PINEHURST, NC –[Editor’s Note: Jay is missing his 25th college reunion at his beloved Trinity College in Connecticut, but wrote this tournament recap in letter form to his classmates so he could be with them in spirit. Go! Fight Win!]
Greetings from the bucolic splendor of Pinehurst, North Carolina – where even the convenience store attendants pump your gas with perfect interlocking grips, and the diner waitresses can spot you two a side and still beat your brains out on the course.
I’m really sorry to miss you all of you and our beloved Trinity. Please find whoever scheduled reunion for this weekend, (instead of last weekend like every other Ivy and NESCAC school), and give them a thumb in the eye for me. (Metaphorically! Metaphorically!)
I remember last reunion, and how the brilliant, beaming sunshine and sapphire skies sparkling crystalline were only surpassed by your buoyant hearts, good cheer, and fond reminiscences. Walking through Cook arch and seeing the Quad again, it was as though we had traveled back in time. Grateful Dead’s “Sugar Magnolia” was cranking out a Woodward dorm window, (and Jonah Cohen was shouting at me to “turn that #@*& off, Flemma!”), Liz McKee, Edie Silver, and Dee Dee Wilson were sunning themselves, and John Klein, Paul Furigay, and the rest of the Ultimate Frisbee team were practicing, while Professors Steele and Painter chatted with Dirk Kuyk and Hugh Odgen, smoking Marlboros as they made their way to the Cave for coffee. Hey! There’s Scott Isaac heading off to soccer practice with Matt Gandal and Steve Ryan, while Dan Prochniak and Jeff Downing are tossing around a football with Rupert and Mowbray. And if you listen with the right kind of ears, you can hear Henry Hamilton, Tory Clawson, and John Simkiss practicing “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the Pipes in Hamlin Hall. No matter where I go, who I meet, or what wonders I see, those heady halcyon days never leave me. Like all of you, if you cut me and I bleed blue and gold.
Perhaps my favorite memory of that reunion was the Saturday night dance party on the Quad where we boogied long into the star-studded night under a sky so clear we could see the lazy haze of the Milky Way overhead. If you look hard enough now, you can still see Louise McCarthy cutting it up with Cindy Kirby, Mike Miller, and Stacey Dresdale. And isn’t that Sean Dougherty and Seth Lipton chatting up Bruce Moulton, Becky Holt, and Michelle Monti? It is! Great times!
Of course my second favorite memory was when – in front of everybody – Jeff Jacobson’s cute but slightly hyperactive son put his hand on ***name redacted***’s rather ample beer belly and asked his father, “And the baby comes out where?”
I hadn’t laughed that hard since Chris Chappell projectile vomited on ***name also redacted*** after senior champagne brunchâ€¦
After that I went to get a drink at the bar and when I turned around I got trapped by both Leary brothers. They were right on top of me, my back to the wall, I couldn’t escape. One of them, (don’t ask me which, I still can’t tell them apart), grinned and asked me “Did you miss us over the last 20 years?” My puckish sense of humor got the best of me and I said, “Oh yeah. Sure I did. I was so miserable without you, it was almost like having you hereâ€¦”
Anyway, you’re in Connecticut and I’m in Carolina, much to my dismay and Jake’s, Jonah’s and the Learys’ delight. (I’m sure they’re so miserable without me, it’s almost like having me thereïŠ) So I better make myself useful andâ€¦you knowâ€¦tell you about the golf tournament, which was the whole point of this article.
It’s a strange time this weekend. Normally Pinehurst’s fabled No. 2 course is green and gothic – the Trinity College of golf courses – as ancient, venerable, and revered as our alma mater. But this year, the USGA decided to pay special tribute to the course’s history by making it look and play like Donald Ross originally designed it back in the late 1930s. It’s like if Trinity decided the students and professors would all move for one year back to the original Washington Street campus we inhabited back in the 1800s, “Wicked retro” as our Boston alums might say. So if some of you who tuned into the broadcast were wondering why the course looks so brown and ragged, that’s the reason. It’s “Throwback Thursday,” USGA style.
On that issue I’m a bit of an ant at the picnic. (And I’m betting Jake, Jonah, and the Learys just said something along the lines of “Like he always was. Nothing’s changed thereâ€¦”). I like British Open courses and their golden hue, (called “Biscuit Brown” in the vernacular), and I like the green of U.S. courses, but this hybrid just hasn’t grown on me yet. I think it must be an acquired taste I haven’t acquired yet, kind of like PIKE brothers, but I digress.
It looks weird, but it still plays great. That’s a tip for you by the way. The next time you play golf, don’t spend as much time thinking about how the golf course looks, but pay attention to how it playsâ€¦what the ball does when it lands and rolls.
For the first time since the inaugural U.S. Open in 1895 there is no rough, unusual because the U.S. Open is somewhat defined by heavy rough, but now the ball rolls every which way, giving the players conniptions. Instead, they lined the fairways with sand and wire grass. It’s a different Open than we’ve ever seen before, and now players can try all sorts of cool shots around the greens: putt, bump and run, pitch and check – they have options, where usually you just hit it with a wedge and hope.
It’s weird for another reason: the tournament has been a rout so far, a record setting one. A German golfer named Martin Kaymer has broken the 36 hole major championship record for the lowest score for the first two rounds, shooting 65-65=130. Talk about German precision engineering. He’s 10-under, leading a puzzling stranger named Brendan Todd by six shots. Kevin Na, (who’s slower than molasses in January) and Brandt Snedeker are seven back and a cast of thousands are eight back.
