December 17, 2014 - 12:56pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rickie Fowler
USA Today Sports Images
Rickie Fowler's tribute to the late Payne Stewart in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 was one of T.J. Auclair's favorite moments of the year.

When you follow the game as closely as I do -- and there isn't a day that goes by where I don't pinch myself when I realize it's "my job" to follow it so closely -- you come across so many great moments and stories over the course of a year.

A lot of them find their way in a prominent spot on PGA.com, while others might get lost in the shuffle.

2014 BEST OF SERIES: Shots | Surprises | Duffs/Fluffs | Instagram | Facebook

As a way to look back at the year that was, I compiled a list of some of my favorite/most memorable things as they relate not only to professional golf, but also personal golf-related moments.

So, here we go...

5. Senior PGA Championship Media Day at Harbor Shores

To most, a "Media Day," might sound boring. It's actually a lot of fun. This particular trip, along with being fun, was also frightening for me.

First, the fun: Despite temperatures in the 40s and a stiff breeze coming off Lake Michigan, I enjoyed my very first round of golf of the season on the course that would host the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid a month later.

Then, the frightening: There was a stunt as part of Media Day where defending champ Kohki Idoki would hit a shot for charity from the roof of the then still-under-construction Inn at Harbor Shores, across the street to a small target on the Harbor Shores golf course.

My assignment was to go to the roof of the hotel with Idoki. No big deal, I thought... That is until construction workers at the hotel led several of us to the outdoor, open-air elevator that would take us to the top of the building.

This thing was rickety to begin with, so those strong winds coming off the lake certainly didn't help.

Eyes closed and with a stomach full of butterflies, I finally exhaled when we stepped off the death trap to go watch a just-as-nervous Idoki hit shots off a platform on the building's rooftop.

Once the stunt was over, we were informed there might be a bit of a wait for the elevator to get everyone down, so if we wanted, we were free to take the stairs.

We didn't realize the stairs were an option on the way up since the inside of the building was a construction zone!

Needless to say, without missing a beat, myself and many others made a beeline for the stairwell.

 
4. "The story behind the 'Tin Cup' hole"

As a writer, you wish this happened more, because it's so much fun. You go into a story thinking it's going to be about one thing, but then you hit an, "oh wow!" moment and it takes a direction you never considered before you picked up the phone.

Alas, that was the case with this story which started out as simply digging up the story behind arguably the most famous golf hole in cinematic history -- the par-5 18th hole where "Tin Cup" (played by Kevin Costner) saw his chance of becoming the ultimate underdog U.S. Open winner sink in the pond that guards the green.

Well, the first thing I learned is that the hole itself is actually the par-4 fourth hole at Kingwood Country Club's Deerwood course in Texas.

While compiling the story, I was directed to Jim Phenicie, the PGA Director of Instruction at Royal Oaks, who at the time "Tin Cup" was shot was the director of instruction at the Golf Advantage School at Kingwood.

So, what did Phenicie remember most about the movie? Well, for starters he told me, he was in it.

Oh, wow!

"I was side by side in several scenes with Costner," said Phenicie, the 2003 Southern Texas PGA Teacher of the Year and also a four-time Chapter Teacher of the Year. "Costner was very serious; he had his game face on. Don Johnson was very funny. He didn't have to remember who I was, but he did. I didn't have any scenes with Renee Russo, but I did get to see Cheech Marin a little bit."

Phenicie and his former boss David Preisler (the PGA Director of Golf over at Kingwood at the time) were Costner's playing partners for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open in the movie.

"When Costner shoots the course record (a 62 in the second round after shooting 82 in the first round), my old boss and I were his playing partners in the movie and shook his hand on the green," Phenicie said. "If you remember, Costner actually hit his approach into the water during the course-record round and then got up and down after taking a drop.

"That was the most memorable part of the whole deal for me, because from the drop area -- with a wedge -- it actually took Costner 30-to-35 takes to get the ball close enough to the hole to have a reasonable chance to make the putt. It took about an hour. Then, like a pro, he made the putt on the first take -- and it was a good thing too, because they were running out of light."

