My Year in Golf

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Andy Zhang, 14, tees off at the par-4 10th hole at Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Andy Zhang, 14, tees off at the par-4 10th hole at Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Editor's note: Andy Zhang became the youngest player - and the first from China - to play in the U.S. Open, moving into the field on the Monday of competition week after Paul Casey withdrew due to injury. Zhang would go on to make appearances in Switzerland, Korea and Australia, while also playing in the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior. Needless to say, it was a historic year for the 14-year-old. He took some time to reflect on his year with this "My Year in Golf," completing our series on 2012.

• • •

It has been a fun year, so ...

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Nick Masuda
Andy Zhang, 14, signs autographs behind the eighth green at the end of his practice round at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Andy Zhang, 14, signs autographs behind the eighth green at the end of his practice round at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

"Psst! "

I looked around to see who was trying to get my attention.

It was David Shefter, newsman extraordinaire for the USGA.

"Hey, (Brandt) Snedeker just withdrew (from the U.S. Open). Jordan Spieth is in."

We all had kind of expected Spieth to join the party coming into the week.

I smiled, and being the inquisitive dude that I am, asked, "Who's next?"

"Your kid, Andy Zhang."

Yep, he had become "my kid" - from both the USGA and the six other Golfweek staffers in the ...

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Bradley S. Klein
Bradley S. Klein hits a tee ball at dusk at Bandon Preserve in Oregon.
Bradley S. Klein hits a tee ball at dusk at Bandon Preserve in Oregon.

It would be nice to be able to tie a thematic ribbon around golf course architecture and summarize a whole year in review with a catchy phrase. The slow pace of design, development, permitting, construction and grow-in render such pronouncements a bit forced and artificial. And yet there are ways to hand-pick certain moments of the past year as if they were road markers on a longer journey.

There’s no doubt that a common theme throughout the U.S. for 2012 has been a new realism in golf course design and operations, with many facilities taking a closer look ...

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Cassie Stein
No. 10 at Cherry Hills Country Club
No. 10 at Cherry Hills Country Club

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

Before I came to Golfweek, I had an internship with the U.S. Golf Association. Needless to say, it was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my life.

I got to travel to four of the USGA's championships over the summer: U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur.

The one I was looking forward to the most was the U.S. Amateur. It is the biggest amateur event known to the golfing ...

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Julie Williams
GB&I team lifted their captain Tegwin Matthews on the 18th green after its 10.5-9.5 victory in the Curtis Cup at The Nairn Golf Club in Nairn, Nairnshire, Scotland.
GB&I team lifted their captain Tegwin Matthews on the 18th green after its 10.5-9.5 victory in the Curtis Cup at The Nairn Golf Club in Nairn, Nairnshire, Scotland.

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

The No. 1 criticism I hear about our sport is that it can lack excitement – golf moves too slow and takes too long to play. My fourth year covering it at the women’s amateur and college level was nothing like that. And if there was a theme to the year, it was that match play lends a totally different feel to competitive golf.

I had never seen links golf in the flesh until traveling to Nairn, Scotland for the Curtis Cup in June. Early week, the ...

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Adam Schupak
Bubba Watson hits a gap wedge from just over 160 yards out of the straw during the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. Watson would land the improbable shot on the green and he two-putted to win the Masters.
Bubba Watson hits a gap wedge from just over 160 yards out of the straw during the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. Watson would land the improbable shot on the green and he two-putted to win the Masters.

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

I was there when Bubba Watson hit the most memorable golf shot of the year. You know the one.

I attended 22 golf tournaments this year -- big and small -- but one topped the rest: taking my best friend from high school to his first Masters.

Something about Augusta National makes the patter of my heart beat a little faster. It always has. I remember my first time in 1999. It was a Wednesday practice round. I could hardly sleep the night before. I always tell people that ...

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Jeff Babineau
Europe's Ian Poulter reacts after making a birdie putt to win the 12th hole during a foursomes match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill.
Europe's Ian Poulter reacts after making a birdie putt to win the 12th hole during a foursomes match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill.

'Twas the morning of Christmas, and after another year spent traversing the globe to cover this great game, there are more than sugar plums dancing in my head. A few golf orbs are flying, too. Here are a few parting thoughts as we close the final chapter of 2012:

For all its hype – and even though we get one only once every other year – the Ryder Cup, thankfully, sure lives up to its tall billing. When I look back at the season that was 2012, which began in January at Kapalua and ended in December closer to home at the ...

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Ron Balicki
Nathan Smith (right) won his fourth U.S. Mid-Amateur on Sept. 13 with father and caddie Larry (left) by his side.
Nathan Smith (right) won his fourth U.S. Mid-Amateur on Sept. 13 with father and caddie Larry (left) by his side.

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

Tears of joy. Tears of heartbreak. Smiles of elation. Frowns of disappointment.

