When we were (baseball) kings

It’s been fun for me to peruse the Norfolk newspaper – that sadly isn’t located in Norfolk anymore as you might know – this week. Burdened with next-to no live sports to report on, the section for the last little while has turned to its archives for stories to run under a “Our Greatest Hits” banner. A few pieces I did years ago, quite a few years actually, have been pulled from the cobwebs this week, timed with the June 10 major league baseball draft.

I don’t look back a great deal, but reading the stories again was a cool reminder of what a ridiculously fertile baseball breeding ground I was fortunate to write about, particularly in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, where year-round travel ball clubs first took root — to huge effect — in Tidewater.

The stories I’ve linked to below chronicle a staggering blip in time when first-round draft picks seemed to grow on trees on the so-called Southside, and even national reporters showed up to try to figure out what the heck was going on.

  • Ryan Zimmerman, (also linked above) picked No. 4 just a few minutes after Justin Upton 15 years ago. Think about that.
  • In between them, in 2001, another first-rounder cropped up out of Chesapeake’s Hickory High. Fellow named David Wright. (No link – but man, what a great player and charming guy.)


All of the above went on to log long big-league careers – Justin Upton and Zimmerman are still going, assuming baseball gets off its road to implosion — except for Curtice, a pitcher who barely got off the ground in pro ball because of arm trouble. The paper also re-ran his “whatever happened to” story from 2013 here.

Tidewater remains a strong baseball area, but for nearly a decade, a couple of decades ago, it was as hot as any California, Florida or Texas hotbed. 

Truly amazing times. Enjoy the memories.

A Stern moment in time

It was easy to start recollecting when the news came Wednesday of David Stern’s death following a recent brain hemorrhage. Commissioner of the NBA for 30 years, Stern in 1984 took over a flagging league whose playoff games were broadcast on tape delay, for goodness sake — you can hardly even comprehend that scenario — and turned it into an international obsession.

He was a clearly a great commissioner, and as I heard one commentator say Wednesday, his demeanor and governing philosophy was such that he was probably the most approachable sports commissioner ever.

He was a powerful star, but you could actually talk to him — and don’t fall over, but you could actually joke with him, all casual-like.

I discovered this in my only dealing with him, some 20 or more years ago, when then-Norfolk mayor Paul Fraim was courting an NBA expansion team. As a local sports scribe, I attended a presser where Stern — I believe in New York — was commenting on NBA expansion and other hoops issues.

I wish I had clearer recall of the time and place. What I definitely remember is cornering Stern after the official news conference for a brief chat. That is, Stern made himself available for anyone afterward to answer questions in an informal setting, which seems pretty remarkable today.

So after standing by till he was through with others, I cautiously approached and introduced myself as being from Norfolk. He replied with a smile and a quick joke referencing Norfolk’s aborted ABA experience in the ’70s, which immediately let me know he very much knew Norfolk — and that he very much knew Norfolk had no shot in the world to get an NBA team.

The larger point, though, is we continued to talk a couple more minutes, and he seemed fine with it. That gave me enough comfort and confidence that I eventually leaned in and, oddly emboldened, gently poked the lapel of his jacket with my index finger while asking a question.

What the … ?

Security should have swept in, ear-pieces blazing, wrestled me to the ground and turfed me out, a la the bruising ouster of Jimmy Stewart and Clarence from Nick’s in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Believe me, I would have less-than zero shot at poking current NBA commissioner Adam Silver in the lapel, nor would I think to even attempt it. But Stern showed no consternation over my impromptu nonchalance, made his last comment, and I was on my way.

It’s a cool memory and a true fact regarding Stern’s overall persona. No doubt he was as tough and unyielding as you can get in business, which is why the modern NBA is what it is. But yep, he was poke-the-lapel approachable, which is one other small piece to consider when mulling the historic legacy of David Stern’s life and heady times in the NBA.

A new goal, by half

I’ve pulled the trigger, so to speak, on running my first half-marathon.

I sort of can’t believe it. Actually, no sort-of about it. As I often tell friends, there is no way I pictured myself as an endurance runner, biker, swimmer, endurance anything ever in my lifetime as recently as two years ago. That kind of torture-your-body stuff held no appeal for me. Zero. But once I accidentally fell into doing triathlons – my first was a sprint in Santa Cruz two years ago on a whim to accompany my daughter – it gradually, to my surprise, became serious enough that I now pay a trainer every month to design workouts so I can get stronger and compete better within my age group. I am down that rabbit hole, in other words. 

