Keep Augusta Life Rolls On

By Michael FechterAugust 15, 2008, 4:00 pm
Some think that the Masters is the greatest golf event in the world. They are oh, so wrong.
 
Cmon, what's so great about $1.50 pimento cheese sandwiches on Wonder bread? I wouldn't give $1.50 for the entire known universe of pimento cheese.
 
Let me tell you about a tournament run at one of 'my' courses, the Malibu Country Club. Every July, for the past 10 years, the Malibu Country Club has hosted a tournament for Life Rolls On, a 501 c-3 charity to benefit young people with severe spinal cord injuries. Youd think that a spinal cord injury would be the end to surfing and biking and other activities that most of us take for granted. Life Rolls On is out to change that perception.
 
Allow me to paint a picture and perhaps the people in Augusta should listen for ways to improve this little April get-together.
 
Augusta has azaleas, seersucker suits, and iced tea infused with sugar. Conversely, Malibu is an event run by surfers, volunteers and the people of Malibu Country Club. And booze. Lordy, do they have the booze flowing.
 
If you want a tournament that has champagne and massages on the first tee for everyone ' Im talkin golfers, staff, volunteers and spectators ' then come to Malibu. I believe I even saw someone giving a massage to a mountain lion, which is an impressive, though ill-advised, way to commune with nature. Oh and there's a bubble gum blowing competition for every foursome, where the person that blows the biggest bubble wins an oversized bottle of champagne ' better than the crystal goblet you get for an eagle at Augusta.
 
And that's just the kickoff before you get to No. 18 with DJ 'Matter' spinning turntables of funk, electric and Latin on the cliff overlooking mountain canyons and the Pacific. I may be biased, but I believe the sunset over the Pacific is a whole lot prettier than those overflowing Port-A-Potties in the mud of Augusta National's parking lot.
 
On the 345-yard second hole, you have the option of hiring Vincent Ciurluini, a professional long driver to be your designated driver. For a mere $30 donation, you can play one of Vinnies shots off the tee. I witnessed Vinnie put tee shots within 25 feet of the hole for nearly every group. I couldn't do that from a greenside trap. If Corey Pavin knew about Vinnies services, he'd have more majors than Tiger.
 
On nearly every hole, there is an activity that could only come from the minds of Malibu Country Club and the people that run Life Rolls On.
 
From each foursome, whoever can hit a Wiffle ball the farthest wins L.A. Dodgers tickets. On another hole, whoever can hit a marshmallow the farthest with a hockey stick wins L.A. Kings tickets. On another hole, golfers hit balls from a special 'golf-adapted' wheelchair to help us understand what people with spinal cord injuries live with every day. Lets just say no able-bodied golfer hit a ball farther than they might with a lob wedge.
 
On one hole, there was a Tommy Bahama mojito bar with free mist fans for every golfer. On another hole the El Don Tequila girls used squirt guns to give away shots. Genius.
 
Malibu Country Club is a course you can play, with a cart, on any day of the year for well under $100. Man, the view during the drive to the club is worth more than that. Try getting on at Augusta. You cant even sit in the pro shop at Augusta National unless youre a member of a qualifying world domination society like Skull and Bones or the Bilderberg Group.
 
Man, what a day in Malibu. It almost made me embarrassed to be employed as the Ambassador of Fun. These people were having the most fun I have ever seen on a golf course and all I had to do was show up.
 
I'm telling you brother, you can keep Augusta, Ga., and Washington Road, with it's string of fried chicken joints. I prefer the string bikinis at Malibu.
 
Malibu C.C. looked like a casting party for 'Entourage.' There were more spokes-models running around than you would see at a Victoria's Secret New Years jam. Forget gorse and full force gales off the Firth of Death, Ill take tattered miniskirts. It's Malibu.
 
Heck, even my golf-hating girlfriend, Tia, loved it. I'm guessing it was the mojitos, champagne and Heinekens that kept her happy rather than my tee-totaling keen insights and wit. Oh who cares; it's Malibu, baby, and the worlds greatest golf tournament for a great cause.
 
Ill expect these changes at Augusta in 09.
 
To learn more about, Life Rolls On; its founder, former professional surfer Jesse Billauer; and how you might join in on next years fun at The Malibu Country Club just go to www.liferollson.org or www.malibucountryclub.net
 
Email your thoughts to Michael Fechter
 
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.
 
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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”