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Opinion & Analysis

A corrupt bargain: Brookline and Medinah

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By Tim Gavrich

GolfWRX Contributor

The trouble started 13 years and five days earlier. On the eve of the Sunday singles round—the final one—of the 1999 Ryder Cup, U.S. Captain Ben Crenshaw’s smile, the epitome of wryness, curled into a cool, slanted grin as he said, “I’m a big believer in fate…I have a good feeling about this.”

In the moments after Martin Kaymer’s Cup-sealing five footer sank Steve Stricker and the United States team on the 18th green at Medinah Country Club’s No. 3 course, no American player or fan felt anything remotely “good.”

Golfers love to talk about the “golf gods.” Twenty-four hours after Crenshaw’s emotional declaration, it appeared the two-time Masters champion had appealed successfully to them. Another 13 years later, it seems instead that that night, he made a deal with devils. He traded an immediate triumph for an equally cruel turn of the golf gods’ fancies that would strike on September’s final day, 2012.

Of course, five Ryder Cups came and went between Brookline and Medinah. And in four of them, the United States lost—twice by an embarrassing margin. Perhaps Crenshaw purchased his team’s improbable comeback at the expense of those defeats.

No. The golf gods made this one the one that really hurt. There are simply too many arcs back to that 1999 event to ignore.

In 1999, Europe led 10-6 going into Sunday. So, too, did the Americans in 2012.

In 1999, in order to try to affect the crowd in his team’s favor, Ben Crenshaw loaded up the front of his lineup with his more battle-tested and dynamic players. The Americans won the first six matches on the course that day. In 2012, European Captain José María Olazábal sent stars Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose out first. They and fifth-off Paul Lawrie won their matches.

Lawrie, by the way, played in his first Ryder Cup since 1999. His was a rare European victory on that day.

In 1999, both men who would oppose one another as Captains in 2012 took to the golf course. Davis Love III did his part by drubbing Frenchman Jean Van de Velde. Later that afternoon, Olazábal would be on the receiving end of the shot that came to define that Ryder Cup: Justin Leonard’s long putt on the 17th green at The Country Club, Brookline that assured the United States a victory.

Fittingly, the singular defining shot of the 2012 Ryder Cup took place on the 17th green as well. This time, though, it was a miss, those cruel golf gods exacting their payment from the American side via Steve Stricker. All-square with German Martin Kaymer, who has arguably had the most mediocre year before playing in a Ryder Cup than any player in recent memory, Stricker had a simple downhill chip shot from the rough behind the green of the par three. After blowing it six feet past the hole, he—historically one of the best putters in golf, which is greatly why Davis Love III made him a Captain’s Pick—hit a woeful putt, giving Kaymer the hole.

Kaymer’s par putt on the closing hole was the final gut-check, yes, but the culmination of Stricker’s 0-4 record tipped the momentum to the Europeans for good.

As the Europeans embraced, tears coating their captain’s cheeks, it seemed that the debt Crenshaw unwittingly took on in 1999 was finally repaid.

Motivation

At the end of a gorgeous early-fall day in 1999, a generation of young American golfers sat in awe of the comeback they had just witnessed. Some of those youngsters went on to build careers that saw them compete on this year’s team—Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley were all teenagers when their American golf idols showed them the overwhelming thrill of a historic Ryder Cup comeback.

Unfortunately for those young American players, the axiom that one learns more from defeat than victory holds true in golf. For this year’s European team included sixplayers who, as teenagers, felt the way American golf fans of all ages are now feeling. Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Nicolas Colsaerts, Francesco Molinari and Justin Rose would have seen and felt the letdown from their own idols and Sergio Garcia, still 19 in 1999, lived it.

Perhaps some of the generation of young American golfers that bore witness to this year’s stunning defeat will take enough of their heartache forward in their own careers so that in another dozen years or so, they will carry an American Ryder Cup team to a stunning victory over Europe.

