1962: Duck Creek Golf Course
The first round of my life was played during a family vacation in the company of my mother and brother, both accomplished players. I shot 147 but remember on one hole making flush contact with an 8-iron that sailed about 100 yards and stopped a few feet from the cup. That was the precise moment I became addicted to golf.
1978: Augusta National Golf Club
My maiden voyage on the Masters course came the day after the tournament. This was back when, as a member of the press, you could guarantee yourself a Monday tee time simply by getting yourself to the front door of the media center on the Wednesday of tournament week early enough to be one of the first 40 people on line (which meant by no later than 5 a.m.). My most vivid memory of the round is hitting my tee shot to about three feet at the 12th, after which I gunned my putt five feet by. My good buddy David Fay took pity on me and conceded the par.
1980: The Country Club
Pepper Pike, Ohio
In the pro-am for the inaugural “World Championship of Women’s Golf,” I drew Nancy Lopez as my partner, along with an enormous gallery. We arrived at 18 with a chance to win, and it came down to me, needing to sink a three-footer for net birdie. This time I got the ball only halfway to the hole, at which point I heard the worst sound in golf—when 1,000 people simultaneously gasp.
1981: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Ben Crenshaw and two executives from the Metropolitan (N.Y.) Golf Association joined me to play just one hole at Shinnecock—at dawn—as the start of a GOLF Magazine publicity stunt where we romped across 18 holes on 18 different courses in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, finishing at dusk on the 4th hole of the Lower Course at Baltusrol. It involved 14 ups and downs in helicopters and I recall only two things—feeling nauseous all day and watching Crenshaw one-putt seven straight greens in three different states.
1983: Old Course
St. Andrews, Scotland
In a similar stunt with Bobby Clampett, his agent Hughes Norton, and photographer Brian Morgan, we teed off at 4:19 a.m. the day after the Open Championship, played in about 2 1/2 hours, hopped a puddle jumper to Manchester, England, where we joined Messrs. Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Trevino, Miller, et al for a flight back to the U.S. on The Concorde after which we hopped a chopper from JFK to Winged Foot, zipped around the West Course, choppered back to JFK, and flew to California to squeeze in our third round, just as darkness fell, at Pebble Beach.
1987: TPC Sawgrass
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Not all vivid memories are pleasant ones. Playing in a GOLF Magazine outing with three of our key advertisers, I plunked two balls in the water at the island green 17th and tossed my wedge directly skyward in frustration. It lodged in the upper reaches of a palm tree—as did the 9-iron, 8-iron, and 7-iron I tossed up in an effort to retrieve it. It was 20 mortifying minutes, and play-throughs by two highly amused foursomes, before all four clubs were restored to my bag.
1990: Sleepy Hollow Country Club (Short Course)
Surely the most joyful win of my life came in a three-hole alternate shot competition, partnering with my six-year-old son, Scott. Somehow we negotiated the one par four and two par threes in a total of 12 strokes, the last of them a nerve jangling three-footer by yours truly. Afterward, we celebrated in the clubhouse, Scott with a hot fudge sundae, me with a double Macallan single malt. (These days, Scott outdrives me by 70 yards.)
1992: Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, Calif.
It was Bill Murray’s first round as a competitor in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and as his friend and neighbor I’d ridden his coat tails. With one minute to go before our tee time on day one, Bill was nowhere to be found and I was in a panic. Then he sauntered up, delivered a couple of riotously funny lines to the assembled gallery, and blasted his tee shot straight down the middle (after which I half shanked mine into the trees.) The event organizers didn’t realize what a smash hit Bill would be, so they had us playing Pebble on Thursday—after they saw the gallery reactions that week, he was promoted to the heart of the A group. I was appropriately traded as the other amateur in his pairing for Chicago Cubs star Mark Grace, but no complaints. Thanks in large part to Bill, I got another nine invites to the world’s most fun week of golf. And no, I never made the cut.
1996: Aspetuck Valley Country Club
Competing in the Westchester/Connecticut qualifier for the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Net Team Championship, my longtime friend and colleague Jim Frank and I both had the rounds of our lives, Jim breaking 80 for the first time (78) and I breaking 70 for the first time (69). I think our net was 55 and we were the medalists by 9 or 10 strokes. Two weeks later, in the tournament proper, normalcy returned and we settled comfortably into the middle of the pack.
2014: Old Course
St. Andrews, Scotland
In the Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s Autumn Medal in September of 2014, I had one of those magical days. Blessed with the first tee time of the day (which allowed me to play at my preferred polo-like pace) I opened with a birdie, then added three more, including a 185-foot putt at the 13th which took me to even par with five holes to play. Despite gagging in with three bogeys for a 75 (net 67) I thought I’d won one of the coveted R&A medals. Then in one of the last groups of the day, another chap—an American friend of mine who shall go nameless—nipped me with a 66!