PNC Father – Son (and Daughter) Challenge

PNC of 2020 Incredible Venue for the Best Nostalgia

At first, I thought I was looking at something in the Bahamas, but it turned out to be the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, Florida. I look forward to each year of the Father-Son Challenge, but this year was a whole new experience.  The PNC, as before, brings back the most memorable professionals of the past generation or two, and includes their male children or grandchildren as playing partners. In one case, a daughter was included, and not just any daughter. Annika Sorenstam joined with her father, which made it all the better.

What struck me this year is the way in which aging golfers adjust themselves to the game. In addition, all the stories surrounding their lives that I have witnessed second hand come rushing back. In some cases, I remember where I was at a certain point in their careers. However, to the first  point, I was particularly surprised. Some of those who played in the PNC of years past are now super-seniors, and among them are Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino.

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The most difficult thing for Nicklaus was walking up to the ball. He has stiffened with age, and I felt badly for him, in part because I identify with the early signs of the same thing. However, what I realized as he addressed the ball is that all that golf is still in there. All that wisdom and experience is safe and secure in the great one’s brain. In terms of golf, he has lost nothing. Only the body is changing, and the men who once charged down the fairway in the latter 20th century have had to adjust themselves to an altered way of playing. Once Jack took back the club, he obviously knew what he was doing, just as he did in 1960. He had rematched his present body to the mission, and it still worked – three feet from the pin.

I have watched Gary Player since I was in high school, when he was almost brand new. Player has also made the adjustment. His once furious swing, one which he could control very well, but which is not advisable for the hacker, is now slow and poetic. He, too, walks a little more bent over than he once did, but signs of age are still difficult to spot in him. Like Nicklaus, when the club goes back, his game is once again beautiful – different, but just as functional as it has ever been. I would love to see this principle passed on to those of us who are aging golfers. We don’t have the extra clobbering power as before, but we can take heart in the words of Tennyson,’s Ulysses – “Tho much is taken, much abides.” We have replaced a lyricism for the absent testosterone. We have changed an angle here and there for a muscle that doesn’t cooperate like it once did, or a torso that may not rotate quite the same way. All that golf that is in us through the years has also remained, just like it did with the PNC seniors.

I didn’t realize that Lee Trevino was in the field, and it was a thrill to suddenly see him. In a rare exception to the aging rule, I honestly thought he demonstrated a better swing than in his youth, although the old one did win him a lot of tournaments. Tom Watson, who has only recently given up on touring competition, looked hale and hearty for one who has just lost a spouse he hailed as his “hero.” John Daly’s son was listed as “Little John Daly.” A few years back, he was charming as a little bruiser, but he’s a big one now, just like one from my generation. The PNC has certainly made sure that we are regularly updated on the evolution of golfers and their stories.

Annika is just…Annika. Adding yet another first to her legend, no one ever has to argue for her supremacy in the LPGA years or in the scope of history. To enjoy a live sighting of someone so missed on the women’s tour was a real pleasure.

For me, the value of the PNC Father – Son, Daughter Challenge is heightened every year. They still compete, team to team, golfer to par, and father and son with each other. Nicklaus still checks to make sure he has out-driven Player, and when Gary gets his licks in, he doesn’t let the Golden Bear forget it.

This event comes down to a heartfelt “Thanks for the memories.” Now, if we could just have Bob Hope.

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