Monday, July 20, 2009

Who Wasn’t Supporting Tom Watson for the Win?

I don’t know anyone, that’s for sure. For two days I was glued to my television set like a fool. Laundry went undone. Business work went undone. I didn’t go outside on a beautiful day. Heck, I didn’t even play golf until the Open was done. I woke up and turned it on, made coffee and sat staring, shouting, cheering, and “awing” with the crowd. I had the TV on in every room in the house.

My teenage son said to me, “Mom, we have golf on every television! You give me a hard time for leaving my X-Box on and you have every TV in the house on the same channel!” I told him this was this was potential history in the making and I didn’t want to miss a thing. It couldn’t compare to whether or not he beat the next level in Guitar Hero.

Tom Watson mesmerized me. His humble smile, that twinkle in his eyes. That steady resolve. Sinking those amazingly long putts. I was, and remain, incredibly impressed by the strength and skill and distance that Watson delivered off the tee at 59 years old. Watson confirmed for all of us long hitters – male and female - that as we age gracefully into the later years of golf we can still bomb one down the fairway off the tee. Tom was pure inspiration for me.

I almost fell off my couch in despair when Watson missed that putt on the eighteenth hole. It seemed as if he didn’t even make a proper stroke, pushing the ball with uncertainty towards the cup. That was not the Watson we saw putting for the prior four days. Perhaps that missed putt shook his mojo, as four more holes and many more miss-hits offered many opportunities for Stewart Cink to capture the win.

Jack Nicklaus, who was bested by Watson at Turnberry in 1977 in what history refers to as the famous "Duel in the Sun” has been in Watson’s shoes. He offered: "I don't think Tom was tired. But emotionally, he was spent. All his emotions were spent in those first 18 holes. When Stewart made birdie at 18, and then Tom made bogey, it just goes right through you.”

Imagine being Cink. He has the opportunity of a lifetime to capture his own first major, but to do it; he has to beat the man everybody wants to win. Is he the good guy or the bad guy? Does he play his heart out and pull the rug out from under the man about to achieve a history-making moment? Both men played their best in those last four holes. Cink played phenomenal golf and captured the win with obvious tears in his eyes. Tears of unmitigated joy at his own success, but mixed with a few bittersweet tears of sorrow for wresting this historic moment away Watson, who had enchanted the world with his skill and tenacity the prior four days.

"It's been a surreal experience for me," Cink said. "Not only playing one of my favorite courses and a wonderful tournament, but playing against Tom Watson. This stuff doesn't happen. I grew up watching him on TV, hoping to follow in his footsteps, not playing against him."

The world wanted Watson to win. Emotionally drained, he simply couldn't get it done. While he didn’t make history for picking up the sixth claret jug twenty plus years after his last win, Watson won the deep respect, admiration, joy, and love of the world this past weekend. Perhaps that's enough? Only Watson can say for sure.

“This ain’t a funeral, you know!” Watson chided at the press conference after the long and somewhat painful four-hole playoff ended all hopes of his capturing the event. Watson wanted us all to feel better. We wanted to feel better, too. We believed in Tom. It’s the tournament people will talk about for years to come. I wonder which they will talk about more? Watson’s famous Duel in the Sun where he beat Nicklaus by one shot in 1977 or the 2009 Open where at 59 years old he held an almost non-stop lead for four days, only to lose the tournament in a four hole playoff against Stewart Cink? Tough call.

When asked what his favorite memory of the event was afterwards, Watson responded, “Coming up the 18th hole again. Those memories are hard to forget. Coming up in the amphitheater of the crowd and having the crowd cheering you on like they do here for me...the feeling is mutual. And that warmth makes you feel human. It makes you feel so good." It looked like he had to pause a bit to get the words out without choking up. Tom spoke from the heart, especially to those in his adopted country, who calls him their, “Toom.”

Stewart Cink may have won the trophy and deservedly so, but Watson won the heart of the world. And mine, too.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tom Watson is the Story of the Day. He Putts!

What an incredible day at The Open.

Tom Watson sunk a monster putt for birdie that was my favorite the shot of the day. Yes it was a fabulous putt, but the joyful expression on Watson's face as the putt rolled into the cup, giving the elder statesman of the Open a share of the lead, was priceless. The golf Gods were smiling on Watson yesterday. He wasn't a odds on favorite to win, but you can be sure he's a fan favorite now. After a blistering 65 on day one, Watson banked a 70 today, finishing at five under par with Steve Marino. Who?

Yes, Steve Marino. Twenty-nine year old Marino shot two awesome rounds of 67 and 68. Carding a 68 in today's winds was an amazing accomplishment. Marino, in his winter hat, was focused and spot on. But no one seems to know who he is. According to the Open website, Marino had never even been to England before Tuesday and had never played a links course before he came to Turnberry. We’ve got two underdogs to root for!

