The title of the book pretty
much says it all.Nothing enhances an
experience like knowing the history behind it, and this book is primer on one
of the most important events in modern golf history, the ’50 Open at Merion.
I read it when it first came
out a couple of years ago, but I was in a hurry, trying to prepare for a Q&A with the author, David Barrett.Now, as
I prepare for to the Open, I’m
re-reading Miracle at Merion much
more slowly, plumbing it for details.
If you want an appreciation
of golf history made in Philadelphia, this is not a bad place to start.
news for friends and fans of Jim Finegan is that he
is out of Bryn Mawr Hospital and in Devon Manor, a
rehab center, where he could be for a couple of weeks.
Finegan, 83, the golf historian and
author, broke his hip and two bones in his leg when he slipped on the stairs in
his Villanova home on Jan. 30.
been through so much, but he was fine this morning," Harriett, Finegan’s his wife of 60 years, told me Saturday
night.His pain is largely gone,
now that doctors have adjusted his medication, she said; his spirits are also better.
talking like a maniac this morning," said Mrs. Finegan.
Finegan is already asking when he
can go home, but signs are he’ll be at Devon Manor for a couple of weeks, maybe
more, said his wife."We’ll see how
it goes," said Mrs. Finegan.
historian and author, has been in Bryn
Mawr Hospital since Wednesday, after a fall on the stairs in his Villanova
with his arms full of ice cream and Diet Coke per his usual routine as he
headed off to bed at 1 a.m., fell only one step, but it was enough to break his
hip, his femur and a third bone in his leg. He underwent surgery to repair the
breaks on Thursday.
"Saturday was terrible but the
past two days have been very good," said Harriet
Finegan, his bride of 60 years, who heard the commotion when he fell and
No word on how long Finegan will be in the hospital.As of this afternoon, Mrs. Finegan said he was not yet up to
having visitors or taking phone calls.
Also no word on whether this
will bring down the curtain on Finegan’s
golfing life.No one is more avid
and, in his day, Finegan was quite
the amateur player, winning multiple club championships at Philadelphia Country Club.
was already used to enduring chronic pain, suffering from a bad back for more
than 15 years.
With the U.S Open at Merion GC only five months away, our vast staff here at MyPhillyGolf(me) is looking for ways to start
teasing the big event.
So I called my pal Jeff Silverman, who for the past couple
of years has been working on a new history of the great championships at Merion’s fabled East Course over the past 100 years.The book is due out in the months after
research has made him one of the foremost experts on Merion.He dug up
details nobody else knew about, he discovered a myth or two and he spent hours
on the phone interviewing big names and anyone who could help tell the story of
All this stuff is rattling
around in Jeff’s head, which is why
I asked him to sit down and chat – in front of my video camera.We spoke for an hour in his home office,
and I am in the process of cutting the video into 10 or 12 bite-sized morsels.
The first one, which I
posted this week on the MyPhillyGolfYoutube
page, runs the longest, just over six minutes.I’ll post the others in the coming
weeks, as I edit them.
Last night, for no
particular reason, my mind began to wander back to early August and the days
after I had returned home to recover from hip replacement surgery. Ugh.
Even with all the narcotic
painkillers, I was dopey and uncomfortable, unable to think straight.It took me 10 minutes to get up and down
the stairs, and once I got to the top or the bottom, I needed a walker get
across the room.
I was constantly worried
about falling, which would have been disastrous, potentially ripping out all
the metal staples that sutured my hip.Taking a shower was an
ordeal.Talking a walk outside was
out of the question.I was
homebound, limited to spending my days moving (slowly) from a dining room chair
to the couch.I felt like crap and
looked like crap.
Two or three times a week, a
nurse came to my house to draw blood and a rehab lady would check on me,
too.They were kind enough not to
comment on how exactly disheveled I looked.
One day, as I waited for the
nurse to arrive to draw blood, I turned on the TV and began flipping around the
channels.Wouldn’t you know, I
stumbled across an encore presentation of an episode of Inside Golf on Comcast SportsNet, where I am a frequent member of the guest panel on
the show’s weekly segment called "Teed Off."
In a bit of remarkable
timing, just as that week’s Teed Off segment began, my doorbell rang.It was the nurse.I hobbled to the front door, then
ushered her into the den.In an
even more unlikely bit of timing, as the nurse and I stood there, whose mug
should fill the big-screen, high-def TV but my very
"Look, I’m on TV," I said to
She looked at the TV, then
at a me.The me on TV was smiling
and neatly turned out, happily gabbing about golf. (The show had been taped a
few weeks earlier, after all.)The
me standing in front of her was pathetic, whimpering mess, unshaven, hair
sticking in her every direction, in cruddy gym shorts and a tee shirt.
