Saturday, July 25, 2009

Watson gracious runner-up, even during flight

Here are a few final observations on last week's British Open golf championship:
On my trip home Monday, I spent time with Andy North, ABC golf analyst, at the airport in Glasgow, Scotland. North and Tom Watson are the same age, 59. They competed for many years on the PGA Tour and are close friends.
North, who is a two-time U.S. Open champion, said of his buddy Watson:
"He hit a perfect iron shot on 18. It's 182 yards to the flag, and he hits an eight iron. If he miss-hits the shot at all, he wins the Open. He played spectacularly all week; and in the end, he handled it well. But he always has."
When I got on the plane to London, I found myself seated two rows behind Watson, his wife, Hillary, and North.
During the flight, an autograph seeker brought one of the British tabloids for Watson to sign. This started the onslaught.
Another English girl approached him. Then it was a middle-aged man. He was followed by three older Asian men. Finally, the flight attendant asked Watson if he objected to the interruptions.
"No, that's all right," Watson said with a smile.
Again it was apparent why this man is the beloved golf legend that he is.
I mentioned last week that I ran into Jim Nantz from CBS last week on the course at Turnberry.
He indicated that he was leaving the tournament Sunday. When I saw part of the final round on the BBC television network, I was surprised to see Nantz doing some commentary in the booth.
We exchanged e-mails this week, and he said, "I wasn't going to miss that round even if it meant I had to elbow my way into the BBC broadcast booth and work for free."
Golf fans will be interested to know that the 2010 British Open championship, the 150th in golf history, will be at St. Andrews Golf Club, where golf originated.
ESPN will televise the event, and coverage will begin at 5 a.m. the first two days running through the final putt being holed in the first two rounds.
The network will provide full weekend coverage for the final two rounds. All shots from start to finish will be aired on ESPN.
The PGA Championship will be golf's final major of the season. It will be Aug. 13 to 16 at Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.
The past few years, the PGA Championship has provided the most exciting finishes of the season. It's hard to believe that it could get much better than The Masters or the British Open.
I found myself in the United Airlines Red Carpet room on Monday between flights from London to Chicago. As luck would have it, I was in the same area with a bunch of national writers, and Rick Reilly from Sports Illustrated was holding court.
"Do you guys realize that the biggest stories at golf's two majors this year have been the losers?" Reilly asked.
Losers? Well, that might be a relative term.
Memorial tournament
I am happy to report that the response for the Beth Smith memorial tournament Aug. 7 at The Legends of Indiana Golf Course has been phenomenal.
Beth was the wife of PGA Tour player Chris Smith from Peru. She was killed in an automobile accident on Fathers Day. Chris' kids, Abigail and Cameron, are out of the hospital and starting their long recovery.
The outpouring of support for the Smiths has been off the charts. The afternoon shotgun is full with 216 players. A morning shotgun has been scheduled as well.
Those who play in the morning will be treated to a "free" tournament on the par-3 course in the afternoon, which will be a good reason to stick around for dinner. Players will enjoy lunch and dinner.
One of the highlights of the day will be the auction of memorabilia donated by sports and entertainment icons. The PGA Tour has lent its support for the event as well. Mac Fritz, co-organizer of the event, has arranged rounds of golf with Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker, John Cook, Jerry Kelly and Nick Price.
Fritz has gotten signed clubs from Stricker, Camilo Villegas, Davis Love III, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Vijay Singh. There are rounds of golf at some of the nation's legendary courses. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrignton and Jim Furyk all have donated signed flags from winning tournaments.
Colts players have donated jerseys. Kenny G and Kenny Chesney have supported the event with some unbelievable items.
Others to participate are Nantz, Nick Faldo, Alan Jackson, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic of ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning," Martina McBride and music group Alabama.
Finally, the St. Louis Cardinals are donating signed jerseys from Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa. Each comes with four premium tickets and an on-field experience that includes dugout access prior to the game and field access during batting practice.
There are more than 100 auction items available.
Dinner tickets are available for $50, which gives you access to the auction. For more information on dinner or playing in the tournament, contact me at or call 736-8939.
All proceeds go directly to Smith and his kids, Abigail and Cameron.
Ted Bishop is director of golf for The Legends of Indiana Golf Course and secretary for PGA of America.

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