First, an apology and a correction. Last week I had Peter McEvoy making the cut at the Masters in 1977, taking as gospel something I read in a bible, usually reliable, devoted to the amateur game. I knew McE, who’s now 67 and was given a handicap of plus 2 under the new system, had won the Amateur Championship twice but I couldn’t remember the dates and didn’t bother to double-check. He won in 1977 and 1978 and it was in April 1978 that he first played at Augusta National and completed all 72 holes.
Belatedly in checking mode, I rooted out Dermot Gilleece’s splendid book Breaking 80, The life and times of Joe Carr: “Joe appeared in three US Masters at Augusta, becoming the first Irishman to play in the event in 1967. In that year he was paired with defending champion Jack Nicklaus for the opening two rounds. Nicklaus failed to make the cut while Joe went on to play the final 36. The following year Joe was paired with Arnold Palmer. He too failed to make the cut as Joe sailed into the final two days.”
That led to a quip from the austere, autocratic chairman: “When we sat down to eat on the Friday night of the tournament,” Joe recalled, “Cliff Roberts [said chairman] said: ‘Well, now. We’re thinking of inviting Carr back next year but who in the name of God will play with him?’ So they gave me Sam Snead in 1969 and neither of us qualified.”
Christy O’Connor Snr had turned down several invitations to play in the Masters because it didn’t make financial sense to him to travel to America for just one event but Joe, a successful businessman, could afford to go. “In fact,” he said, “I became a member of Augusta National in 1967 and I retained my membership for about five years. But the annual subscription was about $7,500 which I found difficult to justify, even though I could afford it at the time. It was a lot of money in those days for what was only an annual visit.”
That’s the trouble with research and opening books – you start reading and it’s hard to stop.
It wasn’t Tiger Woods’s week at Augusta this year – the defending champion racked up a 10 at the par 3 12th, the hole that was so kind to him last year and then had five birdies in the last six holes – but he has an extra special event to look forward to just before Christmas, on the 19th and 20th of December. He’ll be playing with his son Charlie, who’s 11 years old, in the PNC Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes Resort. It’s a jolly, fiercely competitive get-together for major champions and their rellies, a 36-hole scramble for the Willie Park Trophy, with a purse of more than a million dollars.
It was for fathers and sons originally, won by Raymond Floyd and Raymond Jr for the first three years but the event has evolved: Annika Sorenstam will be playing with her father Tom for the second successive year, Justin Thomas will be playing with his dad Mike and Gary Player with a grandson. Bernhard Langer, the indestructible, who last week became the oldest player to play all four rounds at the Masters, will be defending the title he and son Jason won last year. As far back as 2005 and 2006, Langer won the title with son Stefan, then he and Jason won in 2014.Tiger’s body is creaking more than a bit but he’s still a long way short of being one of the over-50s. If he ever does decide to join the old boys – and it’s unlikely he’d make more than the odd guest appearance – I hope he’d do it to visit new places and try courses he’d never been to. Rosapenna in Donegal probably won’t make his list but it should. I haven’t been for years, which is my loss and I look forward to going and taking in all the changes when we’re allowed to travel again. No pandemic has lasted for ever….
Next August, 20-22, all being well, we’ll be able to enjoy the Irish Legends Presented by The McGinley Foundation at the Old Tom Morris Links at Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort. I’m reliably informed by irishgolfdesk.com that this is the first professional seniors event to be staged in Ireland since 2010, when Marc Farry, of France, won the Handa Irish Senior Open at Carton House. The European Seniors Tour, which gave up the ghost this year, wiped out by COVID-19, is being re-invented as the Legends Tour and as well as the professional names, amateurs will be a key part of the revival thanks to the Alliance Pro-Am format. Get your game in to some sort of shape, scrape together a bit of dosh and you could be out there with the not-so-old-codgers like Pauls Lawrie and McGinley, Woosie, who knows who. Something to look forward to. As well as Ireland, they’re scheduled to play at La Moye in Jersey, Trevose in Cornwall, Sunningdale in Surrey (The Senior Open Presented by Rolex – lots on Tik-Tok presumably) and Formby in Lancashire/on Merseyside, to mention just a few of the venues.
I’m home now after spending a few days in my bubble with Maureen and Brian, being spoiled and pampered while gorging on golf from Georgia. Back to catering for myself, writing shopping lists, pouring my own gins, doing the washing, contemplating the cobwebs, keeping my distance….. Ah, it’s good to be back!