Team USA is playing today in the soccer World Cup in Brazil. Do you have any funny/harrowing/interesting memories from a sporting event you attended, participated in, or watched?
I’m not a big sports fan and really don’t have much interest in or many experiences of attending professional popular sports events — baseball, football or basketball. I do have a vague recollection of my dad taking me to a Cleveland Indians baseball team when I was about 9-10 years old. I remember very little about it really, except that I enjoyed it and found that seeing a baseball game in person is far different from viewing on TV since so much goes on at the different bases and in the outfield — little nuances that you don’t see on television.
The only sport I do enjoy watching is golf. It is also much more interesting in person, and while I’ve been to a few tournaments at Congressional Golf Club in Bethesda, Md., I’ve attended several Open Championships in St. Andrews, Scotland.
The first time I “saw” the Open was in 1970. At that time I had just graduated from the University of St. Andrews, and was staying the summer in the town, and supporting myself by working at the Old Course Hotel, the best hotel in St. Andrews, where many of the pros stayed. The “stars” stayed further away or hidden away, and some even took helicopters to the tournament every day! 1970 stands out as one of the most noteable tournaments. Jack Nicklaus won the second of his three Opens in an 18-hole playoff over Doug Sanders. Leader Sanders reached the final green needing par to beat Nicklaus by a stroke. When he missed par, an 18 hole playoff ensued the next day, and it was tied until the last hole when Nicklaus won with a birdie. Today, playoffs are four holes, 1, 2, 17 and 18, not a whole grueling round, or sudden death.
The next most interesting Open we attended was in 1995. First of all, it was a family event. We ha several members of our British side of the family staying with us, and at this stage, 5 cousins were in their teens. Our oldest daughter and her cousin (both about 16-17) sold newspapers at the Open to make spending money (and get in free), and with their siblings made it their mission to collect as many autographs as possible. We recall that the least pleasant pro was Greg Norman, who signed the program then just threw it back over his shoulder. Watson was one of the most pleasant. The most incredible feat was achieved by our two 15-year-old cousins (girls) who had gotten to know the guards where the pros exited at their rounds to go to their chauffeured cars (autograph central). When the Awards were being made at the end, and the Claret Jug handed to John Daly, the guards let two very happy girls in to stand at the back of people watching the ceremony. We actually saw them on a few broadcasts that evening of the event.
This was the first Open appearance by Tiger Woods, and the last by Arnold Palmer. It also had a playoff finish with two unlikely competitors, both deserving based on their play. Constantino Rocca, an effusive Italian golfer gained crowd support, actually throwing himself on the ground kissing the grass when he holed a 65 foot putt from the Valley of Sin on the 17th. But Daly, bringing out his best game for the tournament, won by one stroke when Rocca flubbed a putt on 18.
The town bursts at the seams when the Open is played where the game of golf originated. The international mix of the event is amazing; and everyone’s there to enjoy Links golf at its best.