Think about that. In the entire history of golf, every Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship no one has ever scored lower over the first two rounds. I guess if I have to miss my 25th college reunion, seeing sports history makes up for it a bit, (although Tri-Delts are still much better looking).
Moreover, he looks indestructible. He’s made one bogey in 36 holes against 11 birdies. That’s staggeringly good. He’s in what we call the “Open coma,” just golfing his ball like he’s out with the boys for a Sunday Funday round. One more day like that and tomorrow will be a victory lap, or a shot at breaking all the records Rory McIlroy set at Congressional in 2011. (For those of you scoring at home, those would be the 36, 54, and 72 hole U.S. Open records, as well as lowest aggregate – 268 – and most under par, -16.)
When he shot the first 65 it was cool, but it was no big deal. Day 1 is just “getting to know you” so to speak. But other players have done that. But when he torched Pinehurst a second time, that’s when everyone from Massachusetts to Montana and from Arizona to Alabama stood up and cheered. It was epic.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Martin Kaymer, he’s actually a known commodity. He won the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, he made the Ryder Cup clinching putt for Europe at Medinah in 2012, he was number 1 in world for eight weeks not too long ago, and just a few short weeks ago, he won the PLAYERS Championship at Sawgrass, considered by many not be golf’s fifth major, and a great tournament no matter who you are.
Even the most seasoned sports writers – venerable veteran scribes – are scratching their heads, wondering why he’s so incredibly dominant. It’s not like the course got soaked like Congressional in 2011 or Oakmont in 1973 when Johnny Miller shot that record final round 63 to steal the tournament.
“Miller?” asked Tom Weiskopf. “I didn’t even know he made the cut!”
“Who the hell is 5-under?” asked an incredulous Arnold Palmer, who thought he was in the lead.
Pinehurst has, however, played easier this year than the two previous Opens in ’99 and ’05. Seven players have two rounds in the 60s, and that’s as unusual as someone getting a C from Fred Pfiel.
Anyway, here’s an interesting stat to digest while you’re eating your Saga Bob rubber chicken dinner: Take all the 36 hole leaders of the U.S. Open who didn’t win, (there are 31 of them), and give them even par for the last two days instead of what they actually shot and 29 of them would have won.
Even par on Saturday and Sunday? That’s easier said than done though. As we go to press and you go for dessert Kaymer is 9-under and still leads by six. He is swinging a little more squirrely today, saving some hair-raising pars and riding the momentum of an eagle at the fifth which he balanced against three bogeys in the first eight holes.
Speaking of food, I must say, the chow here has been incredible. Sure beats Trinity steak night, that horrible mulligatawny, those hockey pucks they called fish cakes, and that ghastly clam chowder they used to serve us and call food. What? No haggis?
Meanwhile, the USGA usually gives us a good spread but – Man! – they out did themselves this year. They added breakfast to the menu, so now my sodium intake has skyrocketed, with bacon and tomato juice fueling me until a lunch of marinated sliced steak crusted with peppercorns. Then another day there was BBQ shrimp and a shellfish buffet. I had crab legs and oysters and lobster today. How about you guys?
It made me think of the time a certain nameless Kappa sister was in front of me using the microwave in Saga on a Sunday morning. I happened to noticed she had put a hard boiled egg in the microwave.
“Hey!” I said. “You can’t put a hard boiled egg in a microwave.”
“Jay don’t tell me what to do!” she snarled back.
“But don’t you know what happens when you put a hard boiled egg in a microwave?” I asked.
“Let’s get out of hereâ€¦” she said.
Anyway, Kaymer’s performance is looking like a statistical outlier, but still a performance that will resonate throughout the ages – like when Trinity won the basketball AND hockey ECAC championships on the same night (I can still hear the deafening roar when the basketball game ended and we all gathered out on the quad to celebrate) or when Hurricane Gloria had us sledding down the Chapel hill on lunch trays. Golden Days.
So now Kaymer only leads by five. Kevin Na is in second, and that’s a problem for everyone. He’s the most ponderous, deliberate player on Earth. He’s slower than a 75 minute Professor Pennybacker lecture on medieval economics.
Anyway, I have to file this so you can read it, but I’ll leave you with one last story:
Do you know why our mascot is the Bantams? Back at the turn of the 20th century there was this 2nd Circuit Federal Court Judge – Buffington was his name. When he retired, they threw him a huge party. Friends came form all across the globe, and the guest list included pals from Harvard, Yale, Amherst, Princeton and other colleges considered royalty in the U.S. Pantheon of educational institutions. He gave a rousing speech where he said “All you barnyard animals may be proud, but the little Trinity rooster may be bantam sized, but he’ll march on in and spread his heathers and crow mightily and strut with all the rest of you.”
Well when word got back, the whole school was energized and took the bantam as our mascot.
We’re still bringing honor to that spirit. Whether it’s Hillary Davidson and her terrific career as a lawyer, Scott Isaac as a dedicated doctor, Dan Prochniak wheeling and dealing real estate, Sophie Wadsworth as an award winning poet, or any of the rest of you who being pride up our glorious alma mater. Jaker, Jonah, Maloney, Brent Ambacher, Tyler, Pike, Henry, Leary 1 and Leary 2, and every other ’89er – you’re all aces in my book. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and we’ll still keep beating Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Williams, and all the rest. In the meantime I’ll see you all on the golf course, or at worst in five years. Until then, Go! Fight! Win! It’s what you’re best at.
All the best,