By that relation, then, my physical stamina has improved to where the thought of a six-mile run no longer intimidates me or my knees; I actually look forward to them. (Who IS this stranger?!) But only recently have I considered stepping up to race twice that distance (plus 1.1 miles).

Among the many things that training consistently, really for the first time in my life, and confidently have taught me is to not be afraid of new challenges. Respect them, for sure, and protect myself from injury always. There is nothing I dread more, except hitting a fly-over-the-handlebars pothole, than a foot or leg injury setting me way back and canceling all the conditioning gains I’ve made. At 60, lengthy rehab processes are not welcome.

That’s a long way of saying I stopped pondering signing up for a half-marathon in Richmond in five weeks and actually committed to the 13.1 miles the other day. (Dee, a strong natural runner despite her denials, will join me there for the 8K.) Longtime runners and endurance racers will scoff at my little proclamation, and that fact that I admit to being a little afraid of it. Trepidatious? I’m pretty sure seven miles is the longest I’ve ever run at one time; I pokey-poked out that distance sometime last year. But wonderfully amid all that, I have discovered a new-found belief in myself as a (competitive) athlete that I thought was long past. It brings me back every day. I train with gratitude for being able to run, ride or swim (with relative little pain at this point) in the first place. I find satisfaction in a new identity and a physical relevance that makes me happy.

Advice I’ve found online, as well as from my coach, cautions me to focus on completing this first half without a time goal, to not let the adrenaline of race day and a too-quick start ruin my run, to more than anything breathe in the scene. Accept as its own reward the act of stepping up to a challenge and staring it down.

So yes, I hope to keep my wits and keep it real, firm in the faith that this half is just another next step toward keeping me whole.




ODU football (circa 2007)

I came across this old column just now, foraging a cabinet for something else. It’s a pleasant surprise, in that it is actually one of my old columns that I like, because so many make go “meh” at best.

It’s about the day more than 10 years ago (!) that Bobby Wilder was introduced as the head coach of Old Dominion’s football team, then little more than a glow in the eye of the ODU athletics department. Today, the Monarchs are a contender in FBS Conference USA, play ACC opponents (no W’s yet, but maybe soon) and have a stadium renovation on tap.

I have decent recall of introduction day; the swirl of activity and buzz in the Constant Center, Wilder, a longtime assistant at Maine, where he played quarterback, showing up with hair and an impressive 5 o’clock shadow to give his first rah-rah pep talk, me softly approaching Wilder’s welcoming wife Pam to pose some questions as her husband did other interviews afterwards. For sure, I remember his energy and his promise to bring it every day, around the state, to start carving a name for ODU football.

It seemed a daunting chore, for sure. But ODU fan or foe, you have to judge the past decade a wild success, probably beyond even what Wilder, the most self-assured of men, saw in his quiet moments back then.

Here’s what I wrote for the Feb. 13, 2007 edition:


Key to success may lie in a schmooze transition

NORFOLK — One interesting fact on an afternoon filled with them at Old Dominion: New football coach Bobby Wilder and his wife, Pam, operate a cable-free household in Bangor, Maine.

Sports are Bobby’s life. But, Pam Wilder said, ensuring their two young sons are undistracted readers is worth an ESPN vacuum. Not that the coach himself avoids the temptation 24/7.

“A few times he’ll say, “Oh, important meeting, gotta go,’ ” Pam Wilder said, laughing. “Hmm, there’s a game on right now and he has to go? I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’m not stupid either.”

It’ll be hard not to learn a volume of interesting things about Bobby Wilder over the next couple of years. His preference in defensive line schemes. His taste in office decor and uniform styles. Heck, boxers or briefs maybe. Anything and everything.

If there’s a radio or TV, soapbox or service-club meeting near  you, Bobby Wilder is going to be on it or at it — in the words of athletic director Jim Jarrett — “sell, sell, selling” ODU football.

Questions? Wilder will take questions until  your well of curiosity runs dry.

Comments? He’ll comment till the cows AND the sheep come home.

Pitches to move tickets and luxury suites for ODU football in 2009? Wilder will wind up and deliver all day for you — until it’s time to go wind up and deliver for you neighbor.

