Big Night, Big Fright, Big Delight
It was the night of nights. A jam-packed Grand Ballroom at Pinehurst’s Carolina Hotel watched and cheered and nodded approval as the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame added three members to its fold.
Two of the members earned their way there through accomplishment on the golf course. One found his way there by hanging onto their coattails and attempting to tell how the victories were accomplished.
Scott Hoch, a winner on both the PGA and Champions Tour, played his way into the hall by battling it out with the tough play-for-pay guys.
Larry Boswell paid his tuition by scrapping it out with the best amateurs in North and South Carolina and winning more than his share of the events.
And then there was I, wondering just what the heck I was doing there and choking big time as it grew close to acceptance speech time.
Me? Giving a speech? OK, reading a speech. As I told the audience, I wrote it. Guess I’ll have to read it.
OK, I’ll get serious here. No matter what the reason for me being elected to a Hall of Fame that has enshrined names such as Peggy Kirk Bell, Arnold Palmer, Julius Boros, Beth Daniel, John Derr, Dan Maples, Raymond Floyd, Chip Beck, Paul Simson, George Thompson, Harvie Ward and Patty Moore, it’s the absolute biggest honor that I could ever hope to achieve.
As I stood on the podium and peered out at the crowd over my reading glasses, I saw an awesome … blur. OK, that blur consisted of a lot of friends, some people I really like and some that I really love. I don’t know who that other guy was.
Those 10 minutes were undoubtedly the longest two hours I’ve ever spent anywhere. I felt like the podium was either growing or I was shrinking. I wasn’t sure the mike was working and I wasn’t real sure I was actually talking.
I guess I was, because when I reached the end of the last page, someone clapped. Made me feel good, even if I didn’t know if they were clapping for what I had said or because I had finally finished saying it.
There were a lot of things racing through my mind as I stood up there. Mainly it was stuff like, “What in the world is an old farm boy from Chadbourn doing in a place like this?”
But you know what? I don’t care how it happened. I’m just thrilled that it did. I just wish that I wasn’t so old that a lot of the people who would have been most proud for me are long gone.
Yeah, ol’ Frazier and Lola Ward would have been pretty excited to see me up there making an idiot of myself. Neither of them even knew what golf was, but that wouldn’t have mattered. They would have given me a hug and said, “Yeah, son, that’s really nice, but don’t you think you ought to get on out there and slop the hogs. It’s getting late.”
It really was a special night, though. My wife, son, daughters and I were all in the same place at the same time for the first time in years.
A lot of friends that I’ve made since becoming the golf writer for The Pilot were there. And to top things off, the Gates Four Gangsome showed up.
Now that was a group. There was Puddin’, C-Dog, Washer, Boss Hawg, Perk, Bubba, Ol’ Hec and Jack the Lipper. Seeing those guys in coats and ties was enough to bring tears to a duffer’s eyes.
In fact, Boss Hawg refused to wear a tie. “There ain’t no rag long enough to tie around this 22-inch neck,” he said.
Think I’m going to argue with Boss Hawg?
Some of the Gangsome guys didn’t show up. I don’t know why. I’ve more than paid the admission for them over the past few weeks.
I showed up for my appointed round of golf at Gates Four on Monday and one of the no-shows apologized to me for not being there.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, “that’s OK. All my friends were there.”
Now that’s a hall of fame line.
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