Harrington, Garcia and Wi and played even up, as professionals always do.
Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images
By Michael Bamberger
Monday, August 11, 2008

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Did you hear about the South Korean, the Irishman and the Spaniard who went for a game of golf together on Sunday? They secured an afternoon tee time at an exclusive private club, Oakland Hills, on the outer rim of Detroit. (R.I.P., Herb Wind.) What a treat for this international trio: no green fees, each man had his own caddie, and they weren't even required to play with a member, although many members, and other townspeople, came out to watch. Such was the quality of their golf.

The young South Korean, Charlie Wi, wasn't in the same class as the other two, but he was a good sport about it, picking up on some holes, tending the flagstick and being a genial witness to what some of the members are already referring to as The Match. Charlie, it turns out, is a Californian, more than anything, who went to UC Berkeley, whose hobbies include skiing and karate. A pleasant man, and everybody who saw him at the club was impressed by his demeanor and wishes him well in his chosen career, professional golf.

As for the other two, Paddy and Sergio, they were something else. Both are part of a traveling caravan of tournament players who follow the sun all over the world, playing golf in beautiful places for shiny trophies and top cash prizes. Sergio, a dashing Spaniard working on a beard, won a large event in north Florida earlier in the year, and the Irishman won the British Open, said to be the oldest championship in all of golf.

They played even up, as professionals always do, and the folks following them, who numbered in the hundreds if not thousands, were treated to a spectacular display. Birdies galore! This old course, one of the best in Michigan, was once called a "monster" by another visiting professional, Mr. Ben Hogan of Texas, but that was before all these things were done to the shaft, clubhead and ball to "pep-up" the game. In a cool wind — the Spaniard was bundled up but the Irishman played in short sleeves, and how appropriate is that? — Sergio went out in 31 and Paddy in 34, and all a fella could say was, "Wow." The golf was played at medal play, not match, and Sergio — pronounced Thare-he-oh; surname Garcia — was three strokes up on the outward nine. But after 16 holes, all was even, or square. Some found it hard to breathe.

We will leave it to the newspapermen to give you the details of what happened next, but Paddy — surname Harrington, from Dublin; distant cousin to the former signal caller for the Detroit Lions, Joey Harrington — did something out of this world on 17. A birdie two on that one-shotter, making a birdie putt from not even three paces! If only Ben Hogan could have seen that!

As the two men, plus Charlie, tending the flagstick, stood on the 18th green, the crowd had swelled and was surely then many thousands strong. Youngsters scampered to the front, but room was made for the elders, too, and no view was obstructed. It seemed as if the scene was unfolding in a motion picture, the way the sun peaked out from under a ceiling of silver clouds and the wind quickened and the underside of the pale oak leaves in the fairway glistened in a peculiar and cool north wind. It could not have been more lovely. Mr. Harrington made a par on the last and won by two and was congratulated by his playing partners and representatives from the club and some of the newsmen, among others. He was given a magnificent trophy, donated by a Philadelphia department store man, a Mr. Rodman Wanamaker.

Those who follow the Scots' game closely say a Florida man, Mr. Tiger Woods, had possession of Wanamaker's trophy last year and the year before that, and when he won there were even more people watching, and even more newsmen recording the events and even more commotion! Hard to believe, but that's what the old hands were saying. In any event, for this correspondent, the Sunday events at the classic Detroit links were about all his heart could handle. And in signing off, permit this indulgence to say, well done, Paddy, hard luck, Sergio, and better luck next time!

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