Tag Archives: Jack Nicklaus

Golf and the Papal We.

Tiger Woods was expected to win every tournament he entered and looking back on his career, it seems he did. Then his wife attacked him with a nine iron and he sought refuge in his SUV. We may never know exactly what happened that night. To date, El Tigre has never been the same. Two years ago he won five tournaments, a career for most professional golfers, but Tiger feeds on the four majors, those tournaments so coveted by golfing super staars like Jack Nicklaus.

He’s still got game, somewhere. In last week’s tournament he played three and two thirds rounds with his old brilliance. He then shanked a chip shot to the opposite side of the green, flubbed the return and then putted thirty yards past the cup, putted twice more for an easy seven and blew himself out of contention.

Still, he changed the game. Soon after losing his baby fat and turning pro, he was the hallmark of buff. No golfer had ever donned a glove who looked anything like Tiger. Word got around about his training schedule and an entire generation of young golfers followed his lead. Now there are a dozen twenty somethings that can hit a ball hitherto unimaginable distances whilst curving it high or low or this-a-way or that-a-way.

These freshmen have  been around for a few years – Bubba Watson comes to mind, but 2015 is a “What Has God Wrought” kinda year. The Professional Golfers Association now has a plethora of young stars who in a single season rejuvenated the game by regularly putting blankets over Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Steve Stricker and alas,Tiger.

With the older generation flailing about, the PGA and the media jumped all over Jordan Spieth, touting him as the next Tiger, only better. He possesses many sterling features. He is very nice looking, short hair and no five day beard. He speaks clearly and employs lots of people. Besides the obligatory caddie, his payroll sports a professional support team consisting of a trainer, physiotherapist, sport psychologist, golf swing guru, accountant, public relation specialist, dietician, agent, a lawyer and manager. He doesn’t have a wife and his Mom and Dad appear to be nice folks.

The media and the PGA got excited when Spieth won his first major at the 2015 Masters Tournament, becoming the second youngest to win the Masters, behind Woods. He won the U.S. Open, the youngest since Bobby Jones in 1923. The Open (British Open) was next and if he won that, he’d be a Grand Slam winner, depending on your criteria, something only Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Jack Nickus and Tiger Woods had accomplished.

He lost the Open and the PGA, but he was already a household name with as many endorsements as his Nike shirt could possibly hold. The media began to concentrate on his sportsmanship and humility. Humility was the winner. The reason? Everytime he was interviewed, he used the Papal or omniscient we. “We won, we worked hard, we had a plan, we had a strategy, we’re happy the way we played”. Television people interpreted this as humility. I don’t think I heard him once say “I”.

Golf has changed indeed. As Spieth walked off one of the final teeing grounds, he was followed by a group of about 20 people, portable cameras, the usual score keepers and sign carriers, a couple of rules officials and a dozen or so hangers on. What the hell is going on, I thought. Anyway,  I wonder who suggested to Jordan Spieth that he use the omniscient we. I don’t expect  him to know anything about the Papal we, but I do thinnk someone should tell him how this sounds on national television.

Golf is and has always been an individual game and should remain an individual game. Jordan Spieth looks and speaks as if he’s on a corporate outing. Perhaps he is. Perhaps they all are.






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Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, Merseyside.

‘Hoylake, blown upon by mighty winds, breeder of mighty champions’
Bernard Darwin

Tiger Woods survived back surgery and a 109 day layoff. He’s rejoined the PGA tour to get himself competitively fit for the Open, The British Open that is, scheduled 17-20 July, Royal Liverpool Golf Club aka Hoylake (1869). This past week Tiger was playing in the Quicken Loans National, a terrible handle to lay on the majestic Congressional Country Club. (Sooner or later, someone will offer the PGA tons of money to name a contest the “Venetian Gold Sequin Jock Strap Open”, and they’ll accept.) Tiger missed the Quicken Loans cut. Even so, whether from respect, curiosity or schadenfreude, his two rounds attracted by far the largest galleries of any golfer in the field and his picture takes pride of place on the web sites of both the British Open and the PGA. The number of television viewers and tournament ticket purchases fell dramatically after Tiger announced his hiatus from golf. Irrespective of his score, Tiger’s name on a tournament list attracts countless millions of viewers and dollars. That’s fame.

Before his death, the great comedian George Carlin suggested turning all the golf courses in America into housing sites for the homeless. Carlin hated golf saying, “It’s elitist and as boring as watching flys fuck”.  I understood this point of view, but some of the acreage set aside for this fascinating and ancient game should be preserved. Golf courses such as Augusta National, Pine Valley and too, Wentworth and Hoylake, should always be with us. I used to play a lot of golf. Couldn’t get enough of it. I’m partial to Hoylake because I played there on 5 consecutive days.

