In previous issues of Golf Magazine, I’ve explained how to plan for your biggest tournament of the year. It’s the same advice I give my more famous students in the weeks leading up to the four men’s professional majors. As part of this lesson plan, I’ve offered to personally come work with you one-on-one at the course where your major event will take place. We received a ton of entries and have narrowed them down to four finalists. Now, it’s up to you to help us select the grand-prize winner. Check the entries below and vote for your favorite by sending an e-mail to [email protected]. Here they are:
A Win for Autism
My major is the Autism Charity Classic, played in Tubac, Ariz., at the course where Tin Cup was filmed. This past year’s event was an amazing two days for both my son, Tyler, and me. Tyler is non-verbal. He doesn’t speak, but he is kindhearted and loves people. He also loves being out on the golf course, as I learned during the Autism Classic this past year. The shade of his Pelz hat and control of the golf cart throttle were all that he needed to enjoy the round, Tyler’s presence was an inspiration to everyone, especially me. When I received the third place trophy and hoisted Tyler on my shoulders, the crowd responded with a burst of applause. Tyler will be my “caddy” for many years to come, and next year we are after the top prize. The event benefits a terrific cause and provides positive support for Tyler. Former NFL player Rodney Peete and his son R.J. played in the tournament this year, and he has committed to making it an annual affair. We are hopeful that more players will bring their kids next year. Winning the 2012 Autism Classic would mean the world to us. It would mean another trip to the winner’s podium for Tyler, and this time, I’ll have his communication tablet ready for him to thank the crowd.
—Randy Blunt, Mesa, Ariz.
A Final Shot
Dr. Dearborn put the X-rays of both of my knees on the screen and took a brief look. He turned to me and said, “Richard, we need to replace both knees. When do you want it done?” For two weeks, the pain in my knees had been excruciating, but it had mercifully subsided somewhat in the last five days. “I’m almost 71 years old,” I replied to Dr. Dearborn. “This might be my last chance to win my club’s championship, so I’d like to postpone the operation as long as possible in order to compete.” Silver Creek’s match play championship extends over the course of the summer and into early fall, six matches in all. It’s my club’s premier championship and my major. At 71 years old, it’s obvious to me that there aren’t many “swings of the bat” left. To win, I’d have to beat younger players that drive the ball almost 100 yards past me. But I believe that with practice and patience, I can beat them on and around the greens by taking advantage of putting, chipping and good old-fashioned course management. I would love to hear one of the young bucks say, “can you believe that old geezer won the match play championship, beating a scratch golfer in the final match?” I will have won my major my way, at the age of 71, and on gimpy knees to boot.
—Richard Sutherland, Los Altos, Calif.
For Son and Soldier
As a member of the Houston Amateur Golf Association, my major is our Memorial Tournament. This tournament is played in honor of past and present members, and this year, I’m playing the tournament for my son, Eric Ray Vigil. Eric grew up playing golf as a young child. He decided to quit the game when he was thirteen years old because it was not “exciting” enough. My heart was reborn when he again took up the game while stationed in Okinawa. I looked forward to a lifetime of lost memories with him on the golf course. Eric was discharged from the Marines in 2010 at 24 years old. Like many of his comrades, he struggled to adapt to civilian life, and his time with us was cut tragically short when he unexpectedly took his own life in April. During the two-day tournament, I will be making a pledge for every birdie made by each member of our organization and will invite all of the other members to join me. The proceeds will be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project and the Fisher House, both excellent organizations supporting our military heroes. If I am selected as the grand prize winner, I have one request: instead of a personal on-course preparation session, I would prefer to have Dave give a clinic for our entire group, with the hopeful outcome of more birdies made by all. Additionally, I would like to also donate the prizes to our military heroes.
—Rich A. Vigil, Katy, Texas
Fulfilling a Potential
For the past three years, my younger brother, Corey, has tried to get me to qualify for the Herdegan, our county’s amateur golf championship. I never felt like my game was good enough to compete and I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself by trying, but this year, I finally decided to take the advice Corey had given me and I entered the qualifier. Sadly, my brother and future caddy passed away three weeks prior to the qualifying tournament. With the passing of my brother, I debated if I actually wanted to play in the event, but in the end I figured that I had nothing to lose and I decided to tee it up as planned. I held it together emotionally and physically for 17 holes, but on the par-5 18th, I experienced something similar to Phil Mickelson’s collapse at Winged Foot. I took an 11 on the last hole to shoot 89. Par on the last hole would have given me an 83, which would have been one shot within the cutline of 84. There were a lot of positive lessons that came out of not qualifying, but none more important than convincing myself of what my brother knew all along: I have the game to compete with the county’s best. For myself and for my brother, qualifying for next year’s Herdegan is definitely my major.
—Brian Kotsol, Saugerties, N.Y.
Honoring My Girl
My major is the Gaston County Amateur Championship. This tournament is the main fundraiser for the Cancer Services of Gaston County, a non-profit organization. This event has been very important to me over the years, and in 2005, it became even more meaningful, because my ten year-old daughter, Amber, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in May of that year. Cancer Services stepped in and greatly helped out my entire family. Amber fought this illness until July of 2006. The same year, they dedicated the tournament to Amber’s memory and the emotions were overwhelming. Surprisingly, I easily made the cut and played well on Sunday. Not surprisingly, my game has suffered since 2005-not because of what happened to Amber and our family, but because I was able to get my priorities in order. Golf is still very important to me, but it’s just not everything anymore. This golf tournament, honoring my daughter and bringing attention to what she and countless others have been through, and are still going through, has become my priority, and that’s why my major is so important to me.
—Mike Cochran, Gaston, N.C.
Inspired by Seve
If anyone asks me what I do for a living, I reply, “I’m a part-time dentist hoping to become a professional golfer.” And whenever my wife is within earshot, she automatically groans. All joking aside though, my dream was to be a professional golfer, and I spent a lot of time working on being the best golfer I could possibly be. Then one day in February of 2010, my dreams were shattered. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The late Seve Ballesteros became my inspiration, giving me added courage and hope. I was devastated to hear of his passing. Thankfully, I have a strong support group of family and fellow golfers. Since 1993, my usual foursome has held a golf tournament called “The Major.” When other members of our golf club saw how much fun we were having, they begged to be included, so we started a second tournament for them called “The Minor.” As the self-appointed “Commissioner,” I have accumulated a treasure trove of photos, quotes and stories that I have turned in to a PowerPoint presentation. My friends have been there for me throughout my illness and I would like to do something for them in return. I would love to show my appreciation by having Mr. Pelz give a clinic, host my major and finish the day by viewing the presentation. The prizes could be raffled off and the proceeds donated to the Brain Tumor Association in honor of Seve. It would be my turn to inspire others as they’ve inspired me.
—Michael McGinn, Elm Grove, Wisc.