Wednesday, January 31

Sam Snead's Triple Slam Golf Bag, Part 1

John Derr, who I introduced to you yesterday, knew and covered the golf greats -- Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and others -- for more than 65 years.

And that's not all. Many of them were also his friends.

This is a story John shared with me via email about how he came into possession of Snead's Triple Slam canvas golf bag:

"Six months after Pearl Harbor, the world was at war in 1942 and many healthy PGA professionals signed up to serve. Urged by the government to continue playing tournaments at easily accessible sites, the PGA went ahead at the Seaview Club in Atlantic City, N.J., near the Army camp at Fort Dix.

"Eight days before the PGA championship was to begin, Sam Snead passed his physical and volunteered to become a seaman in the U.S.Navy. He was offered a pass, if he signed that day but he delayed it a week.

"His finals opponent was Cpl. Jim Turnesa, accompanied by several platoons from the Army base, lads who did not know a seaman recruit was the competition. Sam heard much razzing but he persevered and won, 2 and 1.

"It was his first major victory, one that normally would result in his sponsor, Wilson Sporting Goods, creating a fancy golf bag, saluting his achievement in big letters.

"But the war was on. Leather was being used in making shoes for the troops, not ceremonial bags for golfers.

"This meant Snead's clubs would rest in the canvas bag on which in big letters was stamped the name WILSON and also the name of the professional, but no mention of him being the new PGA champion.

"No new bag now."

Tomorrow: Part II
Friday: Conclusion

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, January 30

A Friend of Golf Legends Is Now a Friend of Mine

I have a new friend. His name is John Derr, and he has a lifetime of amazing stories about the golf legends -- Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer, to name a few.

I will share with you what he has graciously shared with me.

Who is John Derr and how did he know the golf legends?

He was a journalist and broadcaster who covered every Masters from 1935 to 2001. In fact, John Derr was the lead CBS announcer at The Masters from 1958 to 1973. John also covered Ben Hogan's only British Open victory at Carnoustie in 1953. (You'll be hearing more about that later.)

And John Derr didn't just cover the golf greats. He also traveled with them, shared meals with them, and counted them as his friends.

I haven't met John (yet) but we have traded several emails. John is a family friend of my good friend Walter, who made the introduction. I've been sitting on this material since the holidays and can barely stand it. We better get started with John's stories this week.

First up: Sam Snead, and how John Derr came into possession of Snead's Triple Slam golf bag.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, January 28

Torrey Pines Diary: My Unbelievable 18th Hole Story

At right is an aerial photograph of Torrey Pines Golf Course on a sunny day. But the Torrey Pines golf story I'm going to tell you happened in the moonlight. And it's absolutely true.

All of us at one time or another have played golf until dark. I was out one day after work with two or three golf buddies on Torrey Pine’s South Course when we ran out of daylight. We were in the middle of the back nine, so we just started walking in.

The sky was clear and there was a full moon. You could see your shadow in the moonlight.

When we got to the 18th -- the par five you might have seen on TV with the pond in front -- I decided to tee it up just for yucks. I made my swing, it felt good, and we continued to walk in.

I wasn't going to look too hard for the ball -- after all, it was dark -- but there it was right in the middle of the fairway.

I pulled my three wood, aimed a bit right to avoid the pond, and took my swing. Again, it felt good, but I had no idea where it went.

Admittedly, this was a difficult shot to execute in the daylight with the pond in full view. I normally bailed out right. In this particular situation, I had no such concerns. I just kept my head down and made a smooth swing. We kept walking.

I walked on the line that I hoped my ball had traveled, but I had no expectation of finding it. There it was! It was on the fringe in two, a first for me. Now I'm definitely playing out.

I could barely make out the flag, so I walked on to the middle of the green to gauge slope and distance. I returned to my bag and pulled my 8-iron. I aimed right, knowing the chip would swing left. It was a total guess in the dark, but I hit a solid chip.

You've surely guessed by now what happened. I chipped in for eagle. I eagled number 18 on Torrey South in the moonlight!

Unbelievable, I know. And absolutely true.

Thanks for reading my Torrey Pines Diary. I hope to add a few stories to it. Maybe next year.

