NCGA Golf

Summer 2017

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O f course, there is a connection between our proud military and a love of golf. After all, if you're trained to make your bed in a manner so fastidious that one can bounce a coin off a tightly- tucked sheet, you're more than likely to mark your golf ball in a proper fashion on a green. And fix a ball mark, while you're at it. A shared respect of the Rules, along with a shared respect for etiquette, makes the military and the game of golf a natural fit. For example, no one in the military yells 'MASHED POTATOES' when an officer enters the room. Similarly, no one with a brain on the golf course does that. How tight is the military and golf? Shoot, only one of the greatest players who ever lived—some would argue the greatest—got his start on his father's military golf course. Or didn't you know that Tiger Woods, as a little kid, played golf with his retired military father, Earl, at the Navy Golf Course in Seal Beach, Calif.? As my fellow contributor Alan Shipnuck reported in a 2000 Sports Illustrated story, Tiger played his first golf hole ever on the Navy GC. He recorded an '11' on the 410-yard par-4, including three putts. As the story goes, young Tiger broke 50 by age 3 on that same course, until those rule-following military folk pulled rank on Tiger and pointed out the minimum age was 10 years old. They banned Tiger. Call it military hazing. Certainly, the military had to respect the fact that Tiger stewed on the snub—and when he turned 10 years old he came back with the force of several armies and destroyed anyone he competed against. Heck, even my own mediocre (at best) golf game has its military roots. My grandfather, Michael Murphy, enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 18 in 1921 and left his working-class Philadelphia home to serve in the Pacific theatre on submarines. Trust me, his Irish immigrant family was not a golf-playing family. They were con- centrating on keeping a roof over their head and raising five kids. If they ever heard of Merion, it was to enter through the servant's quarters and keep a low profile while dropping off a load of potatoes. So when grandpa got to the Navy, he saw the world for the first time. And, rest his soul, if I could talk to him today about the greatest gifts the Navy brought him, he'd likely rank them: 1. His beautiful wife, my grandma, whom he met at a Navy dance at Mare Island; 2. The game of golf. Grandpa learned golf from Navy compadres—and I've seen the photos of scruffy golf courses in Panama where he was swinging the sticks. He loved the game so much, he once earned a third-degree sunburn on the links, putting him in the hospital. This is what happens when you put the son of Irish immigrants in Central America without sunscreen. He eventually finished his Navy career at Moffett Field in Mountain View and became a regular at the Moffett Field golf course. He took my late father, Robert E. Murphy, to play golf at Moffett Field the day before his June, 1954 wedding to my mom. While my father was touched by the gesture centering around a military golf course, he did not remember his score- card that day—only the wicked sunburn he earned from the South Bay sun, a sunburn that chafed against the stiff collar of his own Navy dress whites the next day during the wedding. Like father, like son. Note to self: Use sunscreen while playing golf. My grandpa eventually took me to the Moffett Field driving range in his later years. I never got to play the golf course, but still felt very important driving onto U.S. Navy property, before the Navy surrendered it as a base. And while I never played the course as a Navy grandson, I did experience the thrill of my grandpa giving me my first putter, at age 13, for my birthday. I remember the tears in his eyes when I opened mine. To think that he learned the game because of the life he led in the Navy means the connection between the military and golf is my connection, too. And many of yours, too; as I'm sure is the case with many of you reading this now. Let's salute that connection. Long may it wave. Brian Murphy hosts the KNBR morning show "Murph and Mac" and was the San Francisco Chronicle's golf writer from 2001–2004. 72 SUMMER 2017 | NCGA.ORG M U R P H Y ' S L A W Golf Military Ties Run Deep— Even in the Murphy House BY BRIAN MURPHY

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