by Jeff Skinner
This past golf season was filled with many great and interesting stories. The four majors all had interesting finishes and deserving winners and many players and tournaments had memorable years. While I am always thrilled to see excellent play on the course it is the personalities and stories behind the leader board that interest me. Tiger Woods was voted as Player of the Year by his contemporaries but I have a few more golfers that are deserving of the own special Player of the Year Award.
Eric Compton could have won the award for “Heart of the Year.” Compton played this season on sponsor’s exemptions only nine months after having his second heart transplant operation. Compton played alongside the worlds’ best only wanting to fit in and be a regular guy. He is back at Q-School this week trying to earn his card. He is a truly inspiring story.
Kenny Perry had a great year by anyone’s standards. He had two wins, eight top tens and won well over four million dollars. He’ll be remembered for that one second place finish he had at The Masters. Perry had the Masters won: a two stroke lead with two holes to play. Then his world fell apart and he lost in a playoff but it was then the world got to see the true meaning of character and humility. Perry handled his defeat with such class, honesty and dignity he stole the spotlight from the winner.
In a year that nearly killed the LPGA, it had a bright spot at The Solheim Cup. The US women played outstanding golf and were led by a most unlikely golfer. Michelle Wie played inspired golf and led her team to victory. Even more, she broke out of her protective cocoon and became a force to be reckoned with in women’s golf. She played free, unencumbered golf and finally broke through for her first win.
Phil Mickelson had a memorable year. Unfortunately there is much about 2009 that Phil would rather forget. After a great start with two wins early and a close call at The Masters, Phil’s world was turned upside down when they diagnosed Amy Mickelson with breast cancer. Phil placed golf on hold and spent most of the summer with his family. Another blow came when his mom got the same diagnosis as Amy. Phil was able to be there for both of them and turned the tour into one big fundraiser for cancer research. When he was able to come back he finished the year with a win at The Presidents Cup and two individual wins. The season was an emotional rollercoaster highlighted by Phil’s near miss at The US Open where the crowd almost willed a win to their favorite golfer.
The British Open was one tournament that not only mesmerized the golf and sports world, it captivated the entire world as Tom Watson turned the clock back to 1977. At Turnberry Watson played the kind of golf that won him five Open Championships and he led as he approached the final green. All week Watson spoke of the spirituality of Turnberry and the Open. He was a fifty nine year old showing the thirty somethings and the youngsters how a links golf wizard gets things done. Then father time caught up with him and the magical ride ended with a missed putt and a playoff loss. The week Watson gave golf was magical, emotional and enchanting. It was the best week of the year in golf.