The Armchair Golfer

(Photo: The Hilton)

Saturday, January 27

Torrey Pines Diary: Arriving Early, Real Early, for Weekend Rounds (Part 2)

(Continued from yesterday, see below)

So how early did we arrive to claim our foursome’s tee time at Torrey Pines?

Each person in our regular foursome would take a turn. When it was my turn, I would leave the house at around 3:30 a.m. (usually after going to bed around midnight -- hey, it was Friday night) and arrive at Torrey at 4:15 a.m. I don’t think I ever cracked the top ten in the order. We’re talking some serious early morning golfers here.

One guy used to always pull his camper into the parking lot the night before. Not surprisingly, his group always went off first, probably on the South Course.

The coffee shop opened early –- I think around 4:30 –- and it would be jam-packed with guys stumbling around in search of some bad coffee and a stale donut. If you got there early enough, you grabbed a booth for you and your group where you could hang until it was light enough to go out and hit some putts.

The truth is, it was a lot of fun. The camaraderie and setting were great even when the golf suffered. I miss those days.

Tomorrow: My Unbelievable 18th Hole Story

The Armchair Golfer

(Photo: City of San Diego)

Friday, January 26

Torrey Pines Diary: Arriving Early, Real Early, for Weekend Rounds

Golf Nomad, who grew up in San Diego, wrote me last year and asked if Torrey Pines still had the custom of lining up golf bags by the starter’s window to determine the order of securing an early morning tee time.

I don’t know. I’ve been away for a long time. But they used a system very similar to that in the mid 1980s when I played Torrey Pines. Let me tell you about it.

First of all, it was tough to get a tee time on the weekend. You could start calling on a certain day -- Monday, for instance -- to get a tee time for Saturday.

The phone line was constantly busy. In fact, it was virtually impossible to get through, especially if you didn’t have automatic redial, not a widespread phone feature at the time. (I told you it was a long time ago.)

My golf buddies and I gave up on that approach. But there was another way ...

The reserved tee times didn’t start until 7:30 or 8, which left anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half of daylight for people to tee off both the North and South courses.

The starter would arrive around 5:15 a.m. and take down the names of the groups that were already there. Then he would start sending them off at the crack of dawn. You would be surprised how many groups would already be out on both courses before the reserved tee time groups started going off.

But back to the early a.m. system.

It was an honor system. When you showed up, you would find the last person to arrive near the starter’s window. He would tell you what number he was –- 15th, for example –- and then he would be free to wander back to his car or the coffee shop (if it was open). Then you would wait for the next person to come along. And so on.

It worked surprisingly well. When the starter arrived, everyone (one representative of each group) lined up in perfect order and got their name down on the sheet.

Each person in our regular foursome would take a turn getting to Torrey Pines early to claim our spot.

How early? I'll tell you in Part 2 tomorrow.

The Armchair Golfer

What's still ahead:
Saturday: Arriving Early, Real Early, for Weekend Rounds (Part 2)
Sunday: My Unbelievable 18th Hole Story

Thursday, January 25

Torrey Pines Diary: Why I Miss This Amazing Muni

As I mentioned yesterday, I used to live in San Diego, a gorgeous city. I graduated from San Diego State. (Go Aztecs!) I began my professional career at General Dynamics. And I played golf at Torrey Pines, site of this week’s Buick Invitational.

As muni golf goes, Torrey Pines is hard to beat. It’s 36 holes of generous fairways and large greens on bluffs overlooking miles of breathtaking Pacific coastline. The North Course -- the track I usually played because it was easier to get on -- is the least difficult of the two courses. But it’s no pushover.

The South Course, which they’ve stretched out considerably since I played it, is long and tricky in spots. For example, number 12, a par four that plays directly into the wind (toward the ocean), is an absolute bear.

Breaking 80, a good day on any golf course for me, was an especially good score on the South Course. In fact, I think I did it just once, and that was a 75 on a calm day when the tees were up. I did shoot some fairly low scores on the North Course, often one really good nine and a mediocre nine.

Yet the best part of playing Torrey Pines was the phenomonal setting and being with my golf buddies. We played early on Saturday mornings, literally at the crack of dawn. We’d be off the tee by 6:30 or 7 a.m. and finished before lunch. (More on the early rounds tomorrow.)