Phenicie said all the scenes shot on the fourth hole -- including the climactic final scene where Costner takes a 12 after finding the water with shot after shot before holing out with the only ball he had left -- took the better part of three days to shoot.

Anyway, that story was a lot more fun to write than I had anticipated.

3. The Patrick Reed 'Top Five' yacht photo from Harbour Town

Unlike the first two entries on this list, this particular story has nothing to do with me, but it's one of my favorites from 2014.

Before we get into the photo I'm talking about, it's important to provide some background.

In March, after winning against an incredible field at Trump Doral in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Patrick Reed made the unfortunate mistake of being candidly honest with Golf Channel's Steve Sands with how he felt about himself. This win, mind you, was Reed's third since August of 2013. That's amazing.

In a sit-down interview that aired before the final round, Reed said he believed he was a "top-5 player in the world."

Immediately after the victory, Sands asked Reed about that comment, almost as if to give Reed the opportunity to tone it down a bit.

But that wasn't going to happen. After all, love him or leave him, Reed has become golf's Ricky Bobby complete with the, "If you ain't first, you're last!" mentality.

Here was Reed's response, in its entirety:

"I've worked so hard, I've won a lot in my junior career, did great things in (my) amateur career, was 6-0 in match play in NCAAs, won NCAAs two years in a row, got third individually one year, and now I have three wins out here on the PGA Tour.

"I just don't see a lot of guys that have done that, besides Tiger Woods, of course, and, you know, the other legends of the game. It's just one of those things, I believe in myself and -- especially with how hard I've worked -- I'm one of the top five players in the world.

"To come out in a field like this and to hold on wire to wire like that, I feel like I've proven myself."

Making the moment all the more perfect for the social media storm that ensued was Reed's Sunday attire: Black hat, red shirt, black pants, which he admittedly wears as an ode to Woods.

It was quite the declaration for a player who had yet to tee it up in a major championship.

Fast forward to Harbour Town a little over a month later for the RBC Heritage.

Reed, coming off a missed cut at the Masters, was on his way to a T48 at Harbour Town when this too-perfect-for-words photo was snapped:

How about that? Poor Reed, examining his options from some heavy rough, with a yacht named, "Top Five" floating in the background.

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves and there was no way this photo wasn't going to make my "Top 5" of 2014.

2. Rickie Fowler's tribute to Payne Stewart at the U.S. Open

Call me a sap. Whatever. But when Rickie Fowler stepped out on the practice green at Pinehurst No. 2 on Thursday morning of U.S. Open week decked out in the kind of get-up that made Payne Stewart famous, I thought, "THIS. IS. COOL," as the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up.

"This week you can't help but think about Payne Stewart and his win at the '99 U.S. Open," said Fowler in a release sent out by COBRA PUMA Golf. "I thought wearing the knickers, a look he was so famous for, would be a nice way to honor and remember such a huge golf icon, and someone I've always admired and looked up to. He had such an impact on the game both on and off the course; always gracious, win or lose. We will all be thinking about him this week." 

As you know, Stewart died in tragic plane accident months after his 1999 U.S. Open win at Pinehurst No. 2. June's edition of the U.S. Open wasn't the first played at Pinehurst since Stewart's passing (Michael Campbell won there in 2005), but it was special to see a young player like Fowler recognize the importance of remembering Payne.

I was fortunate enough to be greenside, inside the ropes, in 1999 when Stewart holed that famous winning putt to edge Phil Mickelson, and saw -- in person -- the one-legged fist-pump that's immortalized by the statue at Pinehurst.

Unfortunately, social media can be just as twisted as it is great at times. I saw many criticizing Fowler, calling his tribute to Stewart a, "look at me moment."

Please. Better yet, as those "QUIET PLEASE" paddles at golf tournaments read in the south, "HUSH Y'ALL."

This was a class move by Fowler. He's been nothing but class throughout his career.

1. Incredible golf gifts I received after the birth of my son

OK. Forgive me, but this is where it gets personal.

On January 31, 2014, at 9:32 p.m. in Providence, R.I., I became a first-time dad.