If and when that happens, we will all be watching, as transfixed and affected by that event as we were by this one, for better and for worse. And those golf gods who Ben Crenshaw bargained with will still have us millions of golfers to toy with. It is only right.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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Tim grew up outside of Hartford, Conn., playing most of his formative golf at Hop Meadow Country Club in the town of Simsbury. He played golf for four years at Washington & Lee University (Division-III) and now lives in Pawleys Island, S.C., and works in nearby Myrtle Beach in advertising. He's not too bad on Bermuda greens, for a Yankee. A lifelong golf addict, he cares about all facets of the game of golf, from equipment to course architecture to PGA Tour news to his own streaky short game.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Joanne

    Oct 9, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    as Clarence responded I am amazed that any body can earn $5302 in a few weeks on the internet. did you look at this website (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/sFkNW

  2. bob

    Oct 2, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    @jc: these “less heralded” euro players have 4 of the world’s top 5, so maybe the problem is with you; the fact speak for themselves, Europe have won 7 out of the last 9 because 1. They play better as a team and 2. They have the better players. I know this must trouble you, but face reality and drop the lame excuses.

  3. G-ga

    Oct 1, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Ryder Cup has become so ridiculous, it’s an anachronism! Lets forget about it. It’s so totally not exciting or meaningful any more. It’s become “who can embarrass the other best” fest, rather than a gentleman’s get together of class behavior. So pathetic.

  4. jc

    Oct 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    It all comes down to this for the last 2 decades….The US picks captains who had one big moment in their career but who are all buddies…So they pick their friends over more deserving or hotter golfers….And Curtis Strange, Lanny Wadkins, Hal Sutton, Jim Fuyrk, etal continue to lose every single match and hand it to less heralded Euro players….All it would have taken is just a stinking tie from Woods or Stricker or Fuyrk….Haven’t we lost enough to learn the lessons that these guys can’t play team golf?

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Opinion & Analysis

When Golf Isn’t Fun Anymore

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I was just finishing a lesson with one of my most talented junior players, a 12-year-old girl who has won most every tournament she’s entered. She posed a question that I could not answer on the spot.

This game is supposed to be fun, right?” she asked. “I don’t feel like I’m having fun anymore.”

“Let me give that some thought,” I said. “When you come back for your next lesson, I’ll have an answer for you.”

When she returned the following week, I had written down my thoughts on a piece of paper. We sat down on a nearby bench.

“I’d like to read to you,” I said. “Are you ready?” She nodded enthusiastically.

“First, I think that as you started to win, what you would previously defined as FUN was replaced by SATISFACTION,” I told her. “This is what great players feel when they have reached an achievement. What happens is that as players move from beginner to expert, they define their experience differently.” I leaned over and showed her the graphic that I had drawn.

SCORES

100    90     80    75    70    65

FUN——TO——S-A-T-I-S-F-A-C-T-I-O-N

“Do you see that at a certain point fun is replaced by satisfaction?” I said.

“Yes,” she replied.

“What happens is there is a cross-over point in the mind of players,” I said. “As they become more serious about the game, their expectations increase. Second, beginners have no expectations when it comes to score. They are simply playing the game for entertainment. Beginning players may have fun because they have no expectation for performance. Third… and here is the last point. Perfection is not achievable. The vast majority of the shots you will hit in a round are serviceable misses. There are only one or two perfect shots per round. A player who insists on perfection can’t enjoy the game.” I paused for a moment to let the final point sink in.

“What do you enjoy about the game, “ she asked.

“That’s a fair question,” I said. “I enjoy the feeling of a solid shot as it strikes the club face; I enjoy the company of the other players in the group; I enjoy the sights and sounds of nature; I enjoy the fresh air and exercise. I could name more, but that’s a good start.”

I continued on: “I’m thinking that you have been so focused on improving your score and winning that you have lost sight of the more enjoyable parts of the game. You might find you are having more fun when you change your approach.

She corrected me: “You mean enjoyment?”

