Sunday, August 14, 2011

Daddy's Girl

My father has always been there. From the first moment that I was aware of a world beyond myself, of a sky above and the need for nourishment, he was there. I’ve never known a day in which my father didn’t love me, protect me and support me with all that he had. There was a time that I feared being left alone, feared not having constant support. I would occasionally imagine life without my parents and cry. Thankfully that day never arrived, until now.

I am so much like my father. The outside observer knows instantly that we are related. We share the same slight build, long legs, slender arms, and high cheekbones. We share many of the same characteristics as well. We are simple in nature but fight a tendency to complicate. We are level headed and abiding in general with a short fuse that shows itself on occasion. We try not to judge and look for the best in our contemporaries. We are not particularly religious, but rather use reason to answer our questions and guide us.

My father believed in a quiet life filled with hard work and a mantra of doing the right thing no matter what. I strive to follow that philosophy. I attempt to follow the high road even when the alternative beckons. I believe that my father held the dream for a more adventurous life and I’d like to think that I fulfilled that part of his cravings.

My father taught me what was right and wrong by example, not by words. He encouraged me to shoot for the stars and not accept mediocrity. He supported me early on in every manner possible, praising me and correcting me as needed. He never laid a hand on me, instead he disciplined with a slow shake of the head that showed his disappointment when I had chosen poorly. To disappoint my father was the ultimate shame. That was penalty enough.

I will miss seeing my dad physically, but visually I will see, remember, and experience him many times throughout each day. He is a part of me. I am a part of him. We have a connection that will never wane.

Thank you Dad for instilling in me the basics in which to live by and for being there day in and day out for 46+ years. Thank you for introducing me to a balanced way to live life. Thank you for loving me and being proud of me. Thank you for introducing me to the game of golf that has molded my life in so many positive ways. I am honored and thankful to have had someone as unconditionally loving and caring as you.

Please know that I will take care of mom and make sure she transitions well to a life without you. After 63 years together, it isn’t going to be easy. I will be there to help her in any way possible. Together you two became one and will forever be my inspiration for dedication and persistence. A day won’t go by that I won’t miss you or thank you for all that you’ve done to help me become the person I am.

I am my father’s daughter forever.

Dale Cockerill B 12/21/24 D 8/12/11

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2011 Women's Amateur

Yesterday I drove down I-95 from Boston to Barrington, RI excited to get to Rhode Island Country Club and start prepping for the US Women's Amateur. I always look forward to working the Women's Am, but this year I'm especially excited because it's the first time the Am has returned to RICC since 1987, the year that I won it for the 2nd time!
RICC sits near the Narragansett Bay and is part seaside, part parkland course. It's a gem designed by the great Donald Ross in 1911. There is no trickery here, except for the challenging greens. It is a scenic, tranquil course that inspires--one never tires of playing RICC.
This week I'm staying with Bob and Audrey Sprague who ran the Championship back in '87. They live right off the course, so it will be an easy walk or bike ride for me from their house to the tv compound. So far today, I toured the course and memories of my matches here came flooding back. I remember feeling that rare sense of confidence in all parts of my game, especially w/ my putter. I remember beating Carol Semple Thompson for the first time in the quarter finals and having to bring my very best game to do so. I remember during the final match versus Tracy Kerdyk being 2 up after the first 18 only to have play suspended for the rest of the day after we had hit our approaches to the first green of the afternoon match. It was the only time that I was slightly discouraged, mostly because I was so focused and prepared to play 36 holes that day and then suddenly I had to face another anxiety ridden night before another final day. Of course, it all ended up great for me as I beat Tracy 3 & 2 to win my 2nd straight Women's Amateur.
Today, it was great seeing all the women out there playing the second day of stroke play....some were carrying or pull carting their own bags. Some had family or friends on the bag and others had local caddies toting the bag. The course has been lengthened by 150-190 yards and is playing at par 71 rather than par 73. Hopefully the weather will hold tonight and tomorrow am and we'll have the 64 set to play the matches. Can't wait!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