Not to be outdone, Mark Calcavecchia nailed a shot to the green, narrowly missing an eagle 2 on the par 4, 14th hole, clipping the hole and pin. Calcavecchia finished the day one behind the leaders and again has his dedicated wife Brenda on the bag. Now that's teamwork.

Meanwhile, the world’s greatest player, Tiger Woods, with a score of 74 and five over par bowed out knowing he'd miss the cut, shocking fans, and headed for home. Woods has only missed finishing a major one other time – when his father passed away. He had a tough day with the wind; his angst visible on his face.

My man Daly is hanging in. The man famous for his long shots recorded a 72 in today’s howling wind, managing to make the cut to play for the weekend. He stands at even par at the end of day two – just five shots off the lead. Pretty incredible for the wild man of golf, that the world had dismissed as a contender. Daly in, Woods out? Who woulda thunk it. Head down, stay focused, John.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Golf Fashionista at the British Open

You've just got to hand it to John Daly and Ian Poulter. These men not only know how to hit the ball, but they add life, excitement and yes patterns and color to an otherwise BORING pageantry of golf wear on the course. John Daly's girlfriend even sported a matching skirt to show support for her man, and support him she does.

It takes a confident man to wear these clothes. You go for it, John and Ian!

Although neither man finished in the top five today, they were the top two in my book in style points.

She Putts

I had always wanted a vanity plate. In fact, I spent years thinking about what it might be, coming up with all kinds of goofy and fun ideas.

When I first got divorced, I toyed with the idea of "FNLYFREE", but with two teenagers, not to mention their father living across town, I wanted to be a little more respectful and mature about it.

I briefly considered using my last name on the plate since I had reclaimed it after my divorce, returning to the name I felt most comfortable with, but it didn't seem like it would be much fun to have "CRONK" on the license plate of my car.

So I was down to a beach theme or a golfing theme.

My close friend Linda and I share a love of the Delaware shore. She even bought a place there. We both spend at least a week there (she considerably more) every summer. Dewey Beach has become like a home away from home. Linda's place reads
2D OCEAN as it seems she is always headed to the ocean in the summertime - every weekend she can.

My answer to that was "DEWEYGRL" - as I was thinking about my favorite beach. It was available and would mean something to me, but to everyone else, it would raise an eyebrow. As a New Yorker, I suddenly realized that perhaps it would leave people thinking I was perhaps old enough to be a Thomas Dewey groupie, especially since the former Governor and one time Presidential candidate spent considerable time in my current home town of Pawling way back when. Scrap that.

My passion for golf had me thinking about all kinds of ideas. Golf ideas, however, usually include the word "ball". Not good. I tried for, "SHEGOLFS" but it was taken. "TEEITUP" was taken. "GOLFGRL" was taken. My creativity was waning and at last I thought of "SHEPUTTS." It was mine for the taking. I also happen to be a pretty good putter and enjoy it, so I was feeling like this might be the right plate for me.

My new plates arrived and I excitedly put them on the car. My teenagers thought I was a total dork. Two weeks later, I couldn't sink a putt to save my life. It was like I was jinxed. The slump lasted for a good month before it wore off, which thankfully it did.

I've gotten a lot of compliments on the plate - golfers always get a big kick out of it. Then one night a couple of weeks ago, I was waiting at a light in downtown Danbury. I hear a horn lightly, but excitedly beeping next to me. I turn to look left and there's a group of about four twenty-somethings with their windows rolled down motioning me to roll mine down too.

I roll down my window, thinking they are going to ask me for directions. Not so. One of them asks quizzically, "She puts? As in she puts out?" I almost doubled over laughing. "No," I chortled. "She putts - as in GOLF!" Out of the mouths of huh?

We all had a good laugh as we drove away.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Women’s golf is in trouble. The first positive step was taken, in my opinion, with Bivins stepping down after four years of turmoil and a players’ revolt. From the beginning she alienated players and then sponsors, resulting in the loss of 7 tournaments from the tour since 2007. Bivens had big ideas (better pension, health coverage and higher purses) but her style and execution ruffled too many feathers and added too many overhead costs associated with tournaments. The most visible was in requiring all players to speak English in an International world. The Tour has changed and added delightful breadth and depth to the roster, but her xenophobia was startling.

There was so much player angst about her long time actions that it almost threatened to overshadow the recent U.S. Women’s Open. A group of key players called for her resignation and got it on July 9th.

The LPGA named Real Admiral Marsha J. Evans, a retired navy officer and a member of the LPGA Board as interim commissioner while it searches for a permanent replacement. Hopefully Marsha can steady this sinking ship, create some positive media opportunities and drive viewership, and protect the brand while they search for new long-term leadership.

