This year in golf was my first in a professional sense. I spent the previous decade covering college football and basketball and jumped at the chance to join Golfweek late in 2016.
It seems appropriate to begin by sharing my feelings of gratitude for everyone who helped make the first year such an enjoyable one.
First up – Sergio Garcia.
I’ve long thought Garcia’s first major would be one of golf’s best stories in the post-Tiger era. I wasn’t sure he’d ever get it done, and I never thought I’d have a front-row seat when he finally did just that Sunday at Augusta National.
Standing near the 16th green, I couldn’t see Garcia’s eagle putt drop on No. 15 to tie Justin Rose for the lead. But I could see his reaction and heard the roars and felt the chills racing up and down my spine. This jaded sportswriter had been temporarily possessed by his 12-year-old counterpart, engulfed in a tidal wave of nostalgia and the knowledge that this was a moment. A moment that will stay with me forever.
I remembered Matt Kuchar’s caddie, John Wood, telling me a story about his first time caddying in the Masters. He thought he had his emotions under control while pacing the first fairway, then looked back and realized he was walking 75 yards ahead of everyone else in the group. Apparently, out-of-body experiences are commonplace at Augusta.
Wood also deserves recognition here. As you can imagine, he has plenty of stories to tell after more than 20 years looping on the PGA Tour. He’s been gracious enough to share several of them on our pages and handled my inquiries each month, several of which began with, ‘This might be a dumb question, but …’. Same goes for strength and conditioning specialist Trevor Anderson, one of the hardest workers around who has given me a much better understanding of the body’s role in relation to the golf swing.
I met Wood for the first time covering the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Anyone who’s ever had a good time at this event – and there were more than 200,000 of them on Saturday alone – should thank the Thunderbirds volunteer staff. This thing could be a logistical nightmare wrapped in a P.R. emergency in lesser hands, but the Thunderbirds handle everything with military-like precision. They’re the unsung heroes throughout the most fun week in golf, one which should be a destination for even casual fans. I know I can’t wait to get back, whether that’s as a reporter or simply a fan.
I began that week with egg on my face, asking Justin Thomas at a press conference about his most recent wins in the Bahamas. Problem being, those wins came in Hawaii. Geography was never my thing. Thomas figured out what I was getting at and gave a solid answer anyways. I’d like to thank all the current and players I talked to throughout the year, most enjoyably Padraig Harrington, Billy Horschel, Patton Kizzire, Kevin Kisner, Curtis Strange, Zach Johnson, Adam Hadwin, Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk. When I spoke with the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain at the Valspar Championship, he asked me several personal questions about my background and college football allegiances. He also gave some really good insight about the Ryder Cup selection process and the challenge awaiting him in Paris. Those types of things go a long way.
Lastly, I’d like to thank the golf gods for allowing me to think good thoughts and swing easy on a warm spring day for my first hole-in-one, a 174-yard 6-iron at MetroWest Golf Club. Another moment I’ll never forget in what has been the most enjoyable year of my career to date.