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Illinoisan wins British Open     Send a link to a friend

By Jeff Mayfield

[JULY 20, 2004]  If this summer hasn't been madcap enough for you, try this one on for size. How about a guy from Illinois winning the British Open? And not just any guy, but how about a guy who is 38 years old and has never really threatened to win any big tournament, much less a major (OK, so he won the Honda Classic back in March -- you got me there)? How about a guy who struggled so much that he went to tour school eight years before getting his card? How about a guy who just got his PGA Tour card in December? How about a guy who toiled in obscurity on tours like the Japan Tour (I'm a semipro sportswriter and I figured Japan had a tour, but I wasn't really sure)? How about a guy who was born in Galesburg and grew up in the famous Illinois town of Oquawka (I love the name of that town)? How about a guy who actually played golf with Lincoln's economic development director, Rob Orr (you must have taught him a thing or two, Rob)?

And if all that is not enough for you, how about a guy who looked the top players in the world in the eye and gunned down every last one of them? Tiger Woods… gone. Phil Mickelson… gone. Ernie Els… gone. That's as impressive as it gets, ladies and gentlemen.

Because of the time difference, this was one of those rare tournaments that I actually got to watch some of. I told my son on Saturday morning that cartoons had been postponed until AFTER the Saturday golf was finished (and they were, on ABC).

I almost got the feeling that Todd Hamilton may have won the tournament AFTER his performance in round three. Not that his performance on the Royal Troon was chopped liver, but did you catch his interview? There did not appear to be a nervous bone in this guy's body. He was happy to be there, for sure, but he was confident in his ability and saw no reason that he couldn't win his first major (six other first-time winners in the last seven majors should have been a tip-off to all of us would-be speculators).

He even claimed that a bad shot he hit on 18 wasn't a case of nerves but simply a bad shot poorly played. He didn't hit many of those this past weekend and sure didn't in the playoff.

After narrowly losing the Claret Jug to Els in regulation at the 18th, he made sure not to put himself in that position again. And when he took a one-stroke lead at the third of four playoff holes, he made one of his strongest statements of the week. When he got to the 18th the second time and made one of the most clutch chips under pressure that you will ever see, his final answer had been given. Or was he under pressure?

Rob Orr e-mailed me this morning and said when Hamilton was a kid, he not only dominated his age group, but he beat a bunch of the older kids as well. Maybe the British Open isn't as tough as playing golf in the greater Quad Cities area? I don't know about you, but I am tickled to see a guy from Illinois kissing the jug!

Cubs-Cards duke it out for the last time?

Are you kidding me? The middle of July and the Cubs and Cards are playing their last series of the year… this early? And it is only a two-game set? You have got to be kidding me. And baseball wonders why its ratings are down. I am also not so sure that this will be their last meeting. ?? Something tells me that another series looms in the distance…

At any rate, you have to love the way St. Louis came out of the break whacking the Reds to increase their divisional lead by a full game.

Remember when I told you that St. Louis looked tired to me the last two to three weeks of the first half? Cardinal catcher Mike Matheny was quoted yesterday as saying that the whole team needed a break and some rest (maybe your local sports writer is not as goofy as you previously thought… and then again, maybe he is). He went on to say that the guys who REALLY needed it were the Cardinal All-Stars… and of course, they didn't get it.

Whatever happened, the Cards are now 8-2 against the Reds after going a woeful 7-9 against them last season. A very easy case to make would be that the Reds cost St. Louis the playoffs last year. So beating their brains out for the next few years would be OK, wouldn't it?


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The Cubbies on the other hand, went 2-2 with the Brewers. Coming out of the break I felt like the Cubs would start getting healthier and would eventually be OK. However, if they don't do well in this upcoming St. Louis series, that situation may need to be reassessed. If they can stay close… there is a lot of baseball to play… and anything can happen… Remember 1964 or 1969?

These next two games could be really chippy. Don't you just wish sometimes that you didn't have so many responsibilities so that you could just go on up to Wrigley and camp out in a bleacher seat for a couple of days (oh, you ALLEGE that I did that in college?)? While there were exciting, informative lectures going on… No comment…

As far as the White Sox are concerned… They will never figure out a way to beat Oakland in California (that is because a certain guy we know, who used to frequent the Oakland Coliseum, put a little-known curse on most visiting clubs that is in effect for his lifetime… that's all I can say about it), but somehow they are STILL in first place. IF they could start getting some more help, they may get into the playoffs. I just don't know if they are deep enough to get there and then to go very far once they get in. I think picking up Carl Everett was a pretty decent move, and we will stay tuned in to see how the Sox navigate things while the Big Hurt is on the shelf.

Have you seen what the Atlanta Braves have been doing lately? They are at it again…

Hope Dale Jr. is OK after his wild experience this weekend.

We received no report on how any of our local golfers did in tournament action this week, nor did we receive any reports from Lincoln Speedway. You can check their results at

Lance Armstrong is still in second place at the Tour de France.

We are just a few weeks away from high school and college football. My son and I spotted several local athletes training and working hard in almost ideal summer weather conditions over the last couple of weeks.

Have a great week, everybody!

* * *

This week's column is dedicated to my late friend Mark Long, who was tragically killed in a plane crash. The LDN as well as myself wish to extend our deepest sympathy to Mark's wife, Debbie; to his son, Joshua; and to his family and friends.

Mark was a true Barnabas (I think that name means “encourager”) for central Illinois. I never once saw him that he didn't have a kind word, a hearty handshake and just a deep-seated concern for my well-being. When I was a young, struggling coach, Mark would come to my games and could always manage to see some good in what I was trying to do, even when I couldn't. As I stupidly stepped into the economic development role, Mark was there to affirm that I was the man for the job.

Mark was always thoughtful, courteous and the kind of person that you wish you saw more of. When you describe a good and righteous man like Mark, words cannot even begin to do a person like him justice. All I know is that Mark Long is the kind of person I would like to be if I ever grow up. Godspeed, Mark, my old friend!

[Jeff Mayfield]

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