“He’s perfect for this,” promised Pam Wilder. “For him, it just rolls right off, he’s so comfortable  doing it.

“I think it comes from probably all the years of being an athlete, being in the spotlight, being a quarterback, having to think on your feet. It just comes natural to him.”

That’s huge because Wilder, 42, is a coach with no one to coach until — clear the calendar, Monarchs fans — 4 p.m. next Feb. 6. That’s the time and date of his first open tryout for walk-ons for his first team.

Every new college coach does community breakfasts, campus lunches and donor dinners till his belt expands a notch. But being the coach of a program that owns one football — the souvenir pigskin Wilder toted Monday at his media introduction — means never being able to say, “Sorry, can’t make it.”

Garden club? Preschool assembly? Car-wash ribbon cutting? Wilder has scissors, and he’s not afraid to use them.

“That’s primarily what  I’ve talked to Dr. Jarrett about: keeping that momentum behind the program,” Wilder said. “Building the war chest, so to speak, not only of support financially, but support from the people who are excited about the program.”

So many ODU people he’s already chatted up, Wilder said, “want to know what we’re going to do offensively and defensively, but they also want to know where am I going to park on game day?

“I’m not sure where I’M going to part on game day right now. So there’s going to be a 2 1/2 year-period where we’re trying to work our way through all of that.”

Schmooze his way through it is more like it, with boosters and potential boosters, of course. But even more importantly, with the raw material of his construction project: a state full of recruits and coaches who’ve never heard of this 17-year assistant from Maine.

Yet. Give him till next Tuesday.

“I plan on getting a database of every high school coach in Virginia,” Wilder said, “and I plan on being in touch with everybody as soon as I can.”

Cable sports, Wilder has shown he can live without, sort of. But a fully charged cell battery? A new coach in a new land can have no greater friend.



Merging from the shoulder

A year ago I wouldn’t have believed I could or would attempt, let alone finish, an “Olympic” distance triathlon. A year ago, the thought that I could or would swim a hair shy of a mile in open water, bike just under 25 miles and then run 6.2 miles — in successive order with barely a couple of minutes in between individual exertions — was crazy. Crazy to me, I mean.

I was aware people did it all the time. I, with my balky knees, tight hamstrings and vast disinterest in cardiovascular suffering, just wasn’t inclined to ever be one of them. About a year ago, it was all I could do to jump off the proverbial psychological cliff and actually commit, in word and dollars, to fly to California and attempt a “sprint” triathlon in September.

A sprint is roughly half the distance of an Olympic. It had been a while since I felt proud of a physical accomplishment. But just registering for the sprint and beginning my scattershot preparation for it gave me a mental kick, one I liked. I ran and biked and swam and over-prepared, by all accounts, for my big day, which went well to the degree I won a towel for finishing top 3 in my old-guy age group (albeit a small group).

Nonetheless, a spark, well, sparked, as I’ve previously shared here. Now I’ve done an Olympic, I train in at least one discipline most days  and I at least pretend I want to get much better and compete for age-group prizes in Olympic-distance tris.

I say pretend because I’m finishing a recent book written by endurance athlete and author Matt Fitzgerald called “How Bad Do You Want It?” He’s filled the book with new sports psychology and brain science amplified by real-life stories of endurance athletes demonstrating jaw-dropping physical and emotional strength in competition — although strength puts it lightly. Champion athletes like cyclist Greg LeMond and triathlete Siri Lindley own indescribable, implacable will. By describing their training and important races to their career and legacy through gripping narratives, Fitzgerald tries to tangibly get at the intangibles that set them above and beyond other supernatural-seeming athletes.

It is inspiring, intimidating and humbling to dip a toe in that kind of pool. I would answer the open-ended question “How bad do you want it?” with “a lot” or “pretty much.” But to honestly back those words up with honest effort, to push or get angry over wavering intensity and use it as searing motivation in ways that don’t injure muscles and joints and nerves, is challenge on top of challenge that I wonder if I am up to at this stage.

That’s among the reason triathletes and ultra-endurance racers, all of whom can be a precious bunch I know, like to reference the “journey” they are on via their hobby/passion/reason to live. The road goes and climbs and twists around blind corners that they often never see coming, but they lower their head and rebuckle in to their driving mission.

