Immelman Bowing Out – Gracefully

In this, the week leading up to the Open, that major where we see all those qualified players we haven’t seen in a while on a course that is double scary from drought, I found myself casting about for something to say about the game of golf. There is no dearth of things to talk about, but which one? Of course, I tuned in to see if Brooke Henderson would win the day at the Marathon Classic in Ohio. It concerned me that for the second week in a row, she came out just shy of getting into a playoff. It didn’t concern me for Henderson, but for the misinterpretations that fans might make. I’m here with my two cents to say “Don’t worry. She isn’t starting a pattern of any kind. She doesn’t choke, never has, probably never will. She’s been playing a lot of great golf lately to get herself in contention, and somebody else just had one of those days on a couple of them. Nothing to see here, folks. Then I noticed that Laura Davies, at 54 years of age, hoisted the trophy of the inaugural U.S. Women’s Senior Open (about time we had one of those) with a victory of ten strokes over the nearest competitor, Julie Inkster. I enjoyed that, and it took a little sting out of the Marathon Classic. I’ve been a fan of Davies from the start, and with her 85th win, it’s time for Americans to stop screaming “The British are coming.” The British arrived a long time ago. Brava to one of the best. Ah, but what should I choose as a main theme for today? Well, I stumbled on to something simpler and less anxious, something informative and friendly at the Scottish Open – an interview with Trevor Immelman,  who despite a winning background, will spend more time behind the microphone from now on, including at the Open.

In his interview, Immelman, a South African, did his best to explain why at age 38, he doesn’t feel that he can compete anymore, and why it’s all right, and why he’s had such a fulfilling time competing through the years. True, he’s not a long ball hitter, but a long ball can get you into trouble just as easily as it can get you closer to the hole.  Yes, he’s 38, but by many modern standards, that’s the new 28. If you still feel the fire to play, keep playing. Immelman spoke gratefully of the 64 he shot this week at the Scottish Open, and of being in contention late in the rounds. He spoke without ego, explaining that his golf wasn’t really up to the level of modern competition anymore, and it was so rational and sincere that I found myself trying to protest. I can empathize with trying to go out and practice the same schedule and intensity you had  decades ago. I can also understand being tired of doing six to eight hours per day of this and that instead of being around family, or other pursuits that one enjoys. Injuries plagued Immelman at several key points in his career. In 2007, doctors removed a golf ball sized mass from his diaphragm, which was thankfully benign. He has dealt with tendonitis in wrists and elbows That just stops being fun after a while.

Regardless, we must stop and take note here. Trevor Immelman was never a journeyman golfer. Born in 79, he played on the PGA, European, and Sunshine Tours. He won four times in Europe, and twice in a row at the South African Open. He prevailed in other tournaments here and there as well, but here’s the kicker. When Tiger Woods was at the top of his game, which was out of sight, it was Trevor Immelman playing his best game that took the 2008 Masters away from the wunderkind. He was 28 in that year. Once a Masters champion, never a journeyman.

What counted for me in the moment was a refreshing encounter with a courteous, good-hearted player speaking with absolute authenticity. I still say that if you can shoot a 64, you can probably shoot another one. I still want to assert that Immelman can compete. However, since it is his decision, I’ll just say congratulations on the whole run, and best wishes for fulfillment in the broadcasting booth. And, thanks for a good moment. It really elevated my day.

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