Trophy Cases

I'm sitting at my desk, staring out through the oak shutters at the rain pelting down outside my window. It's one of those violent summer mornings, and a line of thunderstorms is barging through the Dallas area, tearing at the treetops, washing the streets clean of dust, and tangling the storm drains with twigs and leaves.

My office is oak paneled, and at the moment it's so dark that I've had to turn on the lights so I can see the letters on my keyboard. Unlike some of the writers in this rag, such as the evil Strange, I am not blinded by the glare of silver and gold from a vast array of glowing winner's buckets. Just a few moments ago, Rory, my youngest son, came in and asked if it would be okay if he took my Scottish Open trophy upstairs. Apparently he and his brother, Shea, are playing hoops with a Ping-Pong ball, and the trophy is about the right size to serve as the basket.

Whatever. My cohort McCord blotted his magnificent losing record once he got to the Senior Tour. (His favorite trophy is a two-inch high bowling pot, inscribed, "Perfect Attendance.") Like McCord, I've never really been one for keepsakes, which is evident if you take a look around my office or library or whatever it is.

It certainly couldn't be described as a trophy room. The only trophy I really care about is a replica of the Ryder Cup, and ironically, I got that one for helping to lose the event in 1991.

There are a few other things that I would hate to lose, such as the paintings of Augusta National given to me by The Masters committee over the years, but that's pretty much it. In 20 years of hacking my way around the world, I won two Irish Professional Championships, five European Tour events, and three tournaments in Africa.

All I have as evidence is a ghastly piece of Perspex from the BMW International in Munich, and a replica of the Scottish Open trophy, which, for some reason, has just re-entered the room duct-taped to the nethermost region of Willard the Wonder Mutt. So much for the hoops game. Upon investigation, I discover that it is now a "toot catcher." Willard is not pleased, and is gnawing at his rear in an effort to free what he clearly considers to be a "toot liberator."

When I think about it, I can only say for sure that I know of the whereabouts of one of the missing pots. Never mind the trophies for the Irish Championships; I can't even remember the tournaments. I know the 1992 Madrid Open trophy is in a little hole-in-the-wall bar in Donegal Place, Belfast, called JR's. At least, that's where it was the last time I saw it. Filled with peanuts, it's serving a far more useful purpose than it would be collecting dust beside my Oxford English Dictionary, which, as regular readers of my verbicidal prose will know, serves no useful purpose, either.

As for the rest of my clangware, I have no idea where it is. The Italian Open trophy, stained with the greatest marinara sauce ever made, never made it out of Italy, and the closest thing I have to the trophy from the Open de Cannes, which I won in 1990, is in a drawer in the kitchen. It's called the Open de Bottles.

I do, however, have one of those delightful trophy jackets, from the 1989 South African PGA Championship. It's a positively electric shade of royal blue, with gold embroidery on the pocket. I wouldn't wear it to a snake-wrestling bout, but I will give it this: It's not as bad as that damned kilt-with-sleeves from Harbour Town, or worse still, Colonial.

Sporting trophies mean different things to different people, but I think the best of them have lives of their own. If you ask me, the greatest of them all is the Stanley Cup. Players on the winning team get to spend a day with it, and, more importantly, do whatever they want with it. The cup has a permanent security guard who travels with it, and as a result, it seems almost to have developed its own personality.

Despite what New Jersey Devil Sergei Brylin's baby did in it last year, the Stanley Cup was still kissed by a bunch of grown men back in May. But hey, they're hockey players.

The claret jug given to the British Open winner has had a few scrapes over the last century or so, and has more character as a result. Like some of the men who won it in its early years, it got lost for a while, and was once found in a hedge by a dog. This is a good thing.

I won the Scottish Open in 1986, and promptly lost the oldest trophy in professional golf altogether, thus adding to the mystique of the event -- which is of course no longer played. This has nothing to do with me. Trust me, it'll show up somewhere, and when it does, I will look like a visionary. Then, hopefully, they will allow me back into the Gleneagles Hotel, which was the scene of the crime. Not that they were upset I lost the trophy, but they were a little miffed when I refused to pay for a magnum of '61 Margaux I had emptied into it. I'm telling you, it tasted metallic. At least, the first couple of pints did. Also, there was a dead moth in the bottle, which tasted rotten.

The Wanamaker trophy -- which goes to the PGA Championship winner -- as large as it is, has been misplaced, as well. After his win in the 1925 PGA championship, Walter Hagen, that well-known fop, who was fond of the occasional adult beverage, left the bucket behind him in a taxi, and it didn't reappear until someone had a garage sale some two years later.

I'm assuming the cab had a chrome interior and Wally was wearing sunglasses. I mean, the claret jug I can understand; it's a one-bottle affair. But the Wanamaker? I've read the entire sports section of USA the Day Before Yesterday seated on a smaller receptacle.

Hagen must have been a beauty, and the kind of man I would have loved to have hung around with. He reminds me of earlier this year at The Masters, when I bumped into Mr. Patrick Summerall, one of my greatest heroes. I said to him, "Mr. Summerall, one of my sincerest regrets is that I never got to hang out with you and Brookshire and Phil Harris, you know, back when you were on the tear." He looked at me, pointed a finger, and in that famous, minimalist, nothing-but-the-facts drone, said, "Nmmm...... You wouldn't have helped."

I'm not sure about these newer trophies. You'd have to wear a welder's mask to safely look at some of the jackets, and some of the hardware is decidedly dangerous. Tom Kite won the SBC Senior event in Chicago last year, and I had to award him his prize. He looked at me and backed off like I was Edward Scissorhands. It was a piece of metal in some sort of a swooping curve, with a couple of sharp, pointy bits. Thank God Tom had that Lasik surgery, or he could have put an eye out on the damned thing.

The Trophée Lancôme is another bronze boo-boo. It's a headless, armless, legless torso with a hole through its heart. It looks like someone gave Michelangelo's David to Elmer Fudd on the opening day of wabbit season. Still, it is France, and I guess they know what they're doing.

Of all the trophies in the entire world, though, there was one that was particularly dear to me, even though I am glad to say I never won it. A few years after I turned pro, there was a group of 12 of us, friends, you know, who used to play at Royal County Down in what became known as the Open Closed Championship. The sole objective of the competitors in the event was to avoid finishing in last place, for the rules stated that whomever brought up the rear was required to display the trophy in a prominent place in his home for a period of one calendar year.

The penalty for breach of the rule was one case of Margaux, and a very expensive one at that, to be distributed among the rest of the field. The trophy was beautifully framed in a shadow box of red velvet, and would have been perfectly acceptable to the wives or girlfriends of any of us had the contents not been a pair of elderly Y-fronts.

They were not hermetically sealed, either, and through the years had developed some ghastly stains, all by themselves. You want to talk about motivation, this was something you didn't want sharing the mantelpiece with Granny's ashes.

Never in the field of human conflict have so few tried so desperately to avoid something so completely. Believe me, there was no throwing in the towel in this event. Everyone tried his utmost, right to the last hole.

It makes me wonder if every great event should have two trophies: one for the victor, and one for the guy who props up the rest of the field. If the trophy were awful enough, we might get to see the occasional battle between total losers, which, these days, could be considerably more absorbing than the duel at the top.

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