Marsha has had her own share of “command and control” issues as evidenced by her step down from the CEO position at the Red Cross in 2005. But right now anything is better than Bivens. Go Marsha. Even if you’re just temporary, you can have impact.

Another smart move? Appointing LPGA Hall of Famer and recently retired (say it isn’t so) player Annika Sorenstam as an Advisor to the Board of Directors. According to the LPGA, the challenging events of the last ten days prompted Annika ito reach out to Dawn Hudson, Chairman of the LPGA Board of Directors, who took her up on her offer of help and created the position of Board Advisor. Between this, her personal charities and events, and a baby girl soon on the way, Annika will have her hands full.

Interesting that one idea that was floated was for the PGA to take over managing the LPGA tour. The biggest obstacle was seen as the VAST disparity between the pension plans for the tours. Why shouldn’t the LPGA members have pension plans that are equivalent to that of the PGA members? Seems like fair and equal treatment to me. Am I missing something here?

Perhaps if the PGA were managing the tour, the resources that have figured out how to deliver all that great marketing and viewership would be on tap, too.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

One Time Only

It was the last hole of my dawn patrol golf run. As I came through the woodland path from the eighth green to the open area in front of the ninth tee box, I looked left towards the green to check the pin and towards the club house.

It was only 6:45 am, but Bob, my favorite pro shop assistant, was already standing on the practice putting green with his coffee and a smoke. He waved when he saw me. I noticed someone walking up to the men's first tee, but couldn't see his face. I was on a mission at this point with one hole to go. It was a work day and I had to finish my round.

The pin was up front about fifteen feet off the front of the green, right in the middle of this elongated green. The right side of the green is a bit of a bowl that doesn't really flatten out until you get far left, then it drops into a sand trap on the left. With this pin placement I knew I had to aim a little short and right.

I stood on the tee with my eight iron, 117 yards from the green. I took a couple of practice swings, set up behind the ball and swung for my mark. The ball left the tee sailing up in a perfect art over the pond towards the green. It landed just off the right side of the green and bounced on, making a smooth left hand turn and rolled towards the pin.

"Oh my God," I said to no one. "It's gonna go in!" And it did. I shrieked loud enough for them to hear me at my house two miles away and made a beeline for my bag. Bob was already coming towards the green to meet me with Mark Janssen in tow. Now I knew who the guy about to tee off was.

There were hugs all around after I pulled my ball from the hole. Suddenly my eyes welled up with tears with the headiness of the moment. I just couldn't help myself. The person I most wanted to share this moment with, my Mom, was gone, having died of cancer three years before. Smiling through my tears, I knew Mom must have witnessed this spectacular shot from above.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dew Busting

Working full-time left little time for golf; not to mention, I had gotten the competitive bug. My game was in decent form and I enjoyed practicing, especially on the course. The best time to practice was early morning when I had the course to myself. My dad's words constantly echoed in my ears, "If you want to be a good golfer, go hit balls until your hands bleed." I didn't really want bloody hands, but I'd usually got a pretty good left hand callus going by June.

The depth of my passion for golf had become legendary among friends and family. Unfortunately, it had also grown in direct proportion to the decline in the passion in my marriage. Oh sure, we both played golf, but we didn't "play" at much else together. I was winning tournaments, but not hearts. I was working out a lot more on the course than my game.

Several times a week when summer provided long days, I crept out of bed before the alarm went off at 4:45 am, slipped on my golf shorts, shirt, socks and hopped in the car with my shoes and drove the two miles in semi darkness down the road to the course. In that brief time, the sky would lighten up just enough to tee off.

I can still remember standing on the first tee, still half awake with the diffused grey light all around, the Eastern sky revealing the rising sun, while the pale moon stubbornly refused to give up the night to the West. It was almost completely silent, except for a few chirping birds and the sound of the commuter train 's signal echoing in the distance.

No time to waste, I teed up my ball, stretched and took a few practice swings before letting a good full swing rip. On impact, the sound of the sweet spot of the club face hitting that ball let me know it was a good clean hit. The trajectory of the ball flight was smooth and straight down the center of the fairway, leaving me with a 185-yard shot to the green. My second shot three wood left me slightly short of the green, but I chipped on and sunk a nice long putt through the dew for par. This was a good start.

Escape? Absolutely. Peacefulness? No doubt. Some people meditate; some people run or just walk. I prefer to walk with a golf club in my hands whenever possible.

My morning sojourns on the golf course helped me work out a lot of thoughts, life issues and make plans. Those mornings also helped me win two Women's Handicap Club Championships. Busting dew is a fabulous way to start the day.