Date: October 13, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Our media’s favourite moments in golf

My request was simple.

It was a quick shout to my colleagues in the Australian golfing media, asking little more than for their “favourite golf moment” and how it made them feel.

I gave no riding instructions other than it was part of the GOLF MONTH initiative and that the moment could be either at tournaments or personal experience.

The responses were entertaining and emotive, typical of the love each shows for a sport that is so much more than “just a job”. I can personally vouch for each of the respondents that it’s also a passion.

And the variety of their takes on the matter typified just how much, and the number of ways, golf means to them all.

Here’s a sample of the replies …

JIM TUCKER (Courier-Mail, Brisbane)

"Watching Greg Norman break his majors drought on the 72nd hole at Turnberry to win the 1986 British Open is top of the pile.

Actually, it was the only hole of the tournament I saw the Shark play.

I was headed to the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh as a fan and the flight from Australia meant Norman's third round was a complete blank.

Landing at Heathrow, the news was only good with the Shark one shot in front starting the final round.

After all the TV heartache of watching Masters near-misses, there was no way you could pass this up. It called for a rapid change of route and the start of a “trains, planes and automobiles” day.

The flight to Edinburgh and train across to Glasgow ate time, but were navigated with relative ease. No train from Glasgow to Turnberry on a Sunday was the speed bump.

"The only choice was a taxi for 44km and a 40 quid slug in a young journo's slim wallet – but it had to be done.

I got to the course in time to dash to the final hole to see Norman hit his 5-iron to the heart of the final green and two-putt for a five-stroke win.

A full day's journey for three strokes … it was totally worth it.

I'd seen where Norman had hit his final iron shot and the divot, so I headed back to the spot and latched on to the divot.

Norman's caddie Peter Bender had the same idea and arrived at the same moment with an empty Moet & Chandon bottle from celebrations on the final green.

We agreed to split the divot. He filled the bottle with Turnberry bunker sand and the Turnberry turf.

To this day, I've still got a small, dried, shrivelled piece of Shark divot wrapped in a Turnberry golf towel to remember my favourite moment in golf."

**

BEN EVERILL (AAP, Los Angeles/Sydney)

“I have been lucky enough to witness quite a few brilliant moments in Australian golf, none more so than Adam Scott’s breakthrough Masters win in 2013.

Jumping on my desk in the Augusta National media centre and breaking the age-old “no cheering in the press box” rule as his winning putt dropped is something that will stick with me forever more.

While the win itself was obviously the key moment, for me, my favourite moment came a little earlier.

As his putt on the 72nd hole found its way into the cup, I could not have been more proud as an Aussie to see Scott’s primal scream be “C’mon Aussie” and at the same time, to see Marc Leishman, just a few holes removed from having a chance to win himself, giving a fist pump in support.

The week ended sharing a beer with our green jacket winner that night and playing Augusta National the following morning … how could it get any better?”

**

MARK ALLEN (Radio SEN, former touring pro)

“My father took me to watch Greg Norman at Huntingdale one year at the Masters – I was 10 years old.

Huntingdale was a course my father took me to play quite often as he and mum were both members. I knew it well.

We parked ourselves behind the fourth tee and waited for Greg.

The fourth was a driver hole for my dad. He’d hit it down to the corner and play his 8-iron into the green.

Greg finally turned up, pulled out driver and aimed way right, seemingly straight at the massive gums protecting the dogleg.

I looked back at Dad like he was making a massive alignment mistake …

I’ll never forget the swing and the ball flight – I almost got sucked forward on to the tee.

As we walked down the fairway with the thousands of other spectators I looked at Dad and told him, “This is where your ball finishes” and that the Shark’s was still going up at this point.

Greg’s ball was 20 paces from the front of the fourth green, right in the middle of the fairway.

I just couldn’t believe it.”

**

SCOTT WALSH (Adelaide Advertiser)

“I wish I could say it was Adam Scott's breakthrough Masters win in 2013, which is a clear second.

But, if I'm totally honest, it was watching Tiger Woods' historic win at Augusta National in 1997 from my loungeroom.

I was in Year 12 at the time and, with a mate, had been dabbling as a school holidays golfer for several years.

Tiger-mania had even reached even suburban Adelaide by the start of 1997 and I instantly transformed from someone interested in golf to an addict.

My mate and I even set up our Thursday classes so that we had enough of a break to sneak away and squeeze in nine holes between the start of recess and the end of lunch.

Then came the 1997 Masters.

I can't remember the early rounds, but I can vividly recall the Monday morning, our time, with Tiger in his traditional red shirt, setting record after record – all at just 21.

Golf was suddenly cool, and I was hooked.

I began practising after school at the nearby club, followed Tiger's putting drills and bought Nike golf shoes and vests.

It felt like I was a kid in 1928 living the rise of Don Bradman and I wanted to be experience every moment.

Tiger's 1997 Masters win marked a huge momentum shift in golf's perception and popularity, and it was a life-changing whirlwind for a kid caught up in the hype.

