Trekking on and around so many fairways and greens, I’ve witnessed for the best part of four decades some sterling and sorrowful golfing moments from premier and pedestrian players. In their chase of the little white orb, they’ve elicited some smiles and laughs then, and still do today.
Chump, Dump, Champ
Stewart Cink’s drive was heading out of bounds on the second hole in the final round of the 1997 Canon Greater Hartford Open. When it bounced off a cart path and started its descent, fans yelled. “Get in there”—in this Connecticut heartland where UConn basketball reigns in all seasons. The ball did—right into a trash barrel. The man-made hazard afforded Cink a free drop. A wedge and birdie putt followed. He carded a 66 and won his first PGA TOUR title by one shot. Afterwards, Cink said his playing partner Brandel Chamblee had told him: “The saying on the tour is, ‘If you have a really good short game, you can get it up and down from a trash barrel.’ Well, you did it.”
Sure You Are
Justin Leonard didn’t have his PGA TOUR card yet and was initially denied access into the parking lot in his rookie pro debut at the 1994 Canon GHO. After some discussions, he finally was allowed in. “I’ve got this thing,” he later smiled to reporters while holding up a GHO contestant card. Five years later and, oh, about 100 miles away at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. countless fans in New England and the United States would not only remember his name, but also revere it after his birdie putt clinched the 1999 Ryder Cup for the U.S.
Right was Wrong
Billy Ray Brown’s initial drive of the 1991 GHO (at No.10) was waved right by a marshal in the rough. Believing the marshal had signaled an out-of-bounds ball, Brown sent his next shot on the same line. The marshal pointed right again. The third drive was in the fairway. When Brown arrived, the marshal said the first two drives were in-bounds in the rough. Brown later told the media, “I almost walked back in.” Thankfully he didn’t. He made a par 4 on the hole, and three days later won his first PGA TOUR title in a playoff.
And Your Name is?
“Next on the tee from Boca Raton, Fla., Joey Cylinder.” Joey Sindelar (pronounced SIN-deh-lahr) winced after the pro-am public-address announcement. “Oh, my name has been mispronounced so many times,” he said at the 1988 Sammy Davis Jr. GHO. “But that’s OK, I just go about my business.” He certainly did in the first round, which merited a story and this befitting headline in the July 22, 1988 edition of The Hartford Courant: “Cylinder or Sindelar, it’s still a 65.”
This was first published in Essential Golf – you can read the complete magazine here.
Tom Yantz worked 42 years for The Hartford Courant and covered the PGA TOUR’s tournament in Cromwell, Conn. from 1984-2017.