My son, Thomas Gregory Auclair III (affectionately known as "Tommy Three Sticks" or "TA3" by friends and family since he's named after my dad -- "Thomas" or "TA"; and me, "T.J.", "Thomas Jr." or "TA2"), is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me and my beautiful wife, Erin.

Yes, I know. All parents say that.

Well, unless you are a parent, you can't truly comprehend how on point that is.

For nine months, Erin and I made the decision to wait until birth to find out the gender of our little angel. Boy or girl, we didn't care. We just wanted it to be a surprise.

During one of the ultrasounds at about five months, I thought the tech made a mistake when she referred to the image on the screen as, "her."

I was pissed. Not because "it" could be a "her" -- I would have been fine with that. But, I wanted it to be a surprise.

For the remainder of the pregnancy, I was 100 percent convinced that "it" was a "girl."

So, when little Tommy was delivered that frigid January evening, I was in utter shock.

My wife and I had debated names -- like parents do -- for months. We were set on a girl's name. We argued many times on a boy's name. My dad and I pulled hard for "TA3." It seemed like Erin wasn't having it.

Then, moments after he was delivered, the nurse asked, "What's his name?"

Without missing a beat, my wife looked at me and said, "Thomas Gregory Auclair III."

Waterworks!

And then, an hour later, to hand him to my dad -- my best friend -- and be able to say, "Meet your grandson, Tommy Three Sticks," is something I'll never forget.

So, you're wondering, what the hell does this have to do with golf?

Fair question.

Well, golf means everything to the men in my family. My great, great Uncle Manny taught the game to my dad, my brother (Tommy's Godfather) and me. One day, I hope my little Tommy loves it as much as we do, but we're not going to force it on him.

Uncle Manny has been gone nearly 12 years now. So Tommy Three Sticks would fill the void that's been missing from my dream foursome since then.

No pressure, kid!

After he was born, this excited dad sent the usual "here are the baby details" email to family and friends.

About a week later, I received a package from a buddy at Titleist.

It was a dozen golf balls. The number "31" -- symbolic of the day of the month Tommy was born -- was on all 12 golf balls, instead of the standard 1-2-3-4.

The golf balls were further personalized with Tommy's full name, as well as his date of birth, time of birth, weight and length. Just an incredible, incredible gift.

I've since received another dozen balls, again all numbered "31", but with just "Tommy Three Sticks." So cool.

A while after that, my friend LaMont Mann -- owner of MannKrafted Milled Putters -- sent Tommy his very own personal putter!

And that's not all. Adam Blake at CRU Golf, also hooked my little guy up with his own custom headcovers. Below is a picture of the golf balls, the putter and the headcovers.

So, yeah, my 10 1/2-month-old who can't even lift a golf club yet already has cooler golf gear than most of the rest of us!

While I didn't play as many rounds as I would have liked in 2014, it was still a year filled with golf stories and memories that I'll cherish.

My favorite golf things from 2014
December 16, 2014 - 4:47pm
andrew.prezioso's picture
Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer had a number of good golf memories this year, but how do his stack up when compared to our readers' moments?

We've done a lot of countdowns on professional golf -- from the best shots of 2014 to the best tournaments -- but the world of golf extends beyond the golfers we see on TV or follow on Twitter. That's why we want to hear from you. 

We know that special things happen all the time on the golf course, but most of the time they aren't captured on video. So we decided to ask our fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter to share their best stories from out on the course in 2014. 

So whether it was an incredible shot or playing a round with friends you hadn't seen in years, we want to know what 2014 memories you'll carry with you. You can also share your stories of aces by tagging your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook posts with #PGAholeinone, and it will display on our Media Wall documenting aces from all over the world.

So take a look at what our readers had to say about their greatest moment of the year, and feel free to leave yours: 

 

 

 

 

 

Your best golf moments of 2014
December 16, 2014 - 3:39pm
mark.aumann's picture
Patrick Reed
Patrick Reed shushed the crowd at Gleneagles after a huge putt during the 2014 Ryder Cup.

From holes-in-one to holding onto a prematurely-opened champagne bottle, golf had more than its share of memorable celebrations in 2014. Here are just a few of the ones that we enjoyed bringing to you this year, in chronological order:

JANUARY: Ken Duke's hole-in-one celebration at the Humana Classic

What a wonderful display of pure emotion after that ace. 

