Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Minor golf adventure

Last week I had a bit of fun.

Non-golfers will not be interested by this tale, nor will most golfers I guess... but blogs are for telling exactly that kind of story, so here goes--

I was driving around Dallas on Saturday and heard that British Open champion Todd Hamilton from the 2004 event was very near, and would be there for a couple of hours.

I changed my unimportant morning plan and went to meet him.

When I arrived, the room was filled with a couple dozen people like me-- middle-aged men, slightly overweight and underhaired, standing in rapt attention with cell phone cams at the ready.

There was one difference-- I had forgotten the phone when I left the house. No photos were saved of this next moment.....

I leaned over the broadcast table where Hamilton and the hosts were swapping golf stories, examining the Claret Jug (Todd had brought his with him for this event), reading all the tiny engravings of all the great names (did you know that Bobby Locke is on the trophy as A. D. Locke?), and Todd Hamilton smiled, leaned over, picked it up and handed it to me.

I turned to the wall of photographers with my Claret Jug in hand, kissing it from afar, waving at the crowd, "thank you, thank you" while the flashes popped--

Alright, I told you this story wouldn't be interesting.

But now, I, Dave Perkins, occasional holder of a single digit handicap (it's been as low as 4, but not recently), have walked the hallowed goat-track fairways of St. Andrews' Auld Course; I have played eighteen holes of immensely difficult golf at Royal St. George, the Open rota course in Kent in southeastern England (shot 84, first time there, didn't have caddie, just good luck, good day) and now, now I have held the Claret Jug in my hands, taken from the hands of the Champion Golfer for 2004.

Todd Hamilton, btw, turned out to be a good guy, local DFW guy, grew up in Illinois but likes Texas and doesn't plan to leave. He's even played my own course, Hackberry Creek in Las Colinas.

Hamilton is an interesting story. As a kid in a small town in Illinois, he grew up playing golf at a high school that had no golf team. He entered school tournaments as an independent, and in that manner, alone and unsubsidized, he won two straight Illinois championships. Those Fighting Todds from Hamilton High were at the top of their game, eh?

His next claim to fame, which even he didn't know (the radio hosts had googled this and were informed), was that he was the all time money leader on the Japanese tour among the gaijin, the foreigners. Todd Hamilton, the best Japanese player ever to be NOT Japanese. Sort of.

And he won his PGA tour card at 38, a very old rookie indeed. That was the year he won the Open.

It wasn't a brush with greatness, in the classical sense; more like an oblique thump against the shin bone of something that had brushed greatness recently.

But avid, rabid golfers will know exactly what I felt. It was one of those moments when real golf legend floats down from the mists of the mythology and settles as simple dry fact, a moment when the giants who move in those shadows of the myth sit down and have a cup of coffee with you and just yak.

Todd Hamilton is kind of shy, probably not the guy who'll lead a room either in prayer or in drunken song. And he's not the best golfer around, year in and year out.

But for those four days in September 2004, Todd Hamilton was more than a man... he joined the list of faces who will flash back at us down through the decades, the men who conquered all the other conquerors, and vanquished a great golf course too-- the men who are called "Open Champions"......

And as one golfer to another, it really was great to meet him.

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