Amateur Golfer Lives His Dream At The Masters

The Masters is underway today, and generally the tournament is regarded as the toughest to even get invited to because of a list of stringent requirements and only 96 open spots (some of which are taken up by old-timers like Gary Player and Ray Floyd). But the Masters does extend an invitation to the winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship every year, which is a tournament for amateurs who are over the age of 25 (in other words, true amateurs rather than youngsters who haven’t turned pro yet).

Steve Wilson

This year’s qualifier is a 39-year-old guy named Steve Wilson, who basically gave up on golf a bunch of times (and came back just as many times) before catching lightning in a bottle at the Mid-Am. In fact, some members of his family didn’t even know he was playing in the tournament last fall. He had regained amateur status after a middling 10-year stint on the Nationwide Tour and was only playing a couple of amateur tournaments every year in Mississippi. Today, he played Augusta with Tom Watson.

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Speed Read: Phillies Fans Boo Ring Ceremony?!

Congratulations, Philadelphia sports fans, you’ve done it again. Nothing on the lines of booing Santa Claus or cheering Michael Irvin’s career-ending neck injury, but booing during the team’s World Series ring celebration? That’s pretty impressive. As the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS reports, the recipient of Phillies’ fans hatred was former starting pitcher Adam Eaton, as you can see in this video clip (you’ll hear the “You Suck” starting raining down at around 2:45):

Let’s face it: Eaton was hardly a key contributor to the Phillies’ World Series run. He went 4-8 last season with a 5,80 ERA,  and was left off of the postseason roster before being cut this spring. And yes, the Phillies are still on the hook for his contract to the tune of $9 million this season, so you can understand why he’s hardly the favorite son of Phillies fans.

Adam Eaton gets his World Series ring

But booing someone at the ring ceremony? Isn’t that supposed to be just about the most positive thing that can happen at a sporting event - the recognition of an amazing team accomplishment regardless of what any individual did. Pat Burrell, now with the Rays, flew in for the ceremony and received a hero’s welcome. As BIG LEAGUE STEW notes, even So Taguchi got a World Series ring.

Plus, the guy showed a sense of humor about the whole thing, acting like he was Neil Armstrong getting a ticker tape parade down Broadway. Personally, I would have been waving to the crowd, but just with one, middle finger. I guess $9 million for doing nothing and a shiny World Series ring can bring a guy a lot of inner peace.

Meanwhile, there’s a battle starting today for a prize even more tacky than a World Series ring but just as coveted: the green jacket awarded to the winner of The Masters. There’s no guarantee of who will be having the green jacket placed on them by defending champion Trevor Immelman on Sunday (unless Immelman repeats…now, excuse me while I find a rag to clean up the Orange Crush I spit out of my mouth from laughing while typing that),  there is one thing for sure: everyone hates the new course design.

GOLF.COM has a lengthy preview featuring golf writers and anonymous pros, and everyone takes a shot at the new course design, saying that it’s “not Tiger-proofed, it’s excitement-proofed” and that they’ve “sucked the life out of the tournament.” The par-5s are too long to reach in two for anyone, meaning it’s an exciting battle of wedges and midrange putting.

Gary Player

The three names at the top of the list as winners are: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington. One name not on the list of contenders is Gary Player, but there will some attention on him for the first two days: at 73, he’s playing in his 52nd and final Masters tournament. There will be some tears shed when he finishes his round on Friday, but there likely won’t be an emotional outpouring by the fans/patrons like we’ve seen in the past for Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer.

And that’s too bad: Player has been a remarkable ambassador for the sport, whose fame in the US was damaged by being South African at a time when that was considered shameful, and not being quite as good as Jack or Arnie (or even as charismatic as Lee Trevino). But he won nine majors in his career, including three Masters, and did more than any other player in the 1960s and 1970s to make golf an international game.

Plus, he’s been a remarkable philanthropist, rising more than $30 million for his Player Foundation building school in South Africa. So let’s all give a polite golf clap to the Black Knight as he gets ready to head off into the sunset.

Finally, CAGEWRITER says that among the hopeful contestants at the open tryouts for Season 10 of Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter” were several former NFL players. Among those trying to get into the house this season were former Bucs first round draft pick Marcus Jones, former Colts lineman Rex Richards and former Packers running back/returner Herbert Goodman. This season is focusing on heavyweights, so sadly Johnnie Morton couldn’t use this as a way to spark an MMA comeback.

  • Usually athlete blogs are about as exciting as reading hog futures, but the one by Chantelle Anderson of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream is pretty interesting (arguably more so than WNBA games). Her latest post details her internal debate on whether to post a bathing suit photo on her Web site, and the relationship of sports and sex appeal. Personally, I’d vote “yes” on seeing more skin from her:
  • Chantelle Anderson

  • It might take Randy Johnson quite some time to get to 300 wins if he keeps giving up three-run bombs to pitchers, like the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS say he did to Yovani Gallardo, as the Big Unit’s Giants debut was a 4-2 loss to the Brewers.
  • In possibly the least-shocking off-season NFL news this year, a Cincinnati Bengal was arrested Sunday morning. The CINCINNATI ENQUIRER says that Leon Hall, who led the team in interceptions last season, has been charged with a DUI after hitting a 0.15 BA level. Bonus points: he tried to convince the officer that he needed to get home because his wife was having a baby.
  • The TREASURE COAST PALM say police in Port St. Lucie, FL, are looking for a man who ran naked across the outfield at a youth baseball game before hopping the fence and getting into a waiting car. Man claiming to be umpire at game says suspect got “hung up” on fence. Ouch!
  • An interesting item from the ASU WEB DEVIL, a student publication of Arizona State: a Sun Devil football player had his wallet stolen from his locker at Sun Devil Stadium, losing around $270. (The story is halfway down.) Not only do I want to know what a student-athlete is doing with almost $300 in walking around money, but now we know why James Harden is leaving ASU for the NBA Draft (that, and millions of dollars).
  • Also declaring for the NBA Draft last night: USC freshman DeMar DeRozan, Pittsburgh center DeJuan Blair and Arizona’s mercurial Jordan Hill.
  • Dustin Pedroia probably shouldn’t expect to be getting the keys to his hometown any time soon, after the SACRAMENTO BEE says he dissed Woodland, CA in a magazine interview, saying it’s “a dump. You can quote me on that. I don’t give a …” I’m sure this has nothing to do with the fact that his brother was arrested on child molestation charges there in January.
  • Only in Australia: NINE NEWS says that the entire North Melbourne Kangaroos Aussie Rules Football team had to appear at a press conference to apologize for a video they made showing a condom-wearing rubber chicken having sex with a chicken carcass. And yes, of course we have the video (caution, NSFW due to graphic song lyrics and simulated rubber chicken on chicken sex):

  • In European soccer news, Chelsea ripped Liverpool 3-1 in their Champions League quarterfinal, which THE TIMES OF LONDON says makes them an overwhelming favorite to get to the semifinals again. If so, they’ll likely play Barcelona, who thumped Bayern Munich 4-0.
  • THE SPORTING BLOG wants you to know that you should never criticize the Hillsdale College baseball team, even if they’ve lost nine of their last ten games. Lest you wind up with a mound of dead animal carcasses on your front door, the fate that befell an unwitting writer at the college newspaper.

Who would you take with the first pick in the 2009 NBA Draft?

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