1976 Colin Mongomery Home
Ranked #2 Golfer in the World in the 90s
In 1994 I was watching the U.S. Open (golf) playoffs. Ernie Els, Loren Roberts, and a young man from Scotland named Colin Montgomery were playing in an 18 hole playoff on TV. There was something about the man from Scotland that seemed familiar, particularly the straw hat and the swing. He had an upright swing and hit a fade. Ernie Els won that day and Montgomery finished third and had a rather frustrating day. At the end of the day I still could not figure out why I kept thinking I had seen that swing before. I began to follow the European tour on the golf channel and it eventually came to me. The straw hat should have tipped me off. I realized that I had had a encounter with the young man from Scotland some eighteen years earlier.
When I moved to Naples, Fl in 72 my Dad was working at Hole in the Wall golf club and later got a job teaching at Lely Country Club in East Naples. I eventually started playing golf again. I had stopped playing by 1966 while at the University of Illinois. By 76 I was playing every weekend and my little brother Rick was about 16 and going to Naples High School and playing on the golf team.
Rick and I were getting ready to tee off one day when my Dad came out of the pro shop and said that this 13 year old kid from Scotland whose dad was a big shot at Troon golf course was going to play with us. He said his dad was training him on U.S. courses and was grooming him to be one of the best players in the world some day. This kid came out with a straw hat on. His dad had made him wear the hat to protect his light skin from the Florida sun. I asked him his name. He said "Colin." I said "What's your last name." He said "Montgomery." As a joke I said "You're not related to the English Montgomery of WWII fame are you?" He said "No." I said "Good."
At the time I hit a draw which could sometimes turn into a duck hook. I had grown up on a golf course and spent a lot of time practicing my short game and that was the best part of my game. I usually had to do a lot of scrambling. On the first tee I ducked hooked one into the trees to the left. Colin hit one down the middle, but the first thing I noticed was his upright swing and that he hit a fade.
When I grew up in the 50s my dad was the golf pro at Pekin Country Club in Pekin, Ill. At that time all the good professional golfers I was aware of hit a draw - Hogan, Palmer, etc. My dad hit a big draw and my brothers and I all learned to hit draws. I had grown up with a prejudice against fades. When I used to shag balls for my dad as he gave lessons I noticed that all the bad golfers hit fades or slices. I don't remember seeing a good golfer hitting a fade until the 70s.
Even though Colin hit his first drive right down the middle I must admit I wondered how he was going to be one of the best golfers in the world hitting a fade. Meanwhile, I had to hit out of trouble and my second shot was some 70 yards short of the pin. (That was a lesson that could have saved me years of frustration if I had paid attention) The first hole was a par four so to get a par I needed to get up and down.
When I was growing up I learned how to hit the pitch and run shot which I knew had to be used in Scotland on those courses a lot. I thought I would show Colin that I could hit that shot so I took a 5 iron out and hit in front of the green and rolled up to within 3 feet of the pin. I could see that Colin was impressed and he yelled "Nice Shot" and seemed to be surprised. I made the putt and got my par.
The second hole was a par five and I sank a 15 foot putt for a birdie and was 1 under par. I continued to get up and down for pars and on the 8th tee I was still one under. The 8th hole is a 180 yard par 3 over water. I hit a bad 3 iron and my ball was partially submerged in the water some 40 yards from the pin. I decided to try to hit it out of the water and took an 8 iron and as Colin and my brother stood by the pin I hit the ball to within 3 feet of the pin and got my par. I think Colin was starting to take notice of my short game.
The 9th hole was a par five and I was pin high in two about 50 feet to the left of the pin. Both my dad and Colin's dad were at the green watching and my dad asked me how I was doing and I told him I was one under. They were both standing near and watching as I hit my next chip shot and I made a special effort to keep my hands in front of the ball and my wrists from breaking down to hit the shot correctly. I hit the ball close for another birdie and my dad said “Nice Shot.” I had shot a front nine of 2 under 34. I had had about 11 putts on the front nine. I could see Colin's dad asking Colin about his round. Colin had shot 39 on the front so he was 5 shots behind me.
On the back nine I could have saved myself more years of frustration if I had paid attention to Colin's course management skills. The 10th and 14th holes were par fives that he laid up on and birdied both while I gripped it and ripped it and bogied both. After the fifteenth hole Colin was one over on the back nine and I was four over, so he was only two shots behind me. The sixteenth hole is a 170 yard par three with water on the left which I managed to hit into. Again I was able to get up and down for my bogie, but now Colin was only one shot behind me and I was beginning to feel the pressure of possibly being beat by a thirteen year old kid.
The seventeenth hole was a par four with water on the left. I sometimes would hit the ball too far to the right trying to avoid the water. When Colin got to the tee with honors, I mentioned how he was playing well on the back and how I didn't like this hole because of the water on the left but it should be good for his fade.
I later learned that one is never supposed to mention hazards before someone shoots and sure enough he hit it into the hazard and took a six. I managed a par and was back to three shots in front of him and Colin was not happy. He was probably mad at me for mentioning the hazard. I honestly had never been taught about not mentioning hazards on the tee and didn't learn about it till the 90s when I played in a local amateur tour.
The eighteenth hole is a dogleg to the left and I told Colin he wasn't going to like this hole. I probably shouldn't have said that. I think that really ticked him off and he took it out on his swing and hit a really long drive. We both parred the last whole and he wound up shooting 78 to my 75.
I could tell he was frustrated as he walked away to the clubhouse. In an attempt to cheer him up I yelled "Hey Colin!" He turned around and I said "We're going to be watching for you on TV!" I wasn't sure if he would make it or not, but I knew he was the best 13 year old I had ever played with and I was hoping he would. He said "OK."
After I figured out who he was (with the help of the straw hat) I started following the European tour and rooting for him. I felt really bad for him when the Americans began heckling him every time he played in America. One night after he had shot himself out of another U.S. major I called into The Golf Channel and told him to hang in there and whether he believed it or not there were lots of people in the U.S. that were pulling for him.