For The Love Of The Game


February 13, 2009

By Vartan Kupelian

Golf is for lovers, too.

Take the tale of Young Tom Morris, the champion golfer who won the British Open Championship and Claret Jug four times at a very young age.

There is no one in the history of golf who wore his heart on his sleeve with greater passion than Young Tom. Legend has it that the cause of his untimely death at age 24 was a broken heart.

Young Tom's wife and infant died during childbirth. Young Tom followed them to his grave less than three months later and his father, Old Tom Morris, outlived him by 30 years.

Golf's love stories aren't all sad. There is plenty to love about the game and the people who play it.

Here are 14 reasons for golfers to celebrate Feb. 14 and St. Valentine's Day with the game they cherish.

1. A mixed foursome scramble event.

If you live in a climate conducive for golf in February, a mixed scramble is the perfect format for Valentine's Day. What better way to spend the  holiday than with your life partner or significant other, sharing a cart and celebrating every birdie putt with hugs and kisses. Perfect, right?

2. Making the Game Fair.

Every golfer has a special place in his or her heart for a driver that is true and straight like an Iron Byron. The USGA's Test center ensures its place as a guardian of the game by keeping its finger on the pulse of technology.

3. The U.S. Open

The national championship is the pinnacle. When the U.S. Open is contested at Bethpage State Park's Black Course, where it returns this June, the major championship takes on an entirely different sheen. Bethpage Black is a daunting, grinding golf course that is also open to the public. So everyone can relate to its difficult challenges, even for the world's best players.

Nobody should doubt the 2009 version will be another terrific affair.

4. Tiger Woods.

The best player of his era - and maybe of all-time - is a majestic figure on a golf course. He's brilliant and dominating in ways golf has seldom before seen. Embrace Woods, watch him and savor what he does. A golfer like Woods doesn't come along very often.

By the way, he's not only the defending U.S. Open champion, but he's also the only player to take the Open at Bethpage Black (2002). And that surgically repaired knee should be just fine by the summer.

5. A Stimpmeter.

Where would we be without the Stimpmeter, a simple gadget that measures the speed of greens?

What's more fun than telling people you made a 30-foot downhill putt? Telling them you made a 30-foot downhill putt, which was rolling at 12.5 on the Stimpmeter, sounds more invigorating. Think about how much that simple qualifier adds to the tale of making putts. Besides, it's fun saying Stimpmeter and golf is, after all, supposed to be fun. For the record, the Stimpmeter was designed by an amateur golfer, Edward Stimpson, Jr., whose inspiration for the invention came while watching players negotiate the slick Oakmont Country Club greens at the 1935 U.S. Open.

6. Short par-4 holes.

Outstanding short par-4s are the most challenging of all to design and create. What makes a great short par-4 hole? One that doesn't take driver out of your hands, but exacts a severe penalty if the execution is not precise. Think No. 10 at Riviera or No. 17 at Oakmont.

7. Caddies carrying double

Nothing could be finer on Valentine's Day - you and your significant other sharing a caddie and walking together down the fairways of golf (and life). Caddies add another experience to the game. Taking a caddie generally means walking the course, and to many traditionalists, that's the true essence of the game.

8. The Monterey Peninsula.

Playing golf at venues like Pebble Beach or Spyglass Hill or just walking the beaches of Carmel, Calif. Few places in the world are more pleasing to visit for any reason.

9. A favored club.

Most everybody has a club they feel smitten with. It's OK to caress your favorite driver. For most golfers, it's their favorite club, so there's no reason to hide that passion. It's out in the open. Whether it's a driver, a short iron, wedge or putter, there's something appealing about knowing what can bail you out during a time of anxiety.

10. The Art of Putting.

Is putting a science or an art? Here's a vote for art. The best putters have creative instincts and imagination. They putt by feel, not mechanics.

One more thing: Great putters, like great lovers, are born, not made.

11. Gen X.

The next generation is getting hooked on golf through many of the growth-of-the-game initiatives instituted by the governing bodies, including the USGA and PGA of America. That's a very good thing. Golf needs the new breed and today's youth are discovering the many ways golf can improve their lives.

12. Hang time.

Who doesn't love to drive from elevated tees and watch a ball that appears suspended in the air for a very long time?

13. Great golf books.

 The game is blessed with remarkable works of literature. Pick the author, select a subject. Chances are it will be a winner. Golf's great lore and history lends itself perfectly for prose. Great golf literature is a true delight. In golf parlance, it's a gimme.

14. Links Golf.

There's something romantic and magical about returning to the game's roots and walking the same fairways that so many legends have.

Vartan Kupelian, the former golf writer at The Detroit News, is a Detroit, Mich.-based freelance writer whose works have previously appeared on usga.org.

 

  





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