Celebrate Mother's Day on golf's greatest stage
You’d think golf would take a day off for Mother’s Day. After all, even golfers have mothers. But as it turns out, Mothers day is one of the biggest days on the PGA tour schedule — It’s the final round of The Players Championship.
This tournament started in 1974 — a year I remember very well, because my late wife, Cindi, rewarded me with our first son — just a few weeks after Mother’s Day.
Our world changed that year — for the better — and it also turned out to be a phenomenal year for sports.
I don’t remember much about these events, because I was changing diapers and trying to catch up on sleep, but in addition to the first Players Championship, 1974 was a memorable year because:Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire.
Henry (Hank) Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s lifetime home run record with 715 dingers.
Jimmy Connors won three of the four tennis Grand Slam events — the Australian Open, the U.S, Open and Wimbledon.
Chris Evert won the French Open and Wimbledon, and the two (Connors and Evert) were engaged, but broke up because neither had a big enough trophy room.
The Miami Dolphins won Super Bowl VIII, The Oakland A’s won the World Series in five games, and Oklahoma was voted #1 college football team, without playing a single bowl game. (They were on suspension.)
The very first winner of The Players Championship was none other than Jack Nicklaus, who went on to win three of the first five Players Championships.
By the way, back then the event was known as the Tournament Players Championship, and it traveled from Atlanta to Fort Worth and Ft. Lauderdale, before settling down in 1977 at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
The tournament was called the TPC (Tournament Players Championship) at Sawgrass. Then in 1982, in effort to confuse everyone, the event moved across the street to a phenomenal new stadium course called TPC Sawgrass. Confused?
That’s why they “shortened” the name to The Players Championship.
I lived in Florida for too many years, but I neither visited nor played TPC Sawgrass. Still, I can close my eyes and picture that amazing 17th hole with the iconic “Island Green.” I dreamed of playing TPC Sawgrass one day, so I practiced lobbing “whiffle” golf balls from a poolside matt into my swimming pool. (I had to use the floating variety of golf balls, because real ones would sink to the bottom, and our pool was always a brilliant shade of green.)
Last year I got to be friends with a member at TPC Sawgrass who “summered” here in the mountains. He invited me to come visit him in the winter and play a few rounds. Sadly, that never happened. Ham Bisbee passed away early this January at his home in Ponte Vedra, Florida. His friends at Maggie Valley Club miss him dearly.
Very dearly indeed.
Anyway, you’ve got to be wondering, what does any of this have to do with Mother’s Day?
Well, “Mothering Sunday” (as the Britts call it) and Easter are about the only two days a man can’t sneak away for a round of golf. But why would you, when you could kick back, throw your feet onto the coffee table and watch The Players Championship. It’s a “stadium course,” so you could even paint your face Ricky Fowler fuchsia, McElroy Irish green, or with John Daly polka dots
But show a little respect for your mother and the mother of your children — put your feet down, leave the remote alone, and at the very least, mute the television during dinner.
To golf widows and mothers everywhere, Happy Mother’s Day.