“A competitor will find a way to win. Competitors take bad breaks and use them to drive themselves that much harder. Quitters take bad breaks and use them as reasons to give up. It's a matter of pride.” — Nancy Lopez, professional golfer

I had the opportunity to go to a practice round during Masters week at Augusta National. It was one of the finest sporting events I had ever attended. The course was absolutely beautiful. The folks working the event were polite and helpful. It is a trip I would recommend to both golfer and non-golfer.

The practice round gave us the chance to see every hole. At an event like this, you can spend some time at the practice facility (where the sound of a golf ball coming off the club of a professional golfer is unlike anything you hear at your local practice facility).

You can see the Butler Cabin and the Eisenhower Cottage. I tried to get inside the Cabin but was politely told that it was “off-limits.” Walking near the clubhouse, lunch was being served outside. There were many “green jackets” walking about. Arnold Palmer was holding court to many. Raymond Floyd was introducing his daughter to Palmer. Tom Watson was talking with a group after playing his morning practice round. It was a “Who's Who” of golfing greats.

But there was one fellow wearing a green jacket talking with patrons and signing autographs. He wasn't mobbed and was standing away from most of the others. It was Billy Casper, the 1970 Masters Champion.

Golf has had “triumvirates” during it's history. In Great Britain, it was Vardon, Ray, and Braid. The post-war American game had champions Hogan, Nelson, and Snead. The 1960s and '70s saw the trio of Nicklaus, Palmer and Player compete. Golf generations can be identified by those great players.

During that time, there were others who competed at the highest level that drove these players to greatness. Casper was one those players who saw success at the highest level but did not receive great recognition for his accomplishments. Casper won 51 PGA tour events, including three majors, two U.S. Opens (1959 and '66) and the Masters.

He won five Vardon Trophies for having the low-stroke average on the tour. He was on eight Ryder Cup teams and holds the U.S. record for the most points in his Ryder Cup matches.

Casper was a good ball striker, but it was in putting that his game stood out. After taking only 114 putts at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Ben Hogan said to Casper, “Son, if you couldn't putt, you'd be selling hot dogs on the 10th tee.” Palmer was more respectful. When asked about Casper, he replied, “Of all the players out here, it's Casper I fear most.”

Casper got his start in the caddy yards of San Diego. He spent one year at Notre Dame University before moving back to the San Diego area to work on his game. He didn't have the distance in his game that many of his fellow professionals displayed. He made up for this with a great short game and the uncanny skill of “course management.”

In 2005, 73-year-old Billy Casper played in his last Masters Tournament. After completing his round, he didn't turn in his scorecard. His score was six strokes north of 100. Instead, he took the card home, framed it and hung it on the wall. His children encouraged him to play as a past Masters Champion. He said, “My kids wanted me to play, and I'm proud to finish.”

Today, players with some success on the tour have their faces on television and in trade magazines. The focus is placed on them during televised tournaments. I'm not sure that Casper had the personality that marketing people would jump at, but he certainly had the success that most pros can only dream of attaining. From the brief observation I had of Casper, he was well-grounded, modest and approachable. He displayed pride in his career. I'm betting many of today’s players could learn a lot from Billy Casper.

CLUB NOTES

North Conway Country Club, 50 Norcross Circle, North Conway, (603) 356-9391: Titleist Demo Day will be held Sunday, Sept. 8, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the NCCC practice facility. Michelle Zaydon from Titleist will have the 2020 clubs available to try. Michele is a professional golf fitter. She will be available to help all players sample the equipment that best fits their games. Pro Days were held last weekend. Taking first gross for the men was JP Hickey. First net was Al Goyette. Ladies' low gross went to Mary Deveau and low net to Barbara Hogan. The final Ledgeview League results, after a three-week playoff, saw the Golfaholics take first place. Second place went to The Insiders and third to Putt Up or Shut Up.

Wentworth Golf Club, Route 16, Jackson, (603) 383-9641: In Ladies' League action last week, Lynne Walker took first place. She was followed by Marykaye Leonard, second; Gloria Hannon, third; and Robin Garside, fourth. In Pro Days action this weekend, the net winners for the women were Beth Ellis, Renee Devereaux and Lynne Walker. The gross winners were Maryann Lowry and Jane Goulart. On the men's side, Del Desmaris, Wally Pimental, Mike Goulart and Keith Houghton were the net winners. The gross winners were Virgil Webb and Ram Harvey.

Hale's Location Golf Course, West Side Road, North Conway, (603) 356-2140: The Pro Shop is now open from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tee times are available by calling the shop at (603) 356-2140 or go to haleslocationgolf.com and click on Book a Tee Time. When booking online payment is for greens fees only. Carts can be added at the course. The Men's League has finished the season with Dave Heffernan taking the top spot. He was followed by Jerry Henry, Bill Earle, Ray Lucchetti and Brian Gilpatrick. Next season, the league is looking to expand the players roster. Nine, Wine, and Dine is offered on Sundays. Call the hotel to make a reservation at (603) 356-7100. There are still a few golf bags, along with Titleist and Cleveland wedges, at great prices.

Eagle Mountain Golf Course, Carter Notch Road, Jackson, (603) 383-9090: Another sign that the fall season is right around the corner: Thursday Eagle League hours are 4:15 p.m. for registration, and tee time begins at 4:25. This is a fun weekly scramble, and all are welcome. This week's results have the team of Roger Aubrey, Lori Babine, Nicki Lynn and Dan Andrews finishing first. There will be a carryover for closest to the pin honors next week, as nobody hit the green.

Lake Kezar Country Club, Route 5, Lovell, Maine, (207) 925-2462: The Lake Kezar CC September promotion has begun. Paying your 2020 membership now allows you to play the remainder of the 2019 season free. Cart rental is not included with the membership. Included in the membership is reciprocity with 8 local golf courses. More details can be obtained by going to lakekezargolf.com. If anyone is interested in working at LKCC next season, check in with Bill Bisset. This weekend, the 28th Fryeburg Rec.Tournament will be played. If you are looking to play LKCC or are a single golfer, the entry fee is $50.

19TH HOLE

Every player has experienced the situation where a ball ends up with an immovable obstruction or abnormal ground condition. The player decides to take relief. The player picks up his ball and goes to the nearest point of relief. He realizes that the relief he is seeking will give him an unplayable or worse lie. The player puts the ball back in its original position. By not taking the relief, the player receives a one-stroke penalty. A good rule to know! Before touching or lifting your ball, know what options you have. Have a great Mud Bowl weekend!

Joe Soraghan may be reached at joesoraghan@yahoo.com.

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