Long Lost Ball

I have heard it said many times . . . boredom is the root of all evil. I’m pretty sure that we have all been put to a test at some point during this pandemic that has required a variety of coping methods. My personal choice is to focus on the pleasant memories I’ve banked over the years — that seems to work best.

Before I share two of those very timely recollections, I have to say I’m excited about the prospect of real tournament play starting soon. June 8 will be the start The Charles Schwab Challenge week that will take place at the historic Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, TX, and will mark the official resumption of competition on the PGA Tour. Play was suspended at The PLAYERS Championship in March due to COVID-19.

“The Colonial,” as it is often called, was first held in 1946 and is the longest-running event played on the same course on the PGA Tour. Adjacent to the first tee is a Wall of Honor that lists all the winners from its inception, including the trio of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Lee Trevino as well as Phil Mickelson, Sergio García, and Tom Watson, among many others. The one name that appears the most is Ben Hogan, who won Colonial a record-setting five times and is honored with a statue on the grounds of Colonial CC for all to see.

In 2003, the Colonial was packed with spectators as LPGA Superstar Annika Sörenstam made the history books with her one and only start on the PGA Tour. It was truly a memorable occasion. Sörenstam played well and brought a lot of attention to the event and the charities associated with it, but unfortunately missed the cut.

There was certainly a party atmosphere that night in Fort Worth, especially in the famous Ft. Worth Stockyards. While I happened to be in one of the local watering holes, a cowboy arrived on horseback. I noticed that he was throwing back quite a few adult beverages, so I asked him if he had any worries about getting stopped for drunk driving. His response was priceless: “Not unless my horse gets drunk!”

Fans will be allowed inside the Colonial gates this year, but at least it will be a real PGA Tour competition that we can enjoy on television. The field is strong, with the top five ranked players in the world signed up to play. Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, and Dustin Johnson have all entered, but not Tiger Woods. It is rumored that Tiger won’t return to the Tour until July at the Memorial Tournament hosted by Nicklaus.

Now, digging back into my memory bank, as I recently watched the incredible SpaceX launch, two fond memories came to mind. First, the most memorable and greatest golf shot ever hit came from the homemade 6-iron that Alan Shepard hit after he stepped onto the surface of the moon. A few years later, in my interview with him, I was lucky enough to discover how he managed to sneak the club on board along with two golf balls without anyone at NASA knowing about it. I promised not to tell, but it was quite a story.

And secondly, all I have to do is just close my eyes and focus and I can vividly visualize a magical moment that took place in January 2002. As it happened, my return trip from London to New York was on the supersonic Concord. Being able to fly on the Concord was exciting enough, however luckily for me, arrangements had been made in advance that at some point during the approximately three-hour flight I would be invited to visit the cockpit. Shortly after the captain announced that we had leveled off at 76,000 feet and were traveling at a speed of 1450 miles per hour, I was escorted upfront. When that cockpit door opened and I got to see the curvature of the Earth, I was simply spellbound. To this day, I can close my eyes and see the Earth as very few ever have.

When people say I have been blessed in my life, they get no argument from me.

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