Brings major know-how to 2017 Shaw Charity Classic
If this turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a young and apparently wise-beyond-his-years Mark O’Meara wasn’t going to let a bunch of bogeys spoil the experience.
“I played in the Masters in 1980 as the U.S. Amateur champion. I was paired with Fuzzy Zoeller, who had won the Masters in 1979, and that was my very first major championship,” said a reminiscing O’Meara, who has booked a ticket to Calgary later this month to once again tee it up in the Shaw Charity Classic at Canyon Meadows.
“I didn’t play very well. I struggled. I think I shot 81-80 or something like that. Even though I was the U.S. Amateur champion at the time, I wasn’t that good, to be honest with you, compared to these kids today. I remember driving down Magnolia Lane on Friday when I was leaving the Masters, it was just my dad and I in the car, and he looked over and he goes, ‘Are you OK, Mark?’ I said, ‘Yeah, what’s wrong dad?’ He said, ‘Oh, I know you’re disappointed that you didn’t have the best week.’
“And I said, ‘Dad, a couple of things No. 1, I’m an amateur. I’m not that good. And No. 2, no matter what happens in my life, whether I make it as a professional golfer or I don’t, at least I got to play in the Masters one time.’
“And then 18 years later, at 41 years of age, there I stood on the 18th green in the final group with a putt to try to win the Masters, and somehow it went in. Next thing you know, I got the Green Jacket. Pretty cool.” Pretty cool, indeed. There has been a lot of chatter this week about the fact that Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are sharing a special milestone — both logging their 100th major appearance at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
Only a dozen others have achieved that feat.
O’Meara, who also triumphed at the 1998 British Open and is now a mainstay on the PGA Tour Champions circuit and deservingly enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame, is among them.
Also on that list? Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd, Sam Snead, Ben Crenshaw, Gene Sarazen, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer and Nick Faldo. Impressive company. “And it’s just as special today as it was when I played my very first major championship,” said the 60-year-old O’Meara, who played the Masters and British Open again this year but missed the cut in both.
Shaw Charity Classic organizers continued to bolster their field Friday with eight more additions for the Sept. 1-3 showdown, a list that is headlined by O’Meara and fellow major winners Craig Stadler (1982 Masters), Bob Tway (1986 PGA Championship) and Jeff Sluman (1988 PGA Championship).
Billy Andrade, Woody Austin, Jay Haas and Billy Mayfair have also confirmed their attendance for the fifth-anniversary instalment of the senior shootout at Canyon Meadows.
They join a star-studded cast that already included Faldo, Fred Couples, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Vijay Singh.
Dating back to that initial drive down Magnolia Lane in 1980, O’Meara has totalled 102 starts in the PGA Tour’s four majors, highlighted by his victories at both Augusta National and Royal Birkdale in 1998.
“That was just a dream year. That was kind of the icing on the cake for me in my career,” said O’Meara, whose stellar resume includes 16 trophy presentations on the PGA Tour and a Player of the Year nod in 1998.
“No matter what happened after that, I’d gone way above what I ever thought I was going to achieve as a professional golfer.”
What’s amazing is that nearly two decades after that self-described ‘dream year,’ he’s still working his dream job.
“I’ve played 37 years as a professional golfer now and at 60 years of age, there is no other sport that really enables you to have that opportunity,” O’Meara said. “You have to look at the longevity of someone who plays the game of golf and has their ups and downs and has their moments of great triumph and a lot of defeats. I mean, you lose a lot in the game of golf, unfortunately. But that’s what makes it so special — the fact that you can keep trying, keep trying to get better, no matter what age you are.
“That’s something that I know I feel fortunate about. I look at my career, as a young guy starting out back in 1980 with my Volkswagen Rabbit and pretty much no money. And here we are in 2017 and I’m still trying to figure out how to get better, how to play better. That’s what is so cool about golf.” @WesGilbertson