Friday, September 5, 2014

Four Days in Mile High

Greetings! You can get more than a mile high here legally now, but that's not what this post is about.

We jumped into the Jeep Tuesday morning and motored down down to Denver (706 miles) to attend the BMW (nee Western Open) Championship. This is the second to last tournament of the PGA Tour golf season, with the field now down to the top 70. After this week, only the top 30 will advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta. As the BMW is traditionally competed in the Chicago area or other Midwestern environs, its movement out West presented a rare opportunity to see the world's best golfers ply their trade.

The last golf tournament we attended was the 2011 US Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. It was a coming out party of sorts for world number one, Rory McIlroy, who lapped the field to win by eight shots. We observed midway through that US Open that Tiger Woods had better beware because there is a new sheriff in town. Since then, McIlroy famously gained and then dropped a well known girlfriend, and has come to need a daily shave. Otherwise, things are very much the same, as he has won three additional majors. McIlroy finished round one yesterday tied for first place and had the spectators all abuzz.

The BMW is being played at Cherry Hills Country Club, just south of Denver proper.  Cherry Hills is a classic course that hosted two US Opens and a PGA Championship. It is most famously known as the site of Arnold Palmer's only US Open victory in 1960. Palmer began his charge to the top of the leader board that Sunday afternoon by driving the green on the 333 yard par 4 1st hole.  At altitude, with modern equipment, the sharply downhill hole is now driveable by every player in the field, although strategically placed bunkers, and a sharply contoured, multi-tiered green make it almost impossible to hit and hold the green from the teeing ground. Deep, gnarly rough, and that challenging green, stand in the way of hole number one becoming a total birdie fest. 

The Western Open/BMW is the second longest (only to the US Open) continuously operating tournament on the PGA tour, debuting in 1899, at Glen View Club in Golf, Illinois, where I once caddied. I happened by the WGA trophy yesterday which is engraved with the names of all the winners, going back 115 years.

I looked at the names and, sure enough, saw two inscribed of men whom I had caddied for in the 1960s. First, was Charles Evans, Jr. known to most as Chick Evans, and founder of the Evans Scholarship program. Chick was victorious in 1910. He won the US Open in 1916. The other familiar name from that era was Jock Hutchison who prevailed in 1920 and 1923. Jock also won a PGA Championship (1920) and a British Open (1921). They were each incredibly accomplished people whose personalities and styles could not have been more different, except that both were gentlemen. 

Enough for now -- it has rained overnight and continues this morn. It is going to be a day for umbrellas, rain gear, slip and slide, and mud caked boots. Cheers!

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