Sweet Lou. To my high school golf team, the name was as familiar as Jordan, Tiger or Gretzky. Well, for Lou, I guess it was more like the Great Bambino in the Babe's later days.
Sweet Lou was a stick, not the skinny kind. I mean he could play. He boasted a scratch handicap as an eighth grader when he played up to the high school varsity team. But Lou had something distinct about him -- something special. People saw Lou, and he was not what they expected a scratch golfer to look like. Lou looked a little bit more like the JV nose guard.
See Lou was a portly fellow, but his swing matched his round frame. He brought it up to the top in a fashion as unorthodox as Furyk's, but somehow it settled into place at contact, promoting the sweetest of baby draws. It was effortless. When sweet Lou hit the bottom of his swing, the planets aligned and poetic motion ensued.
As atypical of an athlete Lou was, jealousy inevitably erupted from compatriots and foes that found a prototypical athlete when they looked in the mirror every morning.
"How can this guy be so much better than I am?"
Fast forward to the 2004 Ford Championship at Doral: Allowing only 31 birdies in the entire four rounds, the 18th hole at the Blue Monster has been the hardest hole on Tour this season.
On the first hole of a playoff, Scott Verplank drives it right. Craig Parry splits the fairway. Verplank is away, pulls off a clutch approach. Parry pures his second from 176 yards out; it bounces on the green and rolls gently in the side door for an eagle-2. The crowd erupts, and the rolie-polie Parry is overcome with excitement. In disbelief, he tosses his 6-iron in the air.
At 5 foot 6 inches, 175 pounds, Parry is not your prototypical athlete. Popeye looks more like he belongs on the PBA than the PGA. He is the antithesis of your Tigers, your Adam Scotts, your Aaron Baddeleys and your Sergios. His six pack surrendered to becoming a cooler long ago.
Yes, as a robust friend of mine would have articulately put it, Parry is a chubster. But my point is not at all to mock Parry nor the rest of the rounder contingency on Tour. I am wholeheartedly applauding the chubster squad, for they possess a raw, pure talent unmatched by any other athlete on the planet. They have come as close to mastering the hardest game on Earth as any other athlete out there, and they have done it by being an athletic anomaly. What other sport begs so much mental toughness as well as such intricate muscle memory and touch? Golf is -- and I know non-golf fans will argue this -- the most difficult game at which one could wish to excel.
And these gentlemen have done it by simply being the shape God made them. Like Sweet Lou, their swings arch around their generous loins in perfect balance. They are not poster-children for Gold's Gym, nor will they ever be. And that is just fine.
I think I remember a larger AWOL David Duval, before he disappeared, shooting a 59 on Sunday to win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He won four tournaments that year and was momentarily ranked No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings, which snapped Tiger's 41-week streak at No. 1. Then he lost weight, and since winning the Buick Challenge in 2000 and the British Open in 2001, has essentially vanished.
In recent years, Colin Montgomerie decided to jump on the fitness train, but once he lost a considerable amount of weight, like Duval, his game decided to leave him. But Monty knows the score. He simply gained the weight back and his game returned from its sojourn.
Eerie? One may think so, but -- to invoke a well-worn cliché -- it is truly a matter of playing the hand you were dealt. Monty knew this, as did the tubby John Daly, when he trudged down the 18th fairway at Crooked Stick in 1991, lassoing his beer-gutted gallery. He then strolled steadily past the skinnier Constantino Rocca in the 1995 British Open after Rocca holed a miraculous 70-footer to earn extra holes. J.D. took the playoff by four strokes. Since battling a myriad of personal problems, Daly has returned to winner's circle in 2004, triumphing at the Buick Invitational, still a chubster at 5 foot 11 inches, 220 pounds.
Tim Herron, at 5 foot 10 inches, 210 pounds, leaves his imprint wherever he goes. This soft-spoken chubster handed Tiger one of his only two defeats in 23 U.S Amateur matches. Tiger was 15-years-old, and rail thin. Lumpy has since won three times on Tour, defeating fellow Minnesotan Tom Lehman in the 1999 Bay Hill Invitational for his most recent.
Craig Stadler, at 5 foot 10 inches and a healthy 240 pounds, is the captain of the chubsters. He shocked the in-shapers with a PGA Tour win at the 2003 B.C. Open. The Walrus' final-round 63 overcame an eight-shot deficit to win, the largest in tournament history. Oh yeah, the win also made him the first Champions Tour member to win a PGA Tour event.
Stadler and all the others should send a message to those in the fitness trailer. Life does not need to be spent on the treadmill or the stationary bike. Nautilus is not all it's cracked up to be. Put down your protein shake and pick up a cold one, anything but Light. Let nature take its course, and when it does, take advantage of it. Golf is not about how you look in a leotard. It is played in the milliseconds before and after contact. Take it from the chubsters.
So, here's to you, Lumpy, J.D., Monty, Popeye, the Walrus and the rest of the PGA Tour chubsters. Along with the population of overweight-but-lovin'-it, brewsky-toting common hackers that peruse the munis every weekend, I salute you. Keep reaching for that bearclaw.
We all love golf course rankings, but there's quite a bias involved, huh? Host a major championship and you're basically guaranteed a spot on the list. What about the average duffer who's more impressed with the beer list than the slope/rating - or prefers friendliness over the fine, imported lotion in the locker room? Where's our list, hackers? Answer: Right here.
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