“Yes, thank you,” I said. “I meant to say enjoyment.”

“Did I succeed in answering your question?” I asked.

“You did,” she said. “Thank you.”

“Great,” I said. “Now let’s get back to work.”

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Courses

Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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News

PGA Tour Pro and Parkland Alum Nick Thompson is Part of the Solution

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The tragic shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida moved the entire nation in a deep and profound way. The tragic events touched many lives, including PGA Tour Professional Nick Thompson, who attended Stoneman Douglas for four years and was born and raised just minutes from there.

On our 19th Hole podcast, Thompson described in detail just how connected he is to the area and to Douglas High School.

“That’s my alma mater. I graduated in ’01. My wife Christen and I graduated in ’01. I was born and raised in Parkland…actually Coral Springs, which is a neighboring city. Stoneman Douglas actually is just barely in Parkland but it’s pretty much right on the border. I would probably guess there are more kids from Coral Springs that go to Stoneman Douglas than in Parkland. So I spent 29 years in Coral Springs before moving to Palm Beach Gardens where I live now, but I was born and raised there. I spent four years of high school there and it’s near and dear to my heart.”

Thompson’s siblings, LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson and Web.com pro Curtis, did not attend Douglas High School.

His reaction to the news was immediate and visceral.

“I was in shock,” said Thompson. “I just really couldn’t believe it because Coral Springs and Parkland are both wonderful communities that are middle to upper class and literally, like boring suburbia. There’s not much going on in either city and it’s kind of hard to believe that it could happen there. It makes you think almost if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. I think that’s one of the reasons why it has really gotten to a lot of people.”

Thompson knew personally some of the names that have become familiar to the nation as a result of the shooting, including Coach Aaron Feis, who died trying to save the lives of students.

“I went to high school with Aaron Feis,” said Thompson. “He was two years older than me, and I knew of him…we had a fair amount of mutual friends.”

And while the events have provoked much conversation on many sides, Thompson was moved to action.

“We started by my wife and I, the night that it happened, after we put our kids to bed, we decided that we needed to do something,” Thompson said. “The first thing we decided was we were going to do ribbons for the players, caddies, and wives. We did a double ribbon of maroon and silver, the school colors, pin them together and wrote MSD on the maroon section. We had the media official put them out on the first tee, so all the players were wearing them. It’s been great.”

“I got together with the media guys and Ken Kennerly, the tournament director of The Honda Classic and they have been amazing. The amount of players that had the ribbons on, I was just watching the coverage to see, is incredible. I actually spoke to Tiger today and thanked him for wearing the ribbon. We really appreciate it, told him I went to high school there. I mean the only thing he could say was that he was sorry, it’s an unfortunate scenario and he was happy to wear the ribbon, do whatever he could.”

Thompson is quick to note the help that he has received in his efforts.

“It’s not just me. My wife has been just as instrumental in getting this done as me. I just, fortunately, have the connection with the PGA Tour to move it in the right direction even faster. I have the luxury of having a larger platform that can get my words out and everything we’re trying to do faster than most people. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart so it was just literally perfect with The Honda Classic coming in town.”

Thompson has also been involved in fundraising that goes to help the survivors and victims’ families. GoFundMe accounts supported by Thompson and the PGA Tour have raised in excess of 2.1 million dollars in just a week.

“One of the most important uses for this money is counseling for victims, for these kids who witnessed this horrific event, or have one degree of separation,” Thompson said. “Counseling for kids who lost a friend or a classmate, who need counseling and to help them with their PTSD essentially. I think that’s one of the most important things is helping all these kids deal with what has happened.”

Thompson acknowledged the fact that the entire Parkland family is activated to help in the healing. As for his efforts, it’s the product of his recognition of just how fortunate his life has been and a heart for service.

“Golf has given so much to me that it was the perfect time to give back even more than I already have. It’s the best we can do. We’re just trying to make a difference. ”

Listen to the entire interview on a special edition of The 19th Hole with Michael Williams on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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