**

GRANT DODD (TV commentator, former touring pro)

“Totally narcissistic, but it was walking onto the first tee at Troon at the 1997 British Open, and hearing Ivor Robson say, "On the tee, from Australia … Grant Dodd".

Words you never thought you would hear.

Just a bit surreal at the time, given that a couple of years prior I was playing pro-ams in places like Leeton, Dubbo and Gunnedah.”

**

MARTIN BLAKE (Golf Australia, formerly of The Age, Melbourne)

“I've never had a hole in one. So I'm stuck with the day I played Augusta National.

It was 2012, I was covering the Masters, and my name came out of the media ballot.

I had to borrow some (rubbish) clubs, parred the first, hacked a few divots out of the sacred ground, knocked two into Rae's Creek, made the up-and-down of the century at the 16th, and fired it through the funnel of pines at the 18th like I was a pro.

I shot 98 with a zillion putts. But I can't see myself topping that as a golf experience.”

**

MATT MURNANE (The Age, Melbourne)

“The respect and sportsmanship showed by Jordan Spieth towards Jason Day as he was trying to upstage the Australian in his quest to win his first major title at this year’s US PGA Championship.

The image of the young American walking in with Day's lag putt on the 17th hole on Sunday and then giving it the "thumbs up" was the type of moment that made you want to get out and play right there and then.

Day and Spieth are making golf cool, again.”

**

RUSSELL GOULD (Herald Sun, Melbourne)

“I was a wide-eyed 13-year-old following the `Great White Shark’ around Huntingdale on a sunny Sunday in 1990.

It was the final round of the Australian Masters and Greg Norman was chasing down Nick Faldo, arguably his arch rival of the era.

Norman started the day behind but was charging and on the par-five seventh found the greenside trap with his second shot.

I had worked my way to the front of the gallery and was sitting on the grass, perched right behind Norman as he buried his feet in the soft white sand and set about splashing it out.

As the ball rose from the bunker, I did, too, and tracked it all the way as it flew towards the hole, landed and rolled its way in for an amazing eagle.

Norman went on to win his sixth and final Masters gold jacket – and my lifelong love of golf was born.”

**

Then came arguably the most poignant response from a man who has seen it all in modern Australian golf …

PETER STONE (Freelance, formerly chief golf writer for Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s Sun newspapers)

“Write a few paragraphs for our golf promotion month, asked the chap from Golf Australia. Easier said than done, as mine has been a 50-plus year career writing and socialising with the elite – and not so elite – golfers of the world.

You make friendships for life through a shared passion of the game and, sadly as the years go by, you go to funerals. You play golf with the top players in pro-ams and socially, and share a drop of the deadener afterwards.

Golf is like no other sport where the handicapping system makes it a game for life, though it hasn’t been an unknown occurrence at my golf club to produce a membership form to the local bowls club after someone has had a shocker.

I could tell you of the time I sat beside Lee Trevino at a blackjack table at a Southport casino in England until around 2am on day of the opening round of the 1971 British Open at Royal Birkdale.

“Lee,” I said at one point, “you’re hitting off just before 8am.”

“I’m beating jetlag,” he said, having arrived from the US after winning the Canadian Open 12 hours earlier. Besides, he was having too much fun engaging in chat with the amply proportioned female croupier. He won the championship that year.

A couple of years or so ago, I was about to do a video recording with Jack Nicklaus. I’d cut my lip shaving that morning, and it began to bleed just as the camera was about to roll. The Golden Bear whipped out his handkerchief and did some repairs before we started chatting.

That’s friendship forged over years through golf.

Earlier this year, like hundreds of others, I attended Kel Nagle’s funeral at a Sydney northern suburbs crematorium. After the service, we spilled outside the chapel on to the road as another hearse approached with a funeral director marching solemnly in front calling: “Out of the way. Out of the way.”

Bloody hell, it was John Manning from my golf club, Massey Park. I gently chided him next time our paths crossed and discovered he, too, was farewelling a great man who also loved his golf.

It was former Labor politician Tom Uren who earlier had been afforded a state funeral in the Sydney CBD. Nagle was offered a similar farewell, but his family declined. Kel Nagle never loved any fuss.

Several times through the years, Uren would call him to chat about something I’d written.

Recently Manning and I were at Massey Park for a Men of League (rugby league that is) golf day followed by a luncheon to raise funds for MoL’s continuing program to help former players who have fallen on financial hard times.

Nathan Hindmarsh, a former Parramatta Eels player and former South Sydney Rabbitoh, Brian Fletcher – both former Australians reps – provided the entertainment and, it must be said, it was a touch bluer than their regular spot on the Matty Johns Show on Fox Sports.

Past and present players were there and the beer flowed. So, too, did the yarns, everyone brought together by the great game of golf and enjoyment to help others less fortunate.

That’s what our great game is all about. Every month should be golf promotion month and, in a way, it is.”