"Hmmm," said the nurse,
which I took to mean, "Seriously, that’s the same person?"She looked skeptical and, frankly, maybe
a little creeped out.
"Should I know you?" she
"Do you play golf?" I
asked.She didn’t."Then no," I said.
Without another word, and
with my image still flickering on the TV screen, we both assumed our usual
positions for the bloodletting.
hear so much about the woes of golf – rounds are flat, many courses and
clubs are fighting for their lives – that it’s easy to forget that our
game has fared better than most.Many
recreational sports and activities are hurting worse.Tennis, camping, hiking, canoeing,
biking – they’ve all got their own battles.
is a big story in today’s (1/20/13) Travel Section of the New York Times that
says snowboarding is in steep decline.Just a few years ago, snowboarding was hip and growing, seemingly
destined to overtake skiing.It
hasn’t happened.The momentum has
shifted, reversed even.Skiing is
back; snowboarding is looking more and more like a fad that could fizzle.
put," says the Times story, "it’s cool to be on two planks again."
while facing its share of troubles, has been around for 400 years and is no
passing fad.Golf has a
history, tradition, devoted following and, dare I say, future that is the envy
of just about every sporting endeavor there is, with the possible exception of
the NFL.Of course, it remains to
be seen whether the NFL will be around in 400 years, especially now that we
know that brain damage is on the table when it comes to football.The only brain damage golf has ever
caused is from humiliation, self-loathing and torment.
golf as an industry always has and always will ebb and flow, golf as a game and
best possible way to spend four hours outdoors will enjoy an audience for another
One of the problems with golf is that it takes more than 4 hours to play on a weekend overcrowded public course. Add in travel time to and from and itís a burden on families with young children who are playing soccer, baseball, etc. Factor in the difficulty of the game and itís easy to see why the game is losing ground among young marrieds.
This has nothing to do with
golf, but when I saw today that the original "Dear Abby," Pauline
Phillips, had died at the age of 94, I had to smile.Not because she died, but because I
couldn’t help but think back to our time together.
Long, long ago, in a faraway
galaxy – specifically, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, circa 1980-- before I took to writing about golf
to put Cheerios on the table, I wrote about TV and movie stars and famous
writers and celebrities of all sorts.I interviewed hundreds of them.
I’d come up with three or
four story ideas, pitch them to my editors, then hop a flight to Hollywood or
New York for a few days of leg work and interviews.On one of those trips to Los Angeles, I
did a profile of "Dear Abby," then very much at the top of her game.Syndicated in more than 1,000
newspapers, with millions of devoted readers, Abby was quite influential and
served as a sort of moral compass for the nation, in some ways.
We had corresponded in
letters – yes, it was so long ago people wrote letters – but I had
never met her or spoken to her when she came to pick me up at my hotel, the
Century Plaza in Beverly Hills.At
the appointed hour, I stood outside the hotel, watching as Mercedes, Bentleys
and limos rolled up to the front door, picking up and dropping off.
Eventually, a long, black
limo stopped in front of me and the back window went down. "Joe?" said a female
voice from inside the car."Are you
"Yes," I said, lowering my
head to look into the backseat.
There, in the dim glow of
the backseat, swathed in a luxurious mink coat, sat the tiniest little woman I
had ever seen."Dear Abby"
couldn’t have been 5-feet tall standing on an apple crate.Her lips were bright red, her dark hair
coiffed to perfection.She was
definitely dolled up for our "date."
I climbed into the backseat,
and off we went to some very small, very swanky French restaurant in Beverly
Hills.It was an evening I will
For one thing, Dear Abby
wouldn’t let me use a tape recorder.The reason, I was left to conclude, was because she had a slight speech
impediment, a sort of lisp, that she was sensitive about.No tape recorder meant that all dinner
long, I would have to scribble notes as fast and furiously as I could.
The other thing is, like
many celebrities, Dear Abby was demur and didn’t want to talk too much about
herself – until you got her going.Which I did.Then she talked
and talked and talked – about her early life growing up in the Midwest,
about her life as a rich, powerful columnist married to a millionaire
businessman and, of course, about her millions of readers.
At one point, I had written
so many notes in my notebook, Dear Abby took pity on me and stopped talking so
I could catch my breath.She took
my cramped hand and massaged it until I was ready for Round 2.
After dinner, we hopped back
into the limo for the drive over to her home, which was not on the poor side of
town.She showed me her office,
where she, not some assistant, actually tapped out responses to readers on an
IBM Selectric typewriter.I remember wondering how a woman who
lived a life of such privilege, and who was so far removed from the troubles
and concerns of ordinary folks, could possibly dispense such sound advice.But more often than not, Dear Abby did
just that, offering 40 years of smart, sensible, sensitive replies.
Somewhere, in a box in my
basement, I still have a handful of letters from Dear Abby.I might go try to find them now.