JJ Killeen wins for the 1st time

There are many satisfying moments watching the best play this game of golf, but today was one of those days that brought an easy, broad smile to my face.  JJ Killeen, playing in his 101st Nationwide event, won in grand fashion.  He was a man on a mission who had set his sights not on the first place prize, but on the trophy.  With his Dad on the bag, JJ maneuvered his way around Willow Creek CC in 262 shots (-22) to win comfortably by 4 shots.  He started with a course record tying 62 and ended with a bogey free round of 65.   When he woke up today, he joined his wife Tasha in wishing his daughter Olivia a happy first birthday.  They served a cake, sang happy birthday and doted on their precious little girl.  Several hours later, JJ headed for the first tee trying to do something he had never done a Nationwide event.  JJ fought anxiety and a slightly quick swing on Saturday's round, hung in there and ended up tied with Jeff Gove for the lead Saturday eve.  Jeff was the favorite due to his over 15 years of experience on both the PGA and Nationwide tours, combined with his 3 Nationwide Tour wins.  JJ knew what he was up against and knew that there were several players capable of shooting 64 or better on Sunday as is the norm on the Nat Tour.  But JJ was more than up to the task.  When his long game let him down, his short game more than made up for any errant shots.  He was an absolute magician around the greens.  I have to say JJ showed one of the best displays of touch, feel and creativity that I've seen inside 100 yards on a Sunday to win in quite awhile.  JJ's putter was his best friend.  He 1 putt holes 7 through 10 for two key pars and two birdies and ended up with 13 putts on the back nine.  The putter kept his momentum going and separated him from everyone else.

The tears of joy that fell from his wife Tasha's eyes down the stretch speak to the trials and tribulations the Killeen family has endured over the last 4 years.  The first thing that Tasha remarked about was the fact that JJ's job was secure for another year.....that he was exempt on the Nationwide tour for 2012.  I don't think the full impact of his securing a full PGA Tour card for next year had really sunk in yet.  JJ will tee it up at the Sony Open next year, playing in a PGA event for the first time come the first of next year.  The kid who gravitated to golf after breaking his arm in football at age 16 has come a long way, fighting and working hard for everything that he's earned.

I can't think of a more honest and joyful experience as walking up the 72nd hole with your dad alongside as your caddy surrounded by the love and support of your family.  JJ is one of the nicest guys in golf who finished first in grand fashion this week and with this win will spring up the Nationwide Tour money list from #25 to #5, quickly shedding the title of bubble boy (#25).  JJ, the way that you rose to the challenge today was a joy to watch.  I can't think of a better place for you to raise your first Nationwide trophy than on the 18th green at the base of the Washatch Mountains.  Cheers to you and your lovely family!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tommy Two Gloves Gained Ground

As I arrive at the University of Maryland Golf Course for the Nationwide Melwood Prince George’s Melwood tournament, I can’t help but relive Tommy Gainey’s breakthrough win here last year.  It was a tight race down to the finish, but Tommy Two Gloves prevailed and won for the 1st time on the Nationwide Tour.  That win legitimized Tommy’s game and reminded all of us how important heart and determination are in deciding who will make it and who won’t. 

Three years ago Tommy graduated to the PGA tour via Q-school.  He was an unlikely member who climbed his way onto the top tour and surprised many who are unaccustomed to seeing non pedigreed players with home made swings make it to the ranks of the elite.  Tommy was not a product of the AJGA or a Division l golfing powerhouse.  There have always been late bloomers, self taught naturals and players who honed their games at public courses without the assistance of top ranked teachers and a country club life.  But when Tommy Gainey popped onto the scene known only for his Big Break win, a lot of people thought he was a joke and had no shot.  That said, just as many or more people took an immediate liking to Tommy.  They liked his no nonsense attitude, his truthfulness, his sincerity and genuine gratefulness for everything.

Last year, at this event, Tommy told me that he was downright embarrassed by his play in 2008, his first year on the PGA tour.  That year he only made 6 of 24 cuts and ended up in the horrible 126-150 status that doesn’t guarantee you getting into all the tournaments.  He felt like he let his family, friends and sponsors down.  He analyzed his game and determined that he had to improve inside 100 yards.  His short game, particularly his wedge game was weak.  He focused his energy on that part of his game over the winter and came to the 2010 season ready to score.  And score he did.  Tommy 2 gloves held 2 trophies over his head and earned his way back to the PGA tour finishing #4 the Nationwide Tour money list.

This year on the PGA Tour Tommy has already made enough money to secure his card for next year with 4 top 10 finishes.  I will miss watching Tommy this year on the Nationwide Tour and I will especially miss his candid interviews while on the course in the heat of competition.  There are never any excuses with Tommy.  He’s just a real man playing a sport with the determination of someone who has a lot to prove.  Go get ‘em Tommy.  I can’t wait to see you get your 1st PGA win and play on the Ryder Cup!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Nationwide BMW Celebrity Pro-Am

I have a great job.  Today my duty was to head out onto the course and follow Wayne Gretzky as he finished his second round.  #99 was teamed with Nationwide pro Chris Nallen.  They have played together several times and actually won the tournament together back in 2008.  Chris is a huge hockey fan, specifically a Rangers fan, and needless to say is delighted to play alongside The Great One.

