Monday, June 23, 2008

An ancient and intentional brush with future greatness.

Last week, Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open, then announced he needs surgery on his knee and will be out for the rest of the year. He hurt his knee last year after the British Open. With a bum knee, he won two major championships and finished second in another. My best wishes for a speedy recovery. Also, I publish this picture of his celebration because it includes his daughter Sam, and I have been remiss in publishing pictures of cute babies in recent weeks. As we know, pretty girls, babies and lolz cats are the Three Pillars of Successful Blogging.

That's a cute baby.

Eighteen years ago, I saw Tiger Woods lose a match as an amateur. Not many people can say that. I know it was eighteen years ago because I am twenty years and one day older than Tiger Woods, and he was fourteen when he lost. The tournament was the U.S. Junior Championship, which in 1990 was held at the Lake Merced golf course in Daly City, just south of San Francisco. It's a match play tournament and Tiger had made it to the quarterfinals, which were played on Saturday morning. The U.S. Juniors is open to golfers under the age of 18, and all the other quarterfinalists were 17. Tiger did not hit driver that day. I'm guessing he must have had trouble keeping it straight, but even hitting 3 woods and long irons, he was outdriving his opponent. Even so, he wasn't hitting greens in regulation every time and he was doing a lot of scrambling, and fell behind in match play. He was at dormie, which means he was down as many holes as there were holes to play. I think he was down three with three to play, but don't hold me to that. He hit driver, didn't find the fairway, scrambled but missed the par putt.

I followed him after the match. He was despondent, but I shook his hand and told him if he kept playing, his name would be remembered long after everyone else at the tournament would be forgotten. He said thanks. I tell this story to make the post Kinda About Me™, but of course Tiger did all the hard work that made him the best golfer in the world, and if he stays healthy the best golfer of all time. Also, my prediction is probably incorrect. While no other golfer in that field has a record anything like Tiger's, one guy named Notah Begay Jr., who was Tiger's teammate at Stanford a few years after, once shot 59 in a round when he was on the Nike tour, which as a single round score is as good as any pro has ever done, and one of the few things Tiger has not done yet in his career.

Again, best wishes for a speedy recovery to Tiger Woods, world's best golfer and father to a very cute baby.


dguzman said...

Notah Begay's name will be famous for a long time for other reasons as well, Matty Boy. tee hee hee

sfmike said...

Actually, Notah Begay III is a totally fascinating character on his own. He's the only "Native American" on the tour, and he looks like an American Indian. He was also a Stanford golf scholarship student at the same time as Tiger Woods. He had some success when he started out on the pro tour not long after Tiger debuted, winning two or three tournaments, but then he got arrested for drunk driving, has gone through rehab, had lots of physical problems, blah-blah-blah. He's still one of the most interesting athletes out there.