Friday, January 21, 2011

Memories of Torrey Pines

Over the years, Torrey Pines has been the host of many memorable golf tournaments, but none more so than the 2008 US Open. Most of the golfing world remembers the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines as the tournament Tiger Woods beat Rocco Mediate in a 19 hole playoff on a bum leg (apparently, 18 playoff holes just weren't enough drama for Tiger).

We here at The Thompson Tide remember that tournament for an altogether different reason: that was the US Open in which Michael Thompson not only made the cut, but finished as the top amateur, tied for 29th (notice that the 2008 US Open has its own page here at The Thompson Tide).

Personally, I have a lot of great memories from that week:
  • following Michael around during his practice rounds
  • "trying" to follow him through the throngs of people on Sunday
  • getting the chance to meet Rachel (Michael's wife before she was his wife)
  • spending the week with family cheering Michael on
  • meeting Susie Meyers and looking through her caddie notebook at the end of the week - boy was that some gibberish!
  • hearing the unbelievable roar on the 11th hole when he made a long, bending birdie putt on Sunday
  • walking (lots of walking)
But for me, one memory stands out above all the others. It came at the end of the tournament. Michael had finished as the low amateur and we were all waiting around for his medal ceremony. At the conclusion of the tournament a medal is presented to the low amateur during the trophy ceremony. We had been waiting in the players' dinning room for a while when a tournament official herded us out behind the 18th green as the tournament was drawing to a close. Tiger Woods was one shot back of Rocco on the 18th hole (a par 5). We all crammed around a little NBC monitor to watch the final hole. As most of you remember, Tiger made a really tough 15 foot downhill put for birdie to force a playoff. The crowd went nuts. Tiger went nuts. I went nuts - for about 2 seconds.

Tiger Woods Birdies the 72nd Hole of 2008 US Open to Force a Playoff

As soon as we realized that Tiger had forced a playoff - an 18 hole Monday playoff - we knew Michael's medal ceremony wasn't to be. He had to hop a flight to play in his last tournament as an amateur (the Traveler's). He couldn't wait until after the Monday playoff for a ceremony. Asked by a tournament official what he wanted to do, Michael simply said that he had to leave and could they please bring him the medal.

That official left for a while and then came back - with a whole lot of other officials all dressed in their tournament jackets. They asked us to follow them out to the 18th green. By then there were only a couple of people still in the grandstands - probably trying to wait out the inevitable traffic jam. On the 18th green, surrounded by mostly empty grandstands, they had a medal ceremony for Michael. I along with maybe 50 other lucky family members, friends, and fans got to witness it. It meant a lot to us that those officials went to the effort to give Michael the ceremony he had earned - even if it was just for us.

Although I know I will be witnessing more ceremonies for Michael (either in person or on TV), I will always remember the 2008 US Open Low Amateur ceremony as something special .

Michael Thompson with
Swing Coach/Caddie Susie Meyers
at "Our Very Own" 2008 US Open Medal Ceremony

P.S. Susie wrote a really nice article describing her experience being Michael's caddie at the 2008 US Open.

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