A year ago, I noodled around on the edges and decided to at least step out along the shoulder. I’ll just say the journey has gotten interesting — consuming? — much quicker than I would have believed.





A diamond season

I was fortunate to sit in the dugout and watch one of the finest high-school baseball games I’ve ever seen Wednesday night.

Hanover, a dynasty in Virginia 4A baseball, needed 13 innings at home to take out Jamestown High of Williamsburg 2-1 in a game that sent the winner to the state semifinals.

It was a stunning display on both sides of skill, desire, resiliency, poise and coaching, a state-final caliber contest, no doubt. Wheels were turning, stomachs were flipping, fastballs were buzzing, bats were mostly flailing. That didn’t reflect on the hitting so much as the pitching, two guys apiece for each team. Both starters are committed to Division I programs and threw like it. It was top-notch stuff, a man’s game, a street fight, as they say.

Jamestown — I am a JV coach for the Eagles — pushed a run across early on a triple and an RBI ground out. It took Hanover till the bottom of the fifth to even the score on an error and calm, temporarily, its nervous crowd.

Seven innings later, the length of a full game, consecutive two-out doubles ended Jamestown’s 20-game wining streak and 20-3 season.

Heartbreaker. Heartbreaking.

John Cole managed his brains out in the Jamestown dugout, calling pitches, moving fielders, flashing signals at third base trying to get something going, rallying the troops. Cole spent a career, that may not be through, in college coaching, as an assistant and then leading a Division I and a Division III program.

He came to Jamestown last year and took the senior-laden Eagles to the state semifinals with a team that included a couple of Division I recruits, including in the ACC. This team wasn’t as talented or experienced as that one, but it was enterprising and baseball-savvy thanks to Cole, who pretty much conducts a coaching master’s class at every practice. It’s why I always tried to attend at least an hour of varsity practice before the JV practice, to expand my own knowledge base and become a more confident, accomplished coach.

Cole spoon-feeds nothing to the high school kids, even the first-year varsity guys. As in college, he expects a lot, demands a lot, moves fast, teaches constantly, brooks no nonsense. He is stout in his belief in himself and what he teaches. For the obvious reason that it is tried, true and effective.

The proof is on the field and, better, in the players’ heads and hearts. Players that move on to college ball report back that it’s as if they took graduate courses in high school by playing for Cole. They come in to their higher level of baseball significantly ahead of the curve, they mean.

But for the greater number of kids who will never play beyond high school, their season or two with John Cole will unquestionably serve them when it comes to the (old school?) life and business skills of listening, respecting, committing to a task, following directions and setting challenging, even elite, standards for themselves and for their colleagues.

Expect nothing, get nothing.

I expected fun, satisfaction and reward when Cole accepted me into his program to work with his future varsity players. I had no idea.

Thanks, JC. What a night that was. What a season.

Giving it a good tri

I run like a madman now. And swim, even though my elbow is killing me. (Another surgery in store? :/) Oh, and I bike a lot. I have this great, new mack-daddy Cervelo road bike, did I mention?

This is all part of a nutty, consuming, late-50s – my late 50s – hobby I’ve taken up called triathlon. Believe me, I’m as stunned as anyone. More stunned than anyone. Endurance sports never, ever were of interest to me, although I guess you could argue pretty well that baseball and golf are endurance sports in their own way, given their innate sloth-like duration (and tedium).

Anyway, the point is, I acted on a slow-building urge to do a sprint triathlon, the shortest version of the swim-bike-run trifecta, last year when my daughter informed that she had entered a September tri in Santa Cruz, down Highway 1 from her home in San Francisco. Why, I exclaimed in a Eureka moment, let’s do Santa Cruz together!

Running had been an issue for me following three arthroscopic knee surgeries over the last decade. Pounding the pavement was too much discomfort and risk, so I flat stopped. But a funny thing happened over a year ago; I’d gone for a short run for the hell of it and . . . nothing hurt. I couldn’t believe it, actually. It felt good, and it formed the foundation, unspoken but percolating, of this triathlon idea.

I had started swimming to replace running way back when. So now if I could run without incident, and I had the swimming down decently enough, well, I’d biked since I was a little kid, right? Maybe I could actually do this.