I’ve seen plenty of them all this past year along the travels on my amateur and college tournament trail. And no matter the case, each left a lasting memory in my year in golf.

Topping the tears of joy list had to be the Smith family - dad Larry, mom Vicki and son Nathan.

The family shared and shed those tears in early September at Conway Farms Golf Club shortly after Nathan, 34, of Pittsburgh ...

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Brentley Romine
Andy Hyeon Bo Shim defeated Jim Liu, 4 and 3, to win the 2012 U.S. Junior Amateur at the Golf Club of New England in Stratham, N.H.
Andy Hyeon Bo Shim defeated Jim Liu, 4 and 3, to win the 2012 U.S. Junior Amateur at the Golf Club of New England in Stratham, N.H.

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

Like a good number of my colleagues, my year in golf did not include a major. It didn’t include the Ryder Cup. In fact, it included just one professional event – the Children’s Miracle Networks Hospitals Classic at Disney, which is right in my backyard.

But what it did include were trips and events that a lot of golf writers didn’t get a chance to experience in 2012.

Rather than knock out five or six hefty paragraphs recapping my year in golf – or my half-year ...

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James Achenbach
USGA executive director Mike Davis
USGA executive director Mike Davis

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

I’m supposed to be optimistic.

So here I go:

Golf is irreplaceable. It is the world’s greatest game. It is hypnotic for both spectators and participants. We can watch it all our lives. We can play it all our lives.

I conclude that golf is the anti-aging sport.

I look at golf’s major championships, and I say to myself, “Super Bowl times four.” Golf is captivating at its highest level and seductive at an everyday level. Golfers and golf watchers alike are lucky to ...

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Jeff Rude
Tiger Woods reacts to his five-shot victory in the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
Tiger Woods reacts to his five-shot victory in the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

Flipping through the calendar, front to back, I remember being there ...

When Hank Kuehne and Rickie Fowler played a money game against Jesper Parnevik and Luke Donald at Medalist Golf Club a few holes away from where Tiger Woods was practicing by himself.

When somebody’s tee shot hit Michael Jordan’s cart at Derek Jeter’s charity outing and MJ playfully yelled out, “Some people shouldn’t be golfing.”

When C.C. Sabbathia told me at Jeter’s deal that when he pitches well people don ...

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Captain Andy Nisbet (center) and coach Tony Guerrero rally the California team.
Captain Andy Nisbet (center) and coach Tony Guerrero rally the California team.

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

Looking back on 2012, a single number jumps out at me: 7.4.

That figure represents the percentage increase in rounds played in the U.S. through September, according to the latest industry report.

Viewed simply as an empirical measure, it's something, perhaps, that only a statistical geek would love. But for me, it symbolizes much more: It's a reminder of just how resilient golf is, and more importantly, how much healthier it can be.

For more than a decade, I've written about the ...

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John Peterson reacts to an ace at Olympic Club's 13th.
John Peterson reacts to an ace at Olympic Club's 13th.

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

Michael Weaver and Steven Fox sat with their fathers on the porch of Cherry Hills’ clubhouse in August, throwing back some of the course’s famed milkshakes while sharing stories of their day’s success on their cell phones.

Golf was on the flat-screen television, specifically a tape-delayed broadcast of their victories in the U.S. Amateur’s semifinals, allowing them to relive the greatest day of their golfing lives. It was a moment these fathers and sons would remember the rest of their lives, regardless of ...

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Jim McCabe
Rory McIlroy of Europe hugs his captain Jose Maria Olazabal on the putting green after arriving late to the golf course during the singles matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club.
Rory McIlroy of Europe hugs his captain Jose Maria Olazabal on the putting green after arriving late to the golf course during the singles matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club.

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

Some frame a photo and offer it prominent space in their memory to commemorate an entire year. No harm there. But it speaks more passionately to the grandness of this game we cherish to embrace an album of snapshots, most of them taken not inside the ropes, but on the periphery.

They may have been out of sight to most, but they are in my mind at season’s end.

• • •

You ask yourself what would have happened had Ian Poulter not done the unthinkable at the close ...

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Beth Ann Nichols
Meredith Duncan on Tuesday of LPGA Q-School at LPGA International.
Meredith Duncan on Tuesday of LPGA Q-School at LPGA International.

Editor's note: For our entire "My Year in Golf" series, click here.

• • •

While driving into the media parking lot on Sunday at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, I stopped and rolled down the window to talk with Meredith Duncan, who was clutching trial-sized toiletries she had picked up in the Wegmans fan zone. The LPGA’s funny girl was hurting that morning, emotionally spent from this maddening game. When I think back on my year in golf, the scene with Duncan is seared in my mind.

I cover a tour of dreamers. Some of the women on the LPGA live ...

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