ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A year ago on Sept. 11, the eerie timing of a friend’s death made Johan Immelman wonder if time was eroding memories of the terrorist attacks on America and how the citizens rallied behind one another the day after.
Ultimately, that brought together an eclectic mix of major champions, Super Bowl champions and military leaders Tuesday at Lake Nona Golf Club to officially launch a program called “Golf 9/12.”
The idea is for golfers who take part in the program to tee it up at their local clubs on Sept. 12 next year in what is being billed as the largest multi-course golf event in the world.
Immelman, former commissioner of the Sunshine Tour and father of Masters champion Trevor Immelman, said his “big, hairy, audacious goal” is for 220 golf courses and 220,000 golfers to take part in the inaugural day.
“Golf 9/12” after next year would be held the first Monday after Sept. 11.
Why the focus on Sept. 12?
Rich Davies, a North Carolina developer and co-founder of the program, said it was a day of “pent-up enthusiasm to connect with one another.” And what better way to do that than through golf? Another founder is retired Col. Ray Horoho, whose wife was working in the Pentagon when it was struck by a hijacked plane.
Trevor Immelman and U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover also are involved, along with PGA champion Davis Love III and Masters champion Larry Mize. Also pitching in are former NFL players Dan Marino, Wesley Walls, Jim Stuckey and Steve Marino, centerfielder Johnny Damon and former coach Lou Holtz.
Johan Immelman said he was moved when a friend died in a private crash last year on Sept. 11 on his way to New York. The coincidence was so jarring that he met with Davies and they began concocting a plan to remember Sept. 11 and the feelings it inspired. The buzz words of the program are “Remember, Unite and Engage.”
Mobile technology is the key behind “Golf 9/12.” Everyone participating at various golf courses will be connected through live mobile scoring using a custom phone application.
Players would pay an additional $12 for the round, with money going to the Pentagon Memorial Fund, the 9-11 Memorial, Flight 93 Memorial, local First Responders, Armed Forces Charities and Friends of Freedom Charities.
Golf courses and players can register at www.golf912.org.
“It’s not all polished,” Davies said. “We’ve put this together on a shoestring budget. But that’s the beauty of it. This is a grassroots effort. We look forward to people saying, ‘I’d like to be a part of this.'”
G-MAC ATTACK: U.S. Open champion and Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell has won the Golf Writers’ Trophy for 2010, which the Association of Golf Writers presents to the top European performer. This was one year when the ballot was loaded.
With a record number of votes cast, the AGW said McDowell narrowly beat out the winning Ryder Cup team. Martin Kaymer, who won the PGA Championship and captured the Order of Merit, finished third. He was followed by Lee Westwood, who became the first European in 18 years to be No. 1 in the world.
McDowell and Kaymer were co-players of the year on the European Tour. Kaymer won four times on the European Tour along with the money title, while McDowell won three times and the decisive match in the Ryder Cup.
“What a treasure chest our members had to choose from this year,” AGW chairman Bill Elliott said. “But in the end, I suspect that abiding image of an exhausted Graeme McDowell clinching the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor just tipped it in his favor.”
CADDIE CHANGE: Mike Weir is looking for a new caddie. Sean O’Hair found one.
Weir’s caddie and longtime friend, Brennan Little, has decided to go to work for O’Hair in 2011. Little worked for O’Hair at the Chevron World Challenge and decided to make the switch. Weir is recovering from an elbow injury that kept him out the last three months of the season.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Weir said on his website Tuesday. “I know that he has to look after his family, and my situation, while I remain confident, is certainly not all that stable at the moment.”
O’Hair parted with his caddie, Paul Tesori, last month.
NICKLAUS AWARD: Jim Furyk was voted PGA Tour player of the year by his colleagues, and making it even more meaningful was the image on the trophy. The official title of the honor is the “Jack Nicklaus Award.”
Furyk’s three biggest golfing heroes were Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Nicklaus. He had the best relationship with the latter. Furyk played college and amateur golf against Gary Nicklaus. He once played a practice round with the 18-time major champion, and the acquaintance became even stronger through the Memorial and the Presidents Cup, with Nicklaus the captain of four teams on which Furyk played.
But what really helped is whom Furyk married.
“He’s always had a special place for me because of my wife being a Buckeye,” Furyk said with a grin. “That was my in. He liked me because my wife was from Ohio State. But he’s always treated us great.”
Furyk referred to Nicklaus as “to this date, the best there ever was.”
“That’s why that trophy is there,” he said. “There’s many things that make the whole thing special for me, but obviously with him being on the trophy – him being the trophy – is pretty cool for me.”
DIVOTS: Annika Sorenstam announced that she is pregnant with her second child. … The silly season is dwindling with world ranking points now available at various tournaments, but there was nothing too silly about the Shark Shootout for Chris DiMarco. He teamed with Anthony Kim to tie for third and each player earned $125,000. DiMarco’s largest paycheck on tour this year was $69,000 for a tie for 10th in Reno. … British-based Ladbrokes is offering 5-4 odds that Tiger Woods will not win a major next year. The betting agency also lists him as the 3-1 favorite to win the Masters. … The Bob Hope Classic is donating 25,000 tickets to nine charitable organizations and nine area schools, which can will sell the tickets at a slightly discounted rate. The plan is to help raise up to $625,000 for charities.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Rickie Fowler is only $50,130 behind Lee Trevino on the PGA Tour’s career earnings list.
FINAL WORD: “In my 24 years as a member of the European Tour, never, ever have we had the success we have had this year. We have completely dominated the world of golf in 2010.” – Colin Montgomerie.