 

 

MARCH: Paula Creamer's amazing eagle playoff putt

There's no way she gets this 75-footer even close to the hole, let alone have it drop in, right?

 

 

APRIL: Matt Jones punches his ticket for the Masters 

This shot not only won the playoff against Matt Kuchar, it almost left Johnny Miller speechless.

 

 

APRIL: Bubba Watson celebrates Masters win with son Caleb

Dad picks up his boy and gives him a victory ride around the 18th green. Priceless.

APRIL: Matt Kuchar wins the RBC Heritage with incredible bunker shot

Oh, Matty. One hole after three-putting, Matt Kuchar comes through with perhaps the bunker shot of the year.

 

 

JUNE: Zach Johnson's hole-in-one at the U.S. Open

Normally staid Zach Johnson went on a high-fiving binge after this shot.

 

 

JULY: Rory McIlroy takes awesome selfie after Open Championship

It's not often that the guy with the Claret Jug lets everyone get in on the photo. Say cheese!

 

SEPTEMBER: Patrick Reed shushes the Ryder Cup crowd

Moments after Henrik Stenson made a long putt that whipped the crowd at Gleneagles into a frenzy, Patrick Reed calmly stepped up and drilled his, then put a finger to his lips.

 

SEPTEMBER: Rory McIlroy pops the cork prematurely

After a perfect week, Rory McIlroy's only unforced error came while waiting for the deciding match to finish.

OCTOBER: Rory McIlroy makes this kid's day

Celebrations aren't just confined to the participants. Watch the excitement after Rory McIlroy hands this boy a ball.

 

 

 

Best golf celebrations | 2014
December 16, 2014 - 11:00am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Bubba Watson
YouTube
Bubba Watson is in the holiday spirit as "Bubbaclaus" and he's even released his own Christmas rap.

Remember the "Golf Boys?"

You know the golf band that consisted of Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson?

Well, if the "Golf Boys" were like "*NSYNC" than Watson is Justin Timberlake -- he's taken his act solo.

2014 BEST OF SERIES: Shots | Surprises | Duffs/Fluffs | Instagram | Facebook

That's right -- the two-time Masters champion dropped his first single today just in time for the holidays. It's a rap song entitled, "Bubbaclaus -- The Single."

Here's the video, which incorporates Watson's famous hovercraft and a chorus line of, "I just touched down in my hovercraft. I bet you wanna know what's in my bag! Is it golf clubs, or a bag a toys? It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Bubbaclaus!"

What do you think? Stick to the golf?

For a few years now, Watson has been having fans use the hashtag "#Bubbaclaus" in the lead up to Christmas along with a request. For instance, here's the tweet Watson sent out this morning:

Whatever tweet Watson deems the most creative is rewarded with a gift from Watson (aka "Bubbaclaus"). Gifts have included things like signed Ryder Cup gear and golf clubs.

Very, very cool of Watson. 

Bubba Watson goes solo in new single, 'Bubbaclaus -- The Single'
Carly Booth skydiving
Carly Booth via Instagram
Carly Booth was inspired by her brother, who has Down Syndrome, to raise money for Special Olympics.
Like the rest of her fellow Ladies European Tour players, Carly Booth ended her 2014 season at the Dubai Ladies Masters on Saturday. But while most of her competitors scattered afterward, Booth stuck around.
 
Why? On Monday, she jumped out of an airplane high over Dubai to raise money for Great Britain's Special Olympics effort. Her goal was to raise £1,000 (roughly $1,600) and, according to the page she created for her effort, she surpassed her goal by almost 50%, with a total, as of now, of £1,497.70. 
 
Special Olympics is "a cause very close to heart as my Down Syndrome brother Paul has qualified for the Special Olympic World Games" in Los Angeles in powerlifting, she explained on her page. "From his performances in Europe and also from lifting four gold medals at the European Special Olympics, I know how much the opportunity to take part and compete at this level brings to his life along with all the other competitors."
 
 
Booth, 22, is quite athletic – you know this if you've seen her cartwheel or backflip her way across a teebox or down a fairway. And, of course, some of you might remember her appearance in ESPN the Magazine's 2013 Body Issue.
 