Except for playing golf with my Dad growing up, I have no fonder golf memories.

What's still ahead:
Friday: Arriving Early, Real Early, for Weekend Rounds
Saturday: My Unbelievable 18th Hole Story

The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: UCSD)

Wednesday, January 24

Torrey Pines Diary: A Slice of Golf Heaven

I was fortunate to live 10 years of my life in San Diego and even more fortunate to call Torrey Pines, the site of this week's Buick Invitational, my home golf course.

To coincide with this week's Tour stop, I'm going to reach into the archives of the Armchair Golf Blog to share a few of my personal golf stories about Torrey Pines.

For those of you who haven't heard these stories, I hope you enjoy them. For those of you who might recall them from about a year ago, I hope you enjoy them again.

What's ahead:
Thursday: Why I Miss This Amazing Muni
Friday: Arriving Early, Real Early, for Weekend Rounds
Saturday: My Unbelievable 18th Hole Story

The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: TorreyPines.com)

Monday, January 22

Hale Irwin Wins 2036 MasterCard Championship

On Sunday Hale Irwin fired a final round 68 to capture the '36 MasterCard Championship by two strokes. It was a Champions Tour-record 73rd title for Irwin and his first win since turning 90, making him the oldest competitor to win a golf tournament -- or anything, for that matter.

“I’ve lost about 10 yards off the tee,” Irwin said. “But my iron game is solid and the putts were dropping from everywhere this week.”

Irwin is also the oldest player to win the U.S. Open. He won his third national title in 1990 at 45, or half his current age.

After sinking his final putt, the jubilant Irwin jogged along the ropes slapping hands with the appreciative gallery. “Winning never gets old,” he said.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, January 21

Newlywed Couple Decides Surname in 18 Hole Match

Why does the woman always have to take the man's name? That's what Adrienne Foley wanted to know after recently tying the knot with Greg Marshall in Levin, New Zealand.

Fine, Greg said. Let's settle it on the golf course.

Despite Adrienne making a hole-in-one on the ninth hole, Marshall took a three-shot lead after 17 and cruised to victory.

"Greg's a keen golfer," the new Mrs. Marshall was quoted as saying. "He's been playing since pretty much forever."

Oh yeah. Did I mention she played in her wedding gown?

Read it here.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, January 20

Golf Tips from Justin Rose's New Coach

Tied at 20 under with Lucas Glover after four rounds, Justin Rose is poised to win his first PGA Tour event at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

Rose credits much of his recent success to his new golf coach, Nick Bradley (photo). Justin says Bradley has helped him simplify his game.

Nick Bradley is a certified David Leadbetter instructor and author of The 7 Laws of the Golf Swing. He recently answered golfers' questions at BBC Golf.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, January 19

Golf Rule of the Week: Ball Embedded in an Orange

Decision 23/10 Ball Embedded in Fruit

Q: A ball is embedded in an orange lying under an orange tree. What is the ruling?

A: The player must play the ball as it lies or deem it unplayable. Since the orange was adhering to the ball, it was not a loose impediment.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Tuesday, January 16

Jack Bauer Doesn't Play Golf

Fasten your seat belts for another season of "24." Jack Bauer is one tough hombre. He is highly competitive and has a killer instinct.

Despite this, Jack Bauer doesn't play golf. You won't see him fighting a slice, enduring a six-hour round, or sweating over a four-foot putt. Because there are some forms of torture even Jack Bauer can't condone.

The Armchair Golfer

Caddie for Camilo Villegas at Pebble Beach

What are you doing in February? Would you like to caddie for Camilo Villegas at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am?

If you can correctly answer nine questions in AT&T's Caddie Call contest, your chances of caddieing for Camilo are as good as anyone's.

If you win, I doubt you'll have to use Camilo's technique for reading putts. But just in case, you might want to take up yoga.

Check out AT&T Caddie Call here.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, January 12

Golf Rule of the Week: Climb Trees Very Carefully

Decision 18-2a/26 Ball Dislodged from Tree When Player Climbs Tree to Play Stroke

Q: As a player is climbing a tree to play a ball lodged in the tree, the ball falls to the ground. Does the player incur a penalty?