The day of my 1st round, I walked onto the 1st tee and couldn’t determine where to hit my ball. Seriously, this was flat open land with almost no distinguishing features. As I saw it, I could not hit to the left, that was the club house, and the three remaining choices provided me no clues. I put my driver against my golf bag and walked towards what looked to be a caddie shack. Nothing there, so on to the club house whose door was wide open. No one was about, not a soul.  My God, I thought, I’ve come all this way to be met by silence and nary a clue about where to go. God dammit, I’m hanging about one of the most venerable courses in golf history, and I don’t even know where to aim my first shot!  After looking around for a bit, Allen appeared, no last name, and asked if I wanted a caddie. Allen showed me in which direction to  hit and off we went.

In those days I liked to play fast.  At Carrying Place Golf Course just a couple of miles north of my old country home outside Toronto, I could carry my bag and play 18 holes in an hour and a half. Those were the days before golf became popular, really popular. On this day at Hoylake there was no one around to slow us up or to see how badly I played. My goodness, seaside or links golf is truly  different from the upscale courses in America that Jack Nicklaus characterized as “Better Homes & Gardens golf”. Besides not knowing the direction of the next hole, the seemingly featureless landscape also demanded a caddie who knew what club to hit.

This was golf as I’d only suspected it to be. A feast for the senses. To stroll idly among freshets of sea air, dip among ageless dunes clothed in wild grass and  shadows, emerge on an elevated sun washed green almost touching the sea, negates thoughts of score. Retrieving my golf ball was only an excuse for continuing my journey. I felt as a child again. The sound of my spikes crunching into Hoylake’s sandy soil, a wind whipped flag or a crisply struck ball were excitingly new. Everything new and everything possible.  Allen and I agreed to meet the next day at 10 AM. And so it went.

Despite its name, the Royal Liverpool Golf Club is located in the small town of Hoylake, at the northwest corner of the Wirral Peninsula, which is separated from the city of Liverpool by the estuary of the River Mersey. The golf course extends between Hoylake and the neighbouring town of West Kirby. Consequently, the course is often referred to as Hoylake, after the town.  Hoylake hosted the first Walker Cup between the top amateurs from the United States, Great Britan and Ireland in 1920 and Hoylake was the course where in 1930, Bobby Jones won the second of his four victories earning him the “Grand Slam” of Golf, the US and British amateur, and the US and British Opens. Jones is the only golfer to win all four in the same year.

At the time I played Hoylake, the course was most easily accessible from Liverpool by train. After a couple of rounds Allen began carrying my bag to the train station. The station was just a short walk from the course and Allen and I use those walks to get to know each other a bit better.  Allen played organ in a local pub in the evenings and would occasionally caddie during the day. Our fortuitous meeting proved my golfing boon. Alan knew the course intimately, spoke very little and thus proved to be a perfect golfing companion. He also complimented me on the speed of my play.

Very seldom has Hoylake been a part of the Open Championship rota. The town could not accommodate the ever-growing numbers of people interested in attending a great championship. When I visited,  Liverpool’s waterfront was being modernized. One of its reformations was the Liverpool International Garden Festival. This festival had brought me and Nexus to England’s west coast in 1984. Today, I remember my golf more readily than our music.

After one of our rounds, Allen told me about an Open at Hoylake when the wind off the sea was so strong, golfers could not control the ball. Players complained, but were met with resistance by Royal and Ancient officials. The Brits take pride in the fact that no Open Championship had ever been postponed or even delayed because of wind. “Nay wind, Nay golf” is the heroic homily that has come down through the years. So, the golfers took the R & A officials to the practice ground where a 9 iron was snapped directly into the wind. The ball was driven backwards over everyone’s head and the round postponed.

This year, 2014, golf will begin on Royal Liverpool’s 17th hole and finish on 16. 2006 was the last time the Open was played at Hoylake and the Champion Golfer of the Year was awarded to Eldrick Tiger Woods.. Dear Mr. Carlin, with respect, I’ll watch all four rounds of this year’s Open. Unless I’m dead.

Post script: Tiger played well, but Rory Mcilroy from Hollywood, Northern Ireland was the Champion Golfer of the year. A week later he won the World Championship  tournament at Firestone Country Club and Tiger had to withdraw after straining his back. At age 25 he is the new kid on the block. This week, August 7 through 10,  the PGA Tournament will be played on Valhalla Golf Course in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s the  last major of the year. If Mcilroy wins this and next year’s Masters, he’ll complete a Grand Slam, whatever that means, joining Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Nicklaus and Woods. Due to scheduling, Bobby Jone’s feat can no longer be duplicated.


View from the par 4, 9th tee with Allen and me in the distance. This is the beginning of the five sea side holes, 9 through 13. Hoylake, 1984. Photo by William Cahn

View from the par 4, 9th tee with Allen and me in the distance. This is the beginning of the five sea side holes, 9 through 13. Hoylake, 1984. Photo by William Cahn


Right bunker on the par 3, 11th hole. Beyond the flag is death. Photo by William Cahn

Right bunker on the par 3, 11th hole. Beyond the flag is death. Photo by William Cahn














Allen and me on the par 4, 12th hole. Photo by William Cahn

Allen and me on the par 3, 13th hole. Photo by William Cahn

Royal Livrpool Golf Clup score card. The links truly begin at the 9th hole

Royal Livrpool Golf Clup score card. The links truly begin at the 9th hole


















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