"Ahhhhh what an amazing experience!," she said on Instagram after her jump. "I lovedddddd it!" 
 
Glad she enjoyed herself – there's nothing better than good fun for a great cause. She's promised to post the full video of her jump on social media at some point, but for now here is a quick video of her first moments out of the plane.
 
 
 
 
Carly Booth skydives to raise money for Special Olympics
Billy Horschel and Rory McIlroy
USA Today Images
Billy Horschel receives congratulations from Rory McIlroy during the Tour Championship in September.

One of the things we hear from beginning or inexperienced golfers is that they sometimes feel "intimidated" when playing with really good golfers, and it keeps them from enjoying themselves on the course.

But you know what? Unless your name is Rory McIlroy, there's always going to be someone out there better than you. And even then, Rory was a beginner golfer himself, at one point. So instead of treating that situation as a negative, our PGA Professional believes you can not only enjoy the experience when paired with a better player, but grow your own game in the process.

PEER PRESSURE: The 10 most intimidating golfers in PGA Tour history

Ted Eleftheriou is Director of Golf Program Development for the PGA of America, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.  

"Throughout my golfing career, I have had the privilege of playing with some amazing golfers, golfers who could beat me any day of the week,' Eleftheriou said. "However, rather than being discouraged or intimidated by these individuals, I looked forward to each encounter as an opportunity to learn from them."

Here are four things you can learn from being paired with better golfers, in Eleftheriou's words:

1. Observe what it is that great players do on the course.

"The first thing I learned from playing with better golfers is that they all have a specific pre-shot routine that they perform prior to every shot … regardless if it’s a three-foot putt or a tee shot with the driver. Their routine typically consists of club selection, followed by getting behind the ball for alignment. Then they’ll make a purposeful practice swing (or stroke) or two in effort of trying to 'feel' the swing needed for the shot they plan on performing. Next, they step up to the ball and look at the target at least once or twice to confirm alignment and visualize the target. Finally, without further delay, they’ll perform the actual shot.

PGA PROFESSIONALS: Find an instructor near you

"Most amateurs, on the other hand, have no consistent pre-shot routine and end up either rushing through their shot or go to the opposite extreme of hanging over the ball forever. Neither is effective for increasing the chances of hitting a good shot."

2. Better players have fun, but focus on their own games

"The best players have fun playing golf and like to socialize like most golfers do. However, when it’s time to make their shot, they enter into their own private world. They absorb themselves in their pre-shot ritual and do their best to lock out distractions.

"You should also focus on your own game, not what others may be thinking of you. You do this by staying in the present with every shot. As the saying goes, 'The past has already happened and the future hasn’t happened yet, so all you can control is the now.' Keep your mental imagery and self-talk positive and stay 'in the now.' "

3. Don’t change your swing on the golf course

"Observe what better players do on the golf course and take mental or written notes. But don’t try to change your swing, stroke or game while on the course. That’s a sure recipe for disaster. Work on what you observed on the practice facility and only when you experience moderate success should you try to incorporate it into your game on the golf course.

LESSON LEARNED: Don't let a tough hole mess with your mind

"Occasionally, better players may offer you advice, and you should thank them for it. But let them know that you’ll practice their suggestions next time you visit the practice facility, as opposed to during your round of golf."

4. To handle intimidation, commit to only one swing thought.

"Intimidation: We’ve all experienced it. Playing with a better player intimidates us, which often leads to poor performance. To ease the intimidation, incorporate a pre-shot routine, stay 'in the now,' don’t change your swing on the course and allow yourself only one swing thought. And I’m not talking about, 'Oh God, please let me make contact without looking like a fool in front of everyone!' 

NEW TO THE GAME: More tips on handling intimidation

"You may want to consider something more like a personal pep talk: Like 'Complete the finish' or 'Good tempo' or 'Light grip pressure.' Something that’s produced positive results for you in the past."

Eleftheriou finished with this piece of encouragement: "Learn from better players and one day soon, you’ll be the player leading others to better golf."

 

Four things you can learn from playing with better golfers