Monday, February 17, 2014
ACE Group Classic 2014 The Champions Tour
There are occasions when I find I must defer to a colleague or a friend when it comes to writing about particular subjects. When it comes to golf, that would be Al Stitt. Al has played the game for many years, has replaced a grip or two for thousands of clubs, and has designed sets of clubs for many in the Quinte area. Al knows golf. Now into his seventies, he plays at a 4 handicap, and often shoots his age. Those of you who play the game know the significance of that.
Al Stitt with Chippewa's Rod Spittle
I took Al down to Naples, Florida, to get a better understanding of the game at the ACE Group Classic, the golf tournament held at TwinEagles Golf Club. This was the third year that I have attended this tournament, and if you are in the area when it takes place, you really should drop by. The players are all over 50, and therefore it is a Seniors’ competition, on the tour known as the Champions Tour.
This year’s tournament wrapped up last Sunday with Kirk Triplett dropping a six foot putt on the final hole for a one stroke victory. Triplett had won three times on the PGA tour, but this victory was unique for him. “I’ve never won out here on this side of the world. I’m a West Coast guy through and through, so to win on this Bermuda grass is, I think, a little bit of a minor miracle for me.”
It was Triplett’s first visit to TwinEagles. “Sometimes you’re playing in these tournaments and you’re not in contention. Then in the last round you get there with three or four holes to go. It is such a shock to be playing with the lead group, and you get really nervous. But since the middle of yesterday, I’ve been playing on the leader number, so you kind of get in that mode of, ‘It’s not life or death.’” He picked up $ 240 000 for his efforts.
After watching Canadian Rod Spittle on the practice tee, Stitt marveled at the play of the seniors. “They are technically superb. They don’t hit the ball as far as they did on the PGA Tour, but they still have the fine rhythm, and they still drive it 250 yards or more.” He said that he found the game “more meaningful than watching the younger professionals.” He remarked that they hit the ball squarely, rarely slicing or hooking from trying to hit the ball too hard.
He watched Billy Andrade hit a shot over water from 165 yards out, with very little green to hit. The ball landed six feet from the green, and resulted in a birdie putt. The 18th hole proved toughest over the three days of the tournament. Stitt marveled at Tom Watson’s play on the hole. “He hit his second shot over the water on the hole to within about 8 feet of the cup. But he also had three putts on another green. He can be human too!”
Tom Watson with Al Stitt
Al considers Brad Faxon to be one of the finest putters in the game today. Faxon had a downhill putt of about 60 feet. He showed his fabulous touch by lagging the putt to within 18 inches of the hole.
Stitt concluded his observations by adding, “If you want to see great shot makers, this is the place.” In fact there were 8 World Golf Hall of Fame members in the tourney: Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer, Curtis Strange, Colin Montgomerie, Nick Price, Larry Nelson, and Tom Watson.
Hal Sutton returned to the tour after having hip replacement surgery in the fall of 2013; however, he did not finish his first round. He had a heart attack on the course, and was rushed to Naples Community Hospital. “I had blockage in my heart, they put a stent in, and I’m fine now,” he declared on Sunday. “I’ll practice this week and look forward to playing in Newport Beach in three weeks.” The miracles of modern medicine.
February 17, 2014