It seemed to me that golf treaded water in 2018 with some momentum offset by the continued decline in interest in the younger segments of the population which is really the future of golf. The most significant factor to positively impact the game’s popularity was the return of Tiger Woods to the PGA Tour as a serious competitor. Tiger was competitive throughout the year and a factor in most of the majors and stood atop the leaderboard in the final round of the Open Championship at Carnoustie for a bit until an ill advised pitch shot resulted in a bogey and out of the lead. Tiger brought TV audiences back with his competitive play but it still seems that the sport is losing momentum. The millennial generation continues to shy away from golf as it takes to long to play in this era of smart phones and video games. Private and semi-private country clubs continue to suffer financially and are closing or barely hanging on while having to increase dues and fees substantially to cope with higher costs, local taxes and the urgent need for housing as a prioritize for land use. TV coverage continues to be generally poor as Fox continued it’s horrendous coverage of the US Open and other USGA events. NBC has now lost Johnny Miller to retirement and his insights will be missed.
Personal Highlights of 2018
I wanted to focus this blog post on my personal year 2018. While this is really not important to anyone, my experiences are probably typical among a great number of players with some notable exceptions. I posted 77 scores to my handicap for the year but I also played 14 rounds overseas-6 in New Zealand, 4 in Ireland, 2 in England , 1 in Australia and 1 in China. I also completed my new golf book, Through the Green” in September. A summary chronology of highlights is as follows:
In March , I visited Brian Shirley at his club and we played at his home club, Wheat Hill, in Somerset. We also played Wincanton which is actually a horse racing track venue with a nine hole regulation size golf course inside the track. What is special about this is our ability to play together in some very dodgy weather and enjoy just the company and hitting the ball around where most people would never venture out to play. It’s a great feeling going 5,000 miles to play a round of golf with one of your best friends in the world.
I celebrated Super Bowl LII with a round of golf at MPCC. I always tee off about 1:30 in the afternoon so that the course is absolutely empty and am usually accompanied by someone who has no interest in football. I hate the enforced gaiety of Super Bowl parties and the blah, blah of the TV broadcast-I guess you would have to call me a Super Bowl “curmudgeon.” I record the game on the DVR just in case its a good game and in 2018 it proved to be a good idea. Besides, before the third quarter begins, it is usually dark on the West Coast and I meet my wife for an early dinner at the club restaurant where I can also watch the second half live. I’ve now been doing this for the past several years ever since I attended the game when the NY Giants beat the Patriots in Phoenix, Arizona.
In April, we made it to our 20th Final Four in San Antonio, Texas. As usual, golf was included and we had two rounds of golf–one at Barton Creek in Austin and one at Briggs Golf Club in the San Antonio where I ran into Larry Fitzgerald from the Arizona Cardinals. What blew me away was that Larry actually remembered me from the AT&T Pro-Am where he passed our home at Spyglass Hill. I was flabbergasted when he proceeded to tell his friends my age and my handicap and that I could really play this game.
June brought two highlights for the year. The first was the normal round of golf that my son, Ian, and I play every year. This year the weekend was very special with grandson Adrian. As we walked up the 11th hole on the Dunes Course, Linda and Shannon (my daughter-in-law) held up signs wishing me “Happy Father’s Day” with Adrian in the stroller. It was the best gallery ever.
The last week of June, we flew to Bandon Dunes to play in the Bandon Dunes National Golf Championship. I was very concerned about doing this since it was a two day event of 36 holes a day walking. While we didn’t win the event, we played pretty well and were competitive. I couldn’t believe that I actually survived the walk, the wind and some rain as after the second round–it was dinner and off to bed. Somehow I made it through this event. The weather was bright and sunny for the two days with the exception of a few squalls but the wind was up and blowing hard. The last hole at Bandon Trails is a 416 yard, par 4 mostly uphill and there was a 40 mile/hour wind in your face. I hit a driver about 160 yards into this wind and then knocked a 3 wood another 160 yards down the middle. I still had 96 yards to the pin and my caddy looked at me and handed me a 6 iron. I exclaimed, “A six iron?, really?.” He looked at me and said “Yep.” I couldn’t believe it but I didn’t disobey, I hit the ball and nailed it and wind killed it 3 feet from the hole for a very unusual par. It was a terrific event and I believe the winning 72 hole score was -2. It was a great test of survival for us as our middle of the pack score was +17.
The last week of July took us to Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh courtesy of Dawne and Dave Hickton. We also got the opportunity to play nearby Laurel Valley. Dawne’s sons are collegiate players and terrific guys. Oakmont’s greens were as fast as MPCC so I felt at home on the greens. My highlight here was staying up with Dawne’s son and waving past the Church pews instead of being in them on the course. Oakmont is a very special place and certainly one of the best courses in the United States.
September took us back for our annual visit to Ireland where we played Powerscourt Golf Club and another private club. We also played venerable Port Marnock as this has become an annual must for the visit. Many thanks of our benefactor-Jonathan Sheehan.
Through the Green was published on September 1, 2018 the result of an intense 15 months of work mostly written at night and on airplanes. We’re actively trying to market the book which is harder than the writing. I made a positive contact with popular golf author, Tom Coyne, who wrote “A Course Called Ireland” and “A Course Called Scotland.” who was very encouraging and urged me to continue to write on the golf game. I’ve also been in contact with the editor of the Golfer’s Journal and have submitted a proposal to contribute to that publication. I hope for a positive response in 2019.
In October we had a lot of fun hosting the University of San Francisco Golf Team at Monterrey Peninsula Country Club. The team and coach, Jack Kennedy, played the Dunes Course from the tips and I was amazed at the power and skill of these kids. It was fun to be able to provide this experience for the team and university golf represents the best of what the sport has to offer. I also want to thank fellow MPCC members-Bruce Black and Dave Anderson for their support.
In November, I received a big surprise that I had been invited in the 2019 AT&T Pro-AM at Pebble Beach. It seems that I won the MPCC lottery where a few players are selected to play in the event. I used to play in a number of Pro Ams around the country but the AT&T is the grand-daddy of them all. Looking forward to the experience with Ian on the bag.
Finally, we vacationed in New Zealand at Kauri Cliffs following a business trip to Australia. Kauri Cliffs is the sister resort to Cape Kidnappers. Kauri Cliffs is north at Bay Island while Cape Kidnappers is a few hours away in the wine region of Napier in Hawkes Bay. Details of the Kauri Cliffs were posted in previous blogs but the special fun was playing with one of their professionals-Taylor Gill.
Looking forward to 2019 which will include the US Open at Pebble Beach.