A: Yes, one stroke under Rule 18-2a, and the ball must be replaced.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Thursday, January 11

Two Women Ace Par Three on Consecutive Shots

A few weeks ago Nancy Hoover stepped up to the 127-yard par-three sixth hole on the Palmetto golf course on Callawassie Island off South Carolina.

Hoover swung her hybrid and admired what looked like a promising shot. It was. The ball landed short of the flag, took two hops and dove into the hole.

After the wild celebration died down, playing partner Kris Lehman reportedly joked, "Would you mind going up and getting that ball out of the hole, so when mine goes in it doesn't pop out?"

Lehman pulled her 7-wood and made her swing. The ball flew to the right of the green, landing 30 feet from the hole. But wait -- the ball kicked left and rolled and rolled and rolled until -- UNBELIEVABLE! -- it also fell into the hole.

"It was like everything happened in slow motion," Hoover was quoted as saying.

With aces on consecutive shots, the two women beat odds of more than 17 million to one, according to Golf Digest.

My only question: Who bought the drinks?

The Armchair Golfer

P.S. The two women were also the same age: 66.

(Source: Golf 365)

Tuesday, January 9

Golf by the Numbers: 2007 Masters

Too early to be thinking about The Masters? Not here. FedEx Cup or not, everything is a bit of a warm-up until April at Augusta National.

Here are notable numbers for the 2007 Green Jacket edition:

70
Number of years since Byron Nelson won his first Masters.

50
Gary Player plays in his 50th Masters this year.

20
Twenty years ago Augusta native Larry Mize holed a chip in a playoff to defeat Greg Norman.

10
Number of years since Tiger Woods won his first Masters, shattering 20 records and tying six.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: Masters.org)

Sunday, January 7

Bobby Jones Movie a Winner

I saw Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius this weekend for the first time. My thumb is up and I was reminded again how extraordinary Jones’ accomplishments were.

It could never happen today.

An amateur his entire career, Jones played for the love of the game and for trophies -- but never for money. And he won his 13 majors by age 29. Then he retired. Unthinkable.

Jones was the only person to be honored with two ticker-tape parades down Broadway in New York City, the first in 1924 after winning the British Open and the second after winning it again in 1930, the year of his Grand Slam.

The film’s cinematography and score were first rate. The acting wasn’t bad either. I was impressed with Jim Caviezel’s portrayal of Jones. His action looked pretty smooth -- Caviezel did an admirable job of imitating Jones’ long, fluid swing.

Some of the shots dramatized in the movie seemed far fetched, but after poking around on the Bobby Jones Web site I realized several were historically accurate, like the 40-footer Jones holed at the 72nd hole of the 1930 U.S. Open.

After his U.S. Amateur win to complete the Grand Slam, The New York Times called it, "the most triumphant journey that any man ever traveled in sport."

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, January 5

My New USGA Headcover, Repair Tool and Golf Towel

I saw my dad in California during the holidays, and he contributed some of his USGA membership freebies to his golf equipment-challenged son. I especially like the 2007 US Open headcover and ball marker repair tool (photo). By the way, the US Open is at Oakmont this year, a great track.

All aspects of my game have suffered in recent years due to lack of play and attention. I can't remember the last time I had a matching set of headcovers. But I'm getting there. I picked up new golf shoes in October and have added some accessories. New golf clubs are also on the list.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, January 3

FedEx Cup? I Liked the TV Spot

I have a confession. I haven’t given much thought to the FedEx Cup.

But I did like the FedEx TV spot I saw last night during the Orange Bowl. Three guys are in a conference room having a teleconference with some clients. Only the guy sitting in the middle is a mannequin because Jim is ducking out early for a round of golf.

Did you see it? Pretty funny.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, January 2

Get Hooked on Fantasy Golf in 07

Fellow blogger Tony at Hooked on Golf Blog (HOG) and TheGolfSpace.com wants you to have more fun this year by joining his Fantasy Golf League.

He assures me there are AWESOME golf prizes and it's absolutely 100% FREE. Get over there, find out more, and sign up while there's still room:

HOG Fantasy Golf
TheGolfSpace.com Fantasy Golf

The Armchair Golfer