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.
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.
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.
"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.
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."
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?
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.