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I covered my fi rst major championship in 1977 when the PGA Championship was held at famed but drought-ravaged Pebble Beach Golf Links. Swashbuckler Lanny Wadkins was a worthy winner, outlasting silky-smooth Gene “The Machine” Littler in a playoff.


Gilroy Dispatch and the PGA Championship was a big deal. Granted, it was a home game at my favorite course, but it also signaled the beginning of an exciting career following the best players in golf around the world. Thirty-four years later,


A


I’m still writing about the game and the passion


t the time, I was sports editor of the


As a golf writer I have


been privileged to walk inside the gallery ropes at many of the greatest courses, with the exception of Augusta National Golf Club, where scribes must stroll with the spectators but do have special viewing ar- eas. I have walked, slogged and slipped my way through some horrendous condi- tions, notably at rain-soaked Muirfi eld Golf Club in the 2002 British Open; Whis-


history, including Jack Nicklaus’ stunning Masters victory in 1986, and all 14 major titles won by Tiger Woods, notably his record- breaking 15-stroke triumph at Pebble Beach in 2000. For raw emotion, the


Golden Bear’s win—my fi rst trip to Augusta National— will always stand out. Ad- mittedly, I had tears in my eyes when the 46-year-old Nicklaus reached the 18th green on Sunday with son Jackie on the bag. Afterward, when Jack walked into the interview room, he was applauded by the writers, still a fi rst.


That week was also spe-


cial because Gilroy resident George Archer, the 1969 Masters champ, invited me to lunch in the Champions


The tale of covering golf’s FOUR major championships BY MARK SOLTAU


Inside the Ropes


The Masters U.S. Open


Championship


British Open PGA


• • •


remains. I’m now at 70 major championships and counting: 19 Masters, 24 U.S. Opens, 11 British Opens and 16 PGA Championships. That represents thou-


sands of frequent fl yer miles, hotel points and writing deadlines; hundreds of fast food restaurants, rental cars and shuttle bus rides; doz- ens of lost suitcases—usual- ly from Heathrow Airport; and at least 10 computer meltdowns. However, one rule persists: readers don’t care about your problems.


34 / NCGA.ORG / SUMMER 2011


tling Straits in the 2004 PGA Championship, where fescue grass and moguls were so treacherous tourna- ment offi cials declined to disclose how many broken ankles were sustained; and Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York during the 2009 U.S. Open, where it rained so much, hundreds of shoes got stuck and left in the mud. Every tournament has


created a lasting memory— most good, some bad —and the knowledge that I had a front row seat to watch


Locker Room. To top it off, Sam Snead joined us. As you can imagine, I was all ears.


If I had a dollar for


every person who has asked me to name my favorite major, I could retire. Each tournament and site is unique, so here are some personal refl ections. The Masters—


contested every April and the only permanent major venue site—is considered the start to the golf season and has the smallest fi eld. It’s an invitation-only event


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