While there were plenty of compelling stories throughout the year — including PGA pro Michael Block's showing at the PGA Championship — readers of The First Call gravitated toward one that may roll into 2024
Question of the week [December 4-10]: What was the best golf story of 2023?
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The best golf story of 2023 was the mammoth 72-foot putt by Nick Taylor to end a decades-long drought of a Canadian never winning the Canadian Open. In a golf crazy market, this putt literally shook the earth and set off a celebration worthy of a Ryder Cup. CBS was there to capture it all, including the second best golf story of the year — Adam Hadwin being destroyed by a security guard as he went to congratulate Nick Taylor. Typical of a Canadian, Hadwin was good natured about it all. No blood, no foul.
It has to be Michael Block.
Hayward , California
Best golf story of 2023? The ball rollback announcement, obviously. The last gasp of golf's governing bodies. When the dust settles, they'll be as relevant to everyday golfers as the International Table Tennis Federation is to basement ping-pong games.
Golf ball rollback for everyone? Just when I’ve come to the point where I need to hit a sprinkler head to hit the ball 200 yards, the governing bodies are going to make it go shorter? What do we seniors do with the thousands of old marked-up balls we have in crates in the garage or the hundreds we carry in our bags?
I say no, no, no. Let’s take it to Congress or, better yet, the Supreme Court. They, like us, are older than dirt and must be fuming over this as well. We seniors are not going to take this lying down. Will it mean that seniors will all break out their ball retrievers and be fighting over that shiny yellow ball in the pond or spend an extra 10 minutes in the bush looking for that errant shot and six-hour rounds become the norm? Help.
At least, that’s the way I see it.
The Villages, Florida
Finally, a professional golf tournament that dares to provide an interesting format — the Grant Thornton Invitational where 16 LPGA and 16 PGA Tour players partner to compete equally for $4 million and help fund a nice collection of charities.
Said with tongue in cheek from a huge fan of the ... Sandbelt Invitational. "The field will be truly mixed — one made up of men and women, young and older, professionals and amateurs. We are grateful for the generosity of four clubs who readily agreed to be a part of an event showcasing four of Melbourne’s world-renowned Sandbelt courses."
The VIC Open — 144 PGA and 90 WPGA players competing for $420,000 each on 13th Beach Golf Links, Barwon Heads, Victoria in Australia.
The Americans' Ryder Cup collapse again after Zach Johnson's dubious picks was the best story of 2023. But, I'd add Rory McIlroy's going postal on the wrong guy after the second day and Shane Lowry's intervention a close second.
Dumping Jay Monahan?
The golf ball rollback is the story of 2023. I do not favor this rule change because the vast majority of golfers are not elite players, therefore, are being penalized because the pros and elite amateurs are overwhelming current golf courses. If the governing bodies of golf want to dial back the distance that professionals can hit the ball, then fine. But the rest of us should not have our distances reduced because the pros can really hit those balls.
The solution that works best of all golfers is to have one set of rules for professional and elite amateurs regarding the golf balls, and permit the rest of us — again, the vast majority of golfers — to continue to use the golf balls as currently manufactured.
There is an easy way to determine when the dialed-back version of golf balls will be in play, and this is by having tournaments declare when the dialed-back balls must be used. Again, the vast majority of golfers do not play professional golf, USGA events or college golf.
Sorry for all the golf purists out there, but bifurcation is the solution to deal with elite golfers and tournaments while also not harming the rest of us that cannot reach 600-yard holes in two shots.
Am I wrong, that 99% of golfers are not the problem? Are most courses really badly affected? Or just the courses used by USGA and PGA Tour for tournaments?
Why not just make those courses harder with narrower fairways, more hazards and smaller greens. And Padraig Harrington's idea to go down to 10-club tournaments is a good idea. The equipment manufacturers might not like it, but they make their money selling to the rest of the 99.99%. They don't make any money selling to the pros and top amateurs, because they give those clubs away for free. They will have to design different gap-iron sets for the tours. Well, after two or three years, the club makers will have totally adjusted their R&D to fit regular sets and fewer irons for the tour players.
Tennis had huge changes since wood, but only the elites can hit that hard. So it does not affect the other 99.99%. Other sports have fewer technology issues, so be it. Nothing is cast on the backside of God's 10 commandments given to Moses way back when. Helmets and masks in hockey are relatively new and helped the game. Tackling rules in the NFL are tighter, to offset all the protective equipment worn that makes a tackler more reckless.
And originally, the U.S. Senate seats were filled by each state's legislature vote, not by general public.
As a lover of fairy tales, the so-fun-to-watch performance of Michael Block at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill had to be the best story of 2023. His "I’m a regular guy" personality — combined with some incredible shots — stole the hearts of golf fans, not to mention stealing a good part of the limelight from the top players in the world. And who among us doesn’t just love seeing an unknown player finish in the top 15 at a major? Can’t wait to see what 2024 brings for this club pro-turned celebrity.
Camillus, New York
What was the best golf story of 2023? Visiting the Augusta National Golf Club for the first time because a reader of The First Call reached out after I responded last January to the question: What do you think will be the biggest golf story of 2023? It would be for Jim Pomeranz to receive two patron badges for the 2023 Augusta National Women's Amateur, I responded, which was included in the long list of answers.
I wasn't being greedy, asking for badges to the Masters. I was willing to make my first visit to see the women amateurs play the golf course and to take in the beauty of the course. Shortly thereafter the editor of The First Call connected me and that reader who offered his two badges he won in the annual lottery and was unable to use.
So, on April 1, my wife Nancy and I walked through the gates and had a delightful stroll of the magnificent course as we watched terrific play by the top women amateurs. It was a golf experience — actually golf and otherwise — like no other. I wrote about it in my weekly online report on Substack.
There are many more golf-centric answers to the question about 2023 but not for me. Unfortunately, my lottery effort this year for 2024's ANWA came up short as did the effort of the kind gentleman who answered my plea last year.
So, now, my answer to the next question: What do you think will be the biggest golf story of 2024? Four never-have-won-a-major winners for all four majors? The increased number of PGA Tour defectors to LIV Golf? Tiger Woods officially retiring from active play and committing to the PGA Tour Champions when he's eligible? And Jim Pomeranz obtaining two patron badges for the 2024 ANWA? My bags are packed and my hotel reservation is secure. Just need two badges.
Cary, North Carolina
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