Wednesday, April 18

Legends of Golf: I Ate Like a Tour Pro

The ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG has been silent the last few days, not by choice but because I've been on the road in Savannah with a laptop that has a faulty browser.

Nonetheless, I've been hot on the golf beat at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa in windy and chilly Savannah, Ga. This blogger was on the course (inside and outside the ropes), in the clubhouse, in the players' locker room and, yes, even in the players' dining room -- all places where golf fans and the media are not free to roam.

How? I'll get to that in a second. I may not be able to play like a Tour pro, but I ate like one. The food was good and the golf stories were great.

I planned this golf expedition a few weeks back after several phone conversations with my new friend, Jack Fleck. I wanted to meet in-person the man who upset the legendary Ben Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open and determined that Savannah would offer an ideal opportunity.

Jack was playing in the 70-and-older Demaret Division best ball on Monday and Tuesday, so I tagged along as his personal guest -- complete with a PGA credential that gave me unique access to the stars of the game.

I drove to Savannah on Saturday and met Jack at the airport. We headed directly to the course where I caddied for Jack during a 9-hole practice session. Perhaps former Tour star Bobby Nichols, who I met later that evening in the Westin lobby, said it best about Jack's game. "I hope I can play like him when I'm 85."

Jack has a full, fluid swing that produces a lot of solid and surprisingly long shots -- although, ever the perfectionist, Jack seems rarely satisfied.

Jack's caddie didn't arrive until Sunday afternoon, so I went 18 holes with Jack and Howie Johnson, Jack's best-ball partner, in howling winds on Sunday morning. (These were the same conditions that suspended final-round play at nearby Harbour Town Golf Links in the Verizon Heritage.) Howie asked me for a tee on the first hole, which I didn't have. I confessed I wasn't a pro caddie. No big deal. I ended up caddieing for both of them as best I could while riding with Jack.

Here are some more highlights of my four days in Savannah:

*Dinner out two nights with Jack and his wife, Carmen
*A brief locker room interview with Hall of Famer Gene Littler
*Hanging out with Jack and Orville Moody (1969 U.S. Open champion) in the clubhouse as they swapped golf stories and needled each other relentlessly
*Lunch and conversation with three-time U.S. Ryder Cup player Johnny Pott and multiple Tour winner Tommy Jacobs
*Meeting and conversations with Bobby Nichols, Jim Colbert, Bob Goalby, Gay Brewer, Don January, Howie Johnson, Jimmy Powell, Charlie Sifford and more
*Meeting Tom Kite in the dining room yesterday (he was returning from the dessert table; I was heading for the door)
*Walking the course with a caddie's wife, now nicknamed "Savannah" as a new source of insider information (smile)
*Hearing several times, "Now don't write that in your blog"

I also saw a lot of Champions Tour players milling about such as Fuzzy Zoeller, Hubert Green, Jerry Pate, Bruce Devlin, Lou Graham and others. Obviously, it was great fun and an experience I would love to repeat.

The Armchair Golfer



Anonymous said... doesn't hardly get any better than that. What a great time you must have had!

Greg said...

And I'm quoting you... "You lucky Dog!"

Savor the memories,


Anonymous said...

Sweet way to spend some time. Rubbing elbows with some of the great ones.

Unknown said...

So what's your secret?

Anonymous said...

I remember Jack Fleck, I am glad he is still out there doing what he does great.

All the best!