Long story short, I have started and finished, with varying degrees of timed success, three sprint triathlons, plus a few 5K races in the last year. Now, the sights are set on the next natural step – an Olympic-length triathlon in and around Jamestown, Va. in four weeks. What’s an Olympic triathlon? In this case, a 1,500-meter open-water swim in the James River, a 40k bike ride (roughly 25 miles) and then a 10k, or 6.2-mile, run.

Why are the sights set so? I think it is for the feeling of gratitude I get after I have put one foot after another for an hour and experience no out-of-the-ordinary aches and pains. And, other than my something-is-clearly-wrong elbow situation, the satisfaction of being able to swim non-stop for an hour. As for biking, which I had never really done beyond neighborhood toddles, I have learned straight up that it is harder than it looks and that it is the area in which I need to improve the most in order to compete.

And I do mean to compete in my age group (55-59), although honestly competing to WIN the age group appears to be a pipe dream. Let me tell you, a lot of these old fellas are beasts! Their genetics, determination and iron constitutions can be intimidating to behold. I admit it seems beyond my capability and nature to rise to that level.

Still, I could surprise myself again. That I have come this far, to where I have visions in my mental attic of actually eyeballing the half-ironman (70.3 miles) challenge, is inspiring. And scary. And, of course, insane.

I don’t share this to be annoying or to fish for any sort of compliments. The name of a Facebook group I’m in says it best, the Pathetic Triathletes Group. Our kind can be self-important and obnoxious; go run and swim your little race there fella, who cares? But I share it more out of a sense of amazement at the course – pun intended – I have taken and an appreciation for the possibilities I have placed before myself after years of inertia. Gone is that reflexive notion that I just couldn’t, when in fact I and you and we always can.

Maybe we won’t always finish, but we damn well can start. Nothing pathetic about it.








To Rosie, green grass and blue skies

I’ve been ruminating today in the wake of Dave Rosenfield’s death last night at 87. The legendary Tidewater/Norfolk Tides general manager was among the first

Norfolk sports figures, and longest-lasting by far, I met in my first week at the Norfolk newspaper in 1983.  

I liked his gruff, kindly, impatient, intelligent, know-it-all, generous, cheap, arrogant, bombastic, infuriating, scowling, needling, racist-joking, filthy-mouthing, kid-hating, never-ever-wrong, hilarious, snarky, deaf-as-a-post, totally genuine, contradictory self well enough — without really knowing him well at all, if that makes sense.

I think in 34 years I saw him once outside of a ballpark or a sports banquet, at a very long-ago lunch. I hadn’t spoken to him in more than two years, although I emailed him a couple of times over that period after he’d had some health scares. I never got a response, but I trust he received my well-wishes.

After leaving the regular sports ramble, I regret I didn’t drop by his office at Harbor Park to say hi, or make it a point to happen upon one of the weekly round-table lunches he enjoyed with other local sports figures. Wrapped up in my own woes and worries, I suppose.

I will miss Rosie – my preferred spelling of his nickname — like so many in Greater Norfolk, and today I riffle through vivid memories of our professional relationship.

It was early August and they gave the really green greenhorn a weekend assignment to cover some summer-league baseball championship at Met Park – known, of course, as Old Met Park since that dump was wrecking-balled in 1993.

I skulked to the far corner of that narrow press box low behind home plate, all of about 30 feet long, to set up shop for the game. It wasn’t a minute before I felt eyes from a hulking and, um, very portly man sizing me up. I gave a sideways glance as that form slowly approached.

“Hi,” he said, extending his meathook paw once employed as a college and minor-league catcher. “I’m Dave Rosenfield.”

Humma-da humma-da humma-da.

They’d told me to look for, and look OUT for, Dave before sending me onto his turf. It was totally like walking into a fiefdom. Dave was already a fixture, 20 years into his local minor-league baseball tenure. He owned a place and a career and a passion as much as anyone I have ever known.

I returned his hello, explained just a little bit about how I came to be in his presence that afternoon, and a relationship was struck. It was one that grew more familiar, and occasionally contentious, when I took over the Tides beat – then still a full-time, traveling, exhaustive grind — from George McClelland in 1988.

It was a fortuitous, for me, and rewarding association. Rosie loved to hear himself talk, and so he enjoyed holding court with coaches, major-league executives and reporters. For the latter, he was forever a go-to guy for honest commentary, unvarnished opinion and franker still, off-the-record truth as he saw it about sports, politics and scads of matters far-afield.

