Monday, February 18, 2013


The Champions Tour at Naples-The Aftermath

Jay Don Blake was featured in last week’s article. He was one of the first players on the practice tee on Monday, working on his technique. During Thursday’s round, I heard him smack a drive off the tee, but lost it in a cloudy sky. When it cracked the palm tree just above my head, I had a pretty fair idea where it might have landed. He appreciated our assistance in locating his ball.
He finished the tournament with one of the best rounds of the day, just one shot off the winner, Bernhard Langer. Blake did fire a 68, and Langer a 72, but Langer haled off the entire field from start to finish.

                                                  Jay Don Blake and Mark O'Meara

Brendan Cunningham announces every golfer at the first hole, supplying a brief biography. One of the marshals told me that Cunningham has been announcing since time began! In the final round, you could hear his rasping voice back at the 16th hole, as he greeted contestants arriving on the 18th green.

We wandered from hole to hole, marveling at the consistency of the players. Drive, chip, putt. On to the next. Mark Brooks  escaped from a nasty lie in a sand trap with a fine wedge. But he lipped a relatively easy putt at the 6th hole. Twice he mumbled, “I don’t know why I would expect anything else.”

Rocco Mediate won the previous tournament, and was sizing up a putt on the 16th green. He consulted with his caddy. I heard his caddy plead, “I’m trying, I’m trying!” Players rely on their caddies for advice, which they sometimes ignore. Mediate sunk the putt for a bird, to put him 6 under par. Marshall Pat Minty, who spent the weekend  on that particular hole, remarked that the threesome with Mediate, Cook, and Funk  had the best shots of the day. John Huston’s group followed. Huston came into the 16th at 8 under, double bogeyed, and shot himself out of contention.

The day cooled as the sun began to set. Palms shimmered in the slight breeze. Langer, Pernice, and Chien Soon Lu were the last to tackle the par 3 16th. Langer parred the hole, laid up at the 17th for another par, and coasted to victory. Well, not exactly coasted. He pushed a fifty foot putt to within inches of the hole to seal the deal.

It was his second ACE Group Classic win in the last three years. Even though he hails from Berlin, his German accent is barely noticeable. He suggested to the announcer, that since he has lived in Boca Raton for so many years, they might now introduce him as a Florida resident.

                                               Bernhard Langer with his wife and son.

The tour makes two Canadian stops this summer, in Montreal, and in Calgary. Canadian Jim Rutledge fired a strong 69 over the last round and picked up more than $ 18 000 for his efforts.
A great way to enjoy fine golf in the Florida sunshine!

James Hurst

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