DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Todd Hamilton’s caddie at the Memorial Tournament is a kid from back home who’s had a better last couple of weeks than Hamilton has.
Conrad Shindler, a 20-year-old sophomore, was on the Texas A&M team that captured the NCAA team championship last Saturday with a dramatic victory over Arkansas.
Shindler and Hamilton are both members at Vaquero Golf Club in Westlake, Texas. Even though Hamilton is an Oklahoma graduate, he asked the Aggie to fill in when his regular caddie took some time off.
“It’s a great experience,” Shindler said. “I plan on being out here someday, so it’s kind of a way to get the inside access of it.”
A&M defeated Arkansas 3-and-2 in the NCAA’s new match-play format to determine the team title. After 54 holes of stroke play, Oklahoma State was the clear leader, but then the Cowboys were upset.
In Saturday’s championship match, Shindler lost his match. With the team match tied at two apiece, he then watched in horror as A&M’s No. 1 player, Bronson Burgoon, blew a 4-up lead in four holes. Burgoon then won his match – and the team title – by chopping a gap wedge out of deep rough from 120 yards that ended up 3 inches from the cup for a conceded birdie.
Shindler said he still needs reassurance that the Aggies won.
“I still wake up every morning and turn on my computer,” he said. “I’ve got the picture of me and my teammates with the trophy and I have to look at that every time to remind myself that we’re the national champions.”
Shindler said he was certain that if Hamilton were to win the Memorial Tournament’s $1,080,000 first prize, his pay would not cost him his amateur status.
“Technically, it’s just a job,” he said, grinning.
On Monday, Shindler is set to play 36 holes in the U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Columbus. His caddie? Hamilton will return the favor.
“Whatever he asks me to do, I’ll do,” Hamilton said. “If he says, ‘Hey, don’t say anything until I say something, that’s fine with me. I’m the same way.”
HEAD SHOT: David Duval was on a roll. He was 5 under as he teed off on the par-4 10th hole, and was leading the Memorial Tournament.
But Duval’s ball sailed just to the right of the fairway, and his round was never the same afterward.
Duval’s drive struck a spectator near the large bunker that gobbles up shots to the right of the fairway. The ball hit the man in the head and what Duval confronted when he reached the ball was enough to leave him shaken.
“It’s easier to swallow if there’s not blood coming out of somebody’s head. And the guy was shook up,” said Duval, who said he was with the 60-year-old Columbus-area man until he received medical attention. Duval said he was told the man was OK.
The last time Duval said he had struck a fan with a shot was 10 years or so ago at The Players Championship.
Duval, winless since capturing the 2001 British Open, admitted that he was rattled for a couple of holes. He bogeyed the 10th hole and double-bogeyed the 12th, shooting a 4-over 40 on the back and finishing at 1-under 71.
He was asked if he offered his victim a token gift to make him feel better.
“You end up giving them a signed golf ball or glove. But like that really matters at that point, you know?” he said. “It’s like, ‘Great, I got hit in the head and I got a golf ball for it.”
Reminded that many major league baseball fans throw opposing home run balls back on the field, Duval laughed.
“I kind of kept my eye open for a minute to see if he was going to throw it at me,” he said.
INVITED BACK: A year ago, Mathew Goggin shot a 7-under 65 in the first round of the Memorial and then regaled reporters with hilarious stories about the only previous time he had visited Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Back in 1999, while staying with friends, he celebrated his birthday a bit too much and missed a scheduled tee time at the course. Then he had to quit after eight holes because he was sick.
Goggin blamed it all on his host, Gary Nicklaus – son of Memorial Tournament founder Jack Nicklaus – whom he jokingly called “a bad influence.”
He ended up tying for second to cash a $396,000 check.
On Thursday, Goggin, from Tasmania, frittered away a great round when he triple-bogeyed the final hole to polish off a 1-under 71.
Judging from his return engagement, it’s clear the Nicklaus family has forgiven him, right?
“I sat with (Jack) at lunch the other day and he didn’t say anything about it,” Goggin said. “Either that or he just didn’t know who I was. I don’t know for sure.”
DIVOTS: 2002 Memorial winner Jim Furyk’s 67 was his lowest opening round in 14 appearances at the tournament. … The first-round leader has gone on to win just five of 22 stroke-play events on the PGA Tour this year. … Only one player (Ernie Els in 2004) has led the Memorial after the first round and ended up winning it. … A year ago, Kevin Chappell showed up at the Memorial to receive the Nicklaus Award, given to the national collegiate player of the year. He was invited to play in the tournament this year and was last in the field of 120 with an 86.