The remarkable, underlying constant was the knowledge that Rosie was one-degree-of-Kevin Bacon from pretty much any individual who ever played professional baseball. Ev-er. Think about that. It’s a hell of a thing. He knew everybody and everybody knew him. His kind is down to a precious few.

I know I pissed him off many times with my reporting and writing. I scooped the Mets’ announcement of September call-ups once and he and the Mets’ GM tore me a new one. He lectured me early in my coverage tenure about describing the Tides’ play as “miserable” in print after they’d played a particularly miserable game.

During a week of rainouts, I quoted the groundskeeper about what a stink dead earthworms beneath the field tarp created around the home-plate seats. Rosie was not pleased.

Another reporter and I bought plane tickets and invited ourselves along to Shea Stadium when he and the Tides president went to talk about the Mets’ demand for a new Tides stadium or else. Rosie harrumphed and vowed to give us no information, but he didn’t ban us from the Shea offices. We ended up sharing an airport cab both ways. And I’m certain he shared plenty of information.

I disappointed him badly at least once, too, although he never said so. I forget the occasion, maybe his 50th year in the business, and I wrote a profile of him that did not emerge as the puffery he expected, but a more warts-and-all recasting of his local omnipotence and contradictions. When I saw him, I could tell it had hurt him. But no one ever said the story wasn’t accurate and fair.

Throughout, and even thereafter, Dave remained a friend, a supporter and an unforgettably engaging character. He cracked himself up with story upon story, usually punctuated with his huge thunder-crack of a laugh. He ripped into employees up and down. It could not have been easy to work for one so demanding and temperamental, or even to be his close friend. I know people who were estranged from him for years before mending fences.

Yet he somehow fostered surprising loyalty. Rosie being Rosie, if you knew him even a little bit, was a great, never-dull and stunningly consistent show. During his full-time run as GM – before emeritus status the last few years – he missed a very small handful of games. I am fuzzy on this, but I think he missed just one – if any at all — in the late ‘80s when his first wife died. The ballpark was his solace and his sustenance, through every workaday chore. He even created and hand-wrote the entire International League schedule for decades.

What the hell? That’s crazy.

I enjoyed seeing him around the ballpark. I enjoyed his pontifications. I enjoyed Rosie being Rosie in its entirety, and I file it as a highlight of my journalistic life.

Regards, and sympathy, to his family, friends and the entire Tides front office.







Sugar’s tale

Hey there.

I like that this story has been shared on Facebook about 1,300 times in the few days it’s been posted online. It’s a good one that I was pleased to do for Distinction magazine, a great product here in town. I don’t think we all can understand Sugar Rodgers’ young life and times. But I do think we can learn from them, young and old. I know I have.


Irreplaceable Arnie

As a sports writer, a golfer and an avid golf fan, I have been fortunate enough to cross paths and interview such hall of famers as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Curtis Strange and Fred Couples.

Never, somehow, Arnold Palmer. arnold-palmer-07

I’m sad about that one.

I’ve seen snippets from Palmer’s funeral today, and the love and respect emanating from that ceremony was palpable. I’ve read retrospectives of Palmer as a golfer, a business-savvy professional athlete when no one else had the vision or guts to negotiate off the strength of their place and persona, a marketing genius, a father, grandfather, a philanthropist, course designer and a global citizen.

They eulogized Palmer as a pioneer, one of those naturally swashbuckling individuals who sucked the oxygen out of every room he entered, who schmoozed as easily with queens and princes as with gallery hounds of any age. Who men wanted to be and women wanted to be with.

I can imagine Palmer was one of those people who never met a stranger. Who greeted everyone, especially as his legend matured, with a wink or a kind word, fully aware that the moment being shared would be indelible for the one he was sharing it with. He could never have a down or an off moment, and I’ve never heard tell of that happening.

It chokes me up to see the video of his attempted last press conference at his last U.S. Open, at Oakmont near his Latrobe, Pa., home, in 1994. He couldn’t get through it. Same for his final Masters, 10 years later.

This is a nice tribute the Golf Channel crew, including author John Feinstein, put together today.

Arnold Palmer made professional golf a behemoth through his magnetism, integrity and trailblazing athletic courage. God bless him. God bless The King.