said that he 'wanted to break all of Nicklaus's records.' I told the same reporter that 'I better look into getting a real job because today, I was almost beaten by a 13-year-old.'.
Well, Chris never broke any of Nicklaus's records and I never quite got that 'real' job. I became a comedian, an illegal golf ball maker, a father, a divorcee, the 'Ambassador of Fun' for the Malibu Country Club- get this: they pay me for ideas on how to make their golf and resort properties more fun; and a charity worker for international orphan relief.
These days, I am mostly confident and happy with my groovy Ghandi atitude. But, deep down, I'm never quite as happy and confident as I was during those three days of the 'Al.'
I want that '80 feeling back and I'm convinced that the greens at Charleston Muni are the carpet that I can ride there. That's why I've set out on what my 85-year-old mother refers to as 'your ridiculous, pointless mission'. What does Mom know? To my knowledge, she's never been a man.
I know my father would be proud that I'm giving golf another shot. Dad worked awful hard to support 8 kids, but also knew the value of golf, testing your limits and being free of business and family for a few hours..
People say that 'Life begins at 40.' Well, my golfing life begins - again - today at 45. And I no longer want to suck.
Tom Werner contributed to this column.
Email your thoughts to Michael Fecheter
Related Links:
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    Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

    Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

    Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

    Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

    4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

    4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

    4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

    4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

    4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

    5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

    5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

    5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

    5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

    5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

    6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

    6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

    6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

    6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

    6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

    6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

    7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

    7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

    7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

    7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

    7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

    7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

    8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

    8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

    8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

    8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

    8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

    8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

    9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

    9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

    9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

    9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

    9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

    10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

    10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

    10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

    10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

    10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

    10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

    11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

    Getty Images

    Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

    He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

    “There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

    Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

    “I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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    Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

    Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

    Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

    “I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

    Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

    “It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

    More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

    “I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

    Getty Images

    After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

    With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

    While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

    Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

    Zach Johnson: 13/2

    Rory McIlroy: 7/1

    Jordan Spieth: 8/1

    Rickie Fowler: 9/1

    Kevin Kisner: 12/1

    Xander Schauffele: 16/1

    Tony Finau: 16/1

    Matt Kuchar: 18/1

    Pat Perez: 25/1

    Brooks Koepka: 25/1

    Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

    Alex Noren: 50/1

    Tiger Woods: 50/1

    Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

    Danny Willett: 60/1

    Francesco Molinari: 60/1