By Bob Arnett
TERRE HAUTE — Through the years the world of golf often has had a pair of outstanding players who could precipitate arguments as to who was the better player.
Way back when, we could have compared the abilities of Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Although Jones was an amateur, he went on a barnstorming tour with The Haig. Sir Walter usually beat Bobby handily according to most accounts, but in all fairness Jones’ competitive days had passed.
Fast forward to the 1940s and 50s. It was Ben Hogan vs. Sam Snead for the No. 1 in the world golf arena.
Although many gave the nod to Hogan, it was true that Bantam Ben never beat Slamming Sam in head to head competition, but then Sam had a glaring omission on his record. He never won the U.S. Open.
By the mid 1950s, Arnold Palmer had burst upon the scene. With his swashbuckling style and charisma to burn, not to mention an army behind him, he was definitely “ the man”, but another star was waiting in the wings, and it became apparent that he wasn’t going to wait too long before he was going to make his presence felt.
It was, of course, Jack Nicklaus who would come on the scene and challenge Arnie, and Jack was not welcomed. Arnie’s fans resented anyone who would dare to dethrone a man who had been and perhaps still is, golf’s most popular player. Jack had to endure shouts of “Fat Jack,” and applause when he missed a putt. To his credit he took all the abuse that was directed at him, and he was satisfied to let his clubs do the talking.
After he took off some unwanted pounds, let his hair grow and re-invented himself as the Golden Bear, most fans then decided he wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
A bear Nicklaus was, during his prime. Not to say there weren’t outstanding players around during Jack’s days as the game’ s most dominant, but his burning tee shots and his deadly putting usually kept him well in front of the pack. If there was a player on the PGA Tour who showed enough moxie to deprive Nicklaus of additional wins, it was Lee Trevino. The Merry Mex, himself, was an outstanding competitor.
Later, with center stage open, it didn’t take Tiger Woods long to fist pump his way to the world’s No. 1 ranking. Those who felt that Nicklaus had been the best putter ever to roll the little white ball so consistently into the cup have had to rethink their contentions. It is obvious that Tiger has had no peers since he has taken over the world’ s No. 1 ranking, and it seems that no one ever putted better than Eldrick Woods.
There have been pretenders to his throne of course. The media thought perhaps Sergio Garcia could be a challenger, but he, as well as others such as David Duval, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have all fallen by the wayside as Tiger continues to “rule the roost.”
Looking into my admittedly, foggy, crystal ball, there may be one player with the physical and mental tools to unseat Tiger. He’s 22-year-old Anthony Kim who recently ran away with the Wachovia Championship. His five-shot win over Ben Curtis was punctuated with a 16-under-par total that was three shots better than Tiger’s winning total in the same tourney in 2007. Kim definitely has all the tools, but he may require a little more seasoning before he “breaks out.”
In the meantime, I won’t be putting much money on players who will be challenging Woods. I have a sneaking suspicion his winning days are far from over, that is, of course, if he stays healthy.
Dick Nicoson hasn’t been acting his age. He recently shot a 74 at Lost Creek Golf Course that included nine-hole rounds of 36 and 38. Not bad for an 81-year-old when you consider he defeated his age by seven strokes.
Dick’s son, Randy, is a solid player as well. For the past several years he has worked on the grounds crew at Hulman Links.
Randy’s son, Zach, was an outstanding player for Terre Haute North before he entered Rose Hulman, where he graduated five years ago. Zach spent two seasons as a member of the Rose golf team. No doubt that three generations of the Nicosons have made their respective marks on Terre Haute’s golfing history.
More names of the exclusive club of Pickers and Choosers have been selected. They include: Whalen, Penman, Bach, James, Amies, Olah, Shouse, Kruzan, Bocard, Reynolds, Rohr, and Nevins with more to follow.
But hold everything! A serious charge has been lodged against one member of PCAI. That stands for Pickers and Choosers of America, Inc. More concerning this tragic situation next time.
The following are upcoming scheduled events for Rea Park and Hulman Links:
June 14-15 — Ladies Ringer; June 19 — Junior Classic; June 21 — Men’ s Senior Baseball Outing; June 22 — Marine Corps Outing; June 26 — Junior Scramble; June 27 — FSA Outing.
June 6 — Student Life Outing (p.m.); June 7 — State Am Qualifier (a.m.); June 8 — His and Hers, TBA; June 9 — Aerate Greens (closed); June 13-14 — Teamsters’ Outing 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.; June 19 — State Laborers 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.; June 21-22 — Club Championship, 8 a.m.; June 26 — Mayor’ s Outing TBA; June 27 — Kirby Risk 12:30 P.M.; June 28 — Time-Warner Cable 2 Man (a.m.); June 29 Match Play Championships (a.m.).
• Tip of the week — Many golfers do themselves an injustice by not arriving as the course in time to warm up properly.
You should start with a few short irons followed by several middle irons. After a handful of hybrid or rescue clubs, a dozen drives would be in order.
At least 10 or 15 minutes is warranted on the putting green with most of that time spent stroking putts of three to six feet.
A good warm up regimen can save some strokes on those opening holes. You want to be ready to put your best swing on that first tee shot.
We all know that in golf, each day is different. A past master such as Cary Middlecoff always proclaimed he went to the practice tee before a round to see what his tendency might be that day, and then to adjust his strategy accordingly. Cary did very well with his philosophy.
Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ ll be back.
Bob Arnett can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at the Tribune-Star, P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808.