June 15, 2024

At the British Open, Mom’s Influence is huge for many Golfers

In the beginning, there was Old Tom Morris and his son, Tommy, both from St Andrews. The father won the British Open Championship — the only championship at the time — four times and his namesake son also won it four times. Yes, wet wool, 19th century golf, in all its paternal glory. The men marched first in the heat and into a heavy sea wind and no one knew when, or if, they would return.

And since then, fathers have been raising sons in the game, both generations dreaming of lifting trophies. OB Keeler spilled barrels of ink writing about Bobby Jones and his blue-collar start in golf at the behest of his golf-loving father, Robert Purmedus Jones (also known as ‘The Colonel’) who was a successful lawyer in Atlanta.

If Arnold Palmer said it once, he said it a thousand times: his father, Deacon, the course superintendent and head pro at Latrobe Country Club in western Pennsylvania, taught young Arnold how to grip a club once and for all. Palmer never changed it.

Jack Nicklaus’ pharmacist father, Charlie, a three-sport athlete at Ohio State, started his son, Jackie, as a 10-year-old prodigy in Columbus, Ohio, in the summer of 1950, at their club, Scioto Country Club. Midland, mid-century — middle class, at the northernmost tier. Donald Hall’s “Fathers Playing Catch with Sons” is mostly about basketball, but Charlie and Jackie on the course in the 1950s could fit right in.

Twelve years later, Jack Nicklaus defeated Arnold Palmer in an 18-hole event at Oakmont Country Club and claimed the first of his 18 major titles, the 1962 US Open. It was Father’s Day. Since then (after a date change) most US Opens have been held on Father’s Day and most years the relationship between the father and the son has been a fundamental part of the winner’s life story.

The next sentence is known throughout golf: Tiger and Earl. The greenside hug between father and son after Woods won the 1997 Masters is one of the most iconic moments in golf history. It was Tiger’s first major as a pro and he won by 12 shots. Nine years later, Woods fell into his friend’s arms, after winning the British Open at Royal Liverpool, 10 weeks after Earl Woods’ death at the age of 74.

But in 2014 a story emerged at Royal Liverpool when Rory McIlroy, 25 years old and the only child of working-class parents from outside Belfast, won the British Open. It was his third major title and in a beautiful, old-fashioned gesture at the awards ceremony, with thousands of fans ringing the 18th green, McIlroy dedicated the victory to his mother.

“This is the first major tournament I won when my mother was here,” he said. “Mom, this is for you.”

Rosie McDonald McIlroy, who helped pay for her son’s junior golf trip abroad through her shift work at the 3M factory, was excited. Later, she tentatively placed a few fingers on the winner’s claret jug as her son held it tightly.

Five years later, Woods won the 2019 Masters. It was kind of shocking: he hadn’t won a major in 11 years. In the win, his mother, Kultida, who was born and raised in Thailand, was standing in a grassy knoll about 10 yards from the 18th green. She couldn’t see her son’s winning putt, but she heard the thunderous response to it. His face was painted with pride. In victory, Woods spoke in a soft voice about how his mother would get up at 5:30 in the morning to drive Tiger in a Plymouth Duster to nine-hole Pee-wee tournaments, 90 minutes there, 90 minutes back.

Last year, when Woods was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, ‘Tida,’ known within Woods’ tight circle for being tough and direct, in the first round, was becoming just like Rosie McIlroy in 2014.

Woods spoke, without notes, of the many times his mother took him to the par-3 course near Tiger’s childhood home in Southern California, giving him 50 cents for a hot dog and 25 cents for the call home at the end of the day. Woods played his early and successful tournaments with those quarters given to him by his mother. Tiger, telling personal stories about his mother, and Tida, laughing with cameras at her, was a rare personal moment for the two.

This year at the Los Angeles Country Club the final round of the US Open fell, as usual, on Father’s Day, but the day belonged to a mother and her son.

Wyndham winner Clark Woods was heard talking about his own mother at Augusta National during the Masters and Hall of Fame induction. He stared at him.

Breast cancer ended the life of his mother Lise Clark 10 years ago, when Wyndham was still a teenager. He didn’t give up golf after she died. He said his mother nicknamed him ‘Winner’ and had a two-word mantra for him: “Play big.”

The technical aspects of the game were not his forte. They weren’t for Rose McIlroy or Tida Woods, either.

When Clark was in high school, his mother came to one of his games. She watched him do an eight-foot walk and eagerly hugged her son.

“Mom,” Clark said to his mother as he came off the lawn. “I made a triple bogey.”

Mom didn’t know and mom didn’t care. Her son had holed a putt.

Moments after winning the US Open, Clark said, “I felt like my mom was watching me today.” Mother’s Day, so to speak. Her head hurt.

And now the British Open is in high gear, again at Royal Liverpool. After two rounds English golfer Tommy Fleetwood was alone in second place, five strokes behind the leader, Brian Harman. Everywhere Fleetwood goes on the course he is called “Tommy-lad”. Even McIlroy went out to find Fleetwood, after an opening-round 66, to “Tommy-lad!” to give him. of his own.

Fleetwood, one of the most loved players in the game today, grew up in modest circumstances about 30 miles to the north, in Southport, where his mother was a hairdresser. Fleetwood has a unique appearance, upturned nose often sunburned, blue eyes that look almost plugged in, and long, flowing hair. Sue Fleetwood wanted to cut her son’s hair but Tommy-lad wouldn’t have it. Sue Fleetwood died last year aged 60, two years after being diagnosed with cancer.

“She took me everywhere,” Fleetwood said Friday night, on the one-year anniversary of her death. It was raining and the air was getting cold.

“She was always a driver. She would always take me to the range. To the golf course. To wherever I wanted to go. She has always been a very supportive influence. She was a very tough woman but she never said she would take me anywhere. She was amazing to me.”

There was nothing maudlin about her tone. Fleetwood was talking about golf and his mother and was smiling. Another mother’s day, so to speak, was coming. Win, lose or otherwise, another mother’s day was coming for another golfing son.

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