Wayne is one of the nicest celebrities I've ever met.  He is low key, friendly, conversational and interested in what's happening to those around him.  He's not egocentric at all.  He has that wonderful ability to make you feel important and comfortable.  Wayne also has a very respectable golf game.  He carries a 12 handicap and has a very nice touch around the greens.  He told me that he plays golf 3-4 times a week and truly enjoys the sport.  His putting tends to be his least when I've watched him play.  I think that the rhythm of his stroke gets short and quick instead of remaining fluid.  Sound familiar??

After I interviewed Mr. Gretzky on his final hole, I headed to the 2nd hole to pick up Josh Kelly's group.  Josh is a highly talented musician who has a great stage presence.  He hasn't quite hit the big time like his brother Charles who is enjoying a successful career with Lady Antebellum--he's the cute blond who sings duets and creates such beautiful harmony with Hillary Scott.  Josh's wife happens to be Katherine Heigl, the beautiful, brainy actress of Grey's Anatomy, Knocked Up,  & 27 Dresses fame.  Josh has a lot of charisma--I hope his new album Georgia Clay catches on and brings him loads of accolades.
BTW, Josh is a fabulous single digit golfer who played college golf for Ole Miss.  Not bad!!

Our show tends to focus on the Celebrities the first 3 days, with fewer shots of the pros being shown.  Come Sunday, however, we focus on who is going to win the tournament.  As of Friday afternoon, Greg Owen had shot a 63 to back up his first round 65 and had caught first round leader Travis Hampshire (who posted a personal best 60 in round 1).  Travis cruised to a solid 68 in round two that probably felt like 78 after yesterday's round.  There are 10 guys within 5 shots of the lead and considering the winning score the last 3 years here as been -20 or -22, the players know they have to keep the pedal down to have a chance come Sunday afternoon.

Let's see.....who will I follow tomorrow?  How about Greg Kinnear??  I loved him in As Good as it Gets, Little Miss Sunshine and Baby Mama.  Other Celebs that we'll be watching are-- singer and The Voice contestant Javier Colon, Michael Pena, Gary Valentine and Rob Morrow among others.  It will be another day full of actors and singers antics and performances.  Can't wait!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rookie Reveal

On the eve of the first full field event on the PGA Tour, I'm excited about checking out the rookie class tomorrow and seeing how they will fair. There are 35 rookies on the PGA tour this year. 26 of them will tee it up tomorrow in the Sony Open. 13 of those rookies qualified by finishing top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list. In fact, 22 year old Jamie Lovemark finished top dog on the Nationwide money list and was the youngest to become the Player of the Year on that tour.  In addition to being fully exempt all year long, Jamie will also tee it up in the Players Championship as the big perk for finishing #1.

There are a lot of young, talented rookies this year on the PGA tour.  It's going to be hard to predict who will have the best season.  Will it be one of the pedigreed players like Chris Kirk who was the Hogan Award recipient (given to top collegiate player) from Univ. of Georgia and who played on the 07 Walker Cup? Will it be Keegan Bradley who comes from a golfing pedigreed family? He is World Golf Hall of Fame member Pat Bradley's nephew. Jamie Lovemark made his mark in college quickly by winning the NCAA individual title as a Freshman.  Or, will the best rookie be a surprise?  Maybe the top rookie will be 31 year old William McGirt who has toiled around on various mini tours for the last 9 years before finally making it to the big show.  Perhaps 20 year old Bio Kim will make his mark as the first Korean to become Rookie of the Year on the PGA tour.

What I love about the beginning of a season is all the possibilities.   I have a few favorites that I will be rooting for and think will play well. One is fellow Bruin Kevin Chappell and another is Nate Smith, who hails from my old stomping grounds of Santa Cruz. However, my gut feeling right off the bat is that Jamie Lovemark and Jhonattan Vegas will make big impressions on the PGA tour.  Both of these guys are tall, strong, physical players.  They hit it a long way, are fearless and seem to have the required mental game to match.  Jhonattan is the first player from Venezuela to earn his tour car and he has a wonderful personality with a smile as big as his game. Jamie is a cool customer who wears his confidence on his sleeve.

Let's wait and see how the 26 rookies who play this week at the Sony Open handle Waialae Country Club and the exctiement and pressure that comes along with teeing it up alongside the best in the world. Everyone will be efforting to achieve that coveted great first start of the 2011 season.

Friday, January 7, 2011

World Series Trophy Tour

As the World Series trophy is touring Northern California, I can't help but think back to the first leg of its travels in the wee hours of the morning Monday, November 1, 2010 on the Delta charter from Dallas, TX to its permanent home of SF, CA.  While we toasted and celebrated the Big Win alongside the players, coaches, operations and front office staff, and family members, the trophy was passed around the airplane cabin.  Everyone on board held, admired, hoisted, kissed and took a picture with the gorgeous shining Tiffany beauty.  I will never ever forget the sheer bliss and euphoria of that moment and being able to share and experience everything with my best friend and true husband Danny.