The greatest upset in golfing history happened last Sunday, much larger than Francis Ouimet’s victory at The Country Club nearly a century ago. Yes, Bill Murray hoisted the pro-am trophy for the first time as he and partner D. A. Points won the AT & T National Pro-Am by two strokes.
Writing this from the Honolulu Lounge of the Buffalo, New York Holiday Inn seems to be the best place to genuflect on such a monumental occasion, yet I can’t seem to get the theme to Star Wars out of my head (Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars…). The man is not only a genius in lounge crooning, but he is a hell of a golfer too and an American icon to boot! My English friends think I’m daft. Then so be it. At least I don’t eat my cheeseburgers with a knife and fork! Really, is there that much difference between his actions and those of Crosby and Hope years ago?
Since 1992, Bill Murray has been entertaining the galleries at Pebble Beach during the annual PGA Tour event there while never finishing higher than fourth in the pro-am portion of the event. For decades before, we watched Jack Lemmon struggle along just to make the cut (which he never did) so Murray’s feat really pales in comparison to the annual struggles by Mr. Lemmon…Unless you channel the legend of a certain Mr. Carl Spackler. Then, the struggle becomes legendary. The mountaintop was reached in a Dalai Lama moment.
Doesn’t God have a great sense of humor or is it just pure coincidence that a man who did so much inadvertent damage to the image of the golf course superintendent in the portrayal of Caddyshack’s Spackler won on the national stage the same week of the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America annual get-together during the Golf Industry Show?
I once shot 76 playing with a guy who just made me laugh by looking at him. The whole way around Bedford Golf & Tennis Club one late Sunday afternoon a guy named Cutler Whitman set out to blow my concentration from the first tee. I recall almost losing it on the eighth tee in particular, yet I hung on to shoot my low round of my life at the time. Now imagine having to endure four days of not losing your cookies in guffaws in front of the golfing world. That is exactly what D. A. Points did in his first victory on the PGA Tour. Points clearly did become the ball…
So back to my declaration that Murray is an American icon. He is exactly the anti-drug to golf’s stuffy image. Granted he has been a part of the American fabric for over thirty-five years but maybe we need to re-assess his contributions to the game in a new light. Even as Murray putted out on the final hole he snubbed his nose at the rules of golf by tapping his already moving putt into the hole as he provided his own Cinderella story commentary. Granted, the putt was meaningless as he and his partner had already benefitted from Points’ tap-in just moments before. That moment meant much more than what it may have counted for. Just when you think that Caddyshack can’t become any more a piece of Americana, it will now be quite sentimental for all of us the next time we watch it. It went in the hole! For a victory!
Murray’s antics at Pebble this past Sunday (and previously) remind us that golf is a game and that fun can be had if we are just willing to take ourselves a little less seriously. In that vein, the game may appeal to the masses a bit more and that is what Murray attracts at an event like the AT & T National Pro-Am. As long as he’s been around, he is as good an ambassador of golf as there may be on either side of the pond. Sure beats Russell Brand, right?
About Richard: Richard Mandell runs Richard Mandell Golf Architecture in Pinehurst, North Carolina (www.golf-architecture.com). Educated as a Landscape Architect at the University of Georgia (he is licensed in both North and South Carolina), Richard has close to two decades’ experience in designing new golf courses and renovating existing ones. Richard may also be the only golf architect in the world who is a certified arborist. He co-hosts a weekly golf radio talk show in Pinehurst and continues to teach a class on Golf Architecture at North Carolina State University which he started in 1997. Mr. Mandell also wrote the award-winning book, Pinehurst ~ Home of American Golf - The Evolution of a Legend (International Network of Golf Book of the Year – 2007).
Richard Mandell has been a Golf Content Creator for the Washington Times Communities since October 20, 2008