Monday, September 14, 2009

Stiggy Hodgson at Merion - Walker Cup 2009


Stiggy Hodgson at Merion, September 13, during the 2009 Walker Cup.
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Photo: AP/Mel Evans

How can you not love a sensational new golfer with the name Stiggy Hodgson, even if he does happen to be a Brit.

Stiggy made the team, and took two matches with Irish mate Kearney, but spent more time talking about how he got his name than how he played golf.

Here's how the Irish Independent reported it:

"DESPITE the best efforts of Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney, the United States easily retained the Walker Cup with a 16.5-9.5 victory over Great Britain and Ireland at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania."

"After storming into a 8-4 lead on Saturday, the hosts won three of the four Foursomes early yesterday morning to leave them needing just a further two points from the afternoon's 10 singles matches to lift the amateur title."

"The Americans had little difficulty securing the trophy as Rickie Fowley beat Matt Haines on the 17th hole and Cameron Tringale recorded an emphatic eight and six victory over Luke Goddard. However there was some consolation for Kearney who was one of the shining lights for the visitors over the weekend and won his singles match against Nathan Smith 3&2 last night."

"Kearney and English teenage sensation Stiggy Hodgson developed a strong partnership over the weekend and on Saturday morning, they registered a 3&1 victory in the last of the team matches to give Great Britain and Ireland their first point."

What was that you said?

Can you translate that into American?

The Yanks kicked butt, again, over the best amateurs from Great Britain and Ireland, but a young bloke named Stiggy Hodgson and a Mick from Dublin saved face in Philadelphia.

Merion Golf Club is in Philadelphia by the way, the City of Brotherly Love, and Redemption.

Merion is an historic golf course, over a century old, was once the Merion Cricket Club, and it also gives its name to the Merion Inn, the best and one of the oldest restaurants in Cape May (New Jersey).

It's also where many great tournaments and championships have been held, including the 1930 US Amateur, which completed Bobby Jones Grand Slam sweep, the 1950 US Open won by Ben Hogan after surviving a debilitating car crash (also see Hy Peskin's pix, the most famous photo in golf), and Merion is where Johnny McDermott witnessed his last US Open in 1971 when he met Arnold Palmer.

The Merion course has seen some historic golf, its clubhouse is legendary, and its history transends the Walker Cup, which almost went by unnoticed by the Mainstream media and even local press.

But it was covered by Joe Juliano at the Philadelphia Inquirer (founded by Ben Franklyn, who didn't invent the golf tee), and thank God for Joe, because he answered the question on everyone's mind, even those who don't give a rat about golf.

How did Stiggy get his name?

How 'Stiggy' got his name

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Joe Juliano wrote:


His name is Eamonn Hodgson, but everyone throughout Europe who has played golf with and against the 19-year-old Englishman knows him as Stiggy.

So how did he get that nickname?

Hodgson, who was part of Great Britain and Ireland's two Walker Cup victories yesterday, explained that when he was 21/2 years old, his father needed to haul off some trash, so he accompanied him to the Dumpster.

"I was sort of messing around trying to help, being knee-high and stuff, and I fell in," Hodgson said. "I was rolling around, and I found a golf club. He thought it was a putter, but it turned out to be a mashie niblick, a 7-iron. That's how I started golf.

"As the story goes, there used to be a cartoon in England - I don't think it's run any more - called Stig of the Dump, so they called me Stiggy from thereafter."

The cartoon was based on the Stig of the Dump children's novel by Clive King published in 1963


Thanks Joe, I'm glad you asked.

And Stiggy Hodgson and his man Niall Kearney are two typical Walker Cuppers, young amateurs on the way to becoming professionals, but holding out in the amateur ranks long enough to play in the Walker Cup, in honor of Queen and Country. And they did a good job of it and should be proud.

But they probably don't know anything about the Merion's history, at least not until they got there, and I hope somebody showed them around the clubhouse and told them a few stories.

Arnold Palmer didn't play in the Walker Cup, but jumped right into the professional ranks after taking the US Amateur title.

Others however, like Tiger Woods, and this young class of Americans college kids, and they pretty much are kids, from both American and Great Britain and Ireland, with only one guy over thirty making the team as an alternate, if needed. Even thought they're all young, they know that the Walker Cup is all about history and traditions, and if they didn't know, I'm sure Buddy Marucci explained it to them.

Of course when they started these friendly matches between nations, which has fostered good will and some tremendous sport over the decades, it was a totally different game. When they began, the skilled and mature amateurs were the best golfers in the world and Great Britain and Ireland taking most of the matches. The first dozen US Opens were won by older British and Scott professionals, but most golfers were amateurs and so many of the best golfers were also amateurs.

Now things are reversed, and not only do the Yanks have a commanding lead, but the best players in the world are now professionals, and the best amateurs are really good teenagers, many of whom will enter the pro ranks when they get out of school.

Only a few, like Buddy Marucci, America's coach, are dedicated amateurs in the style and spirit of Francis Ouimet and Bobby Jones, and stay amateurs their whole life.

The youth movement in men's golf is matched by the women, I mean young girls, who have made waves in the game, and will continue to do so.

This new wave of amazing young golfers also opens up the possibility that, after nearly a century, one of the oldest and most respected records in sports could be broken. That would be 19 year old Johnny McDermott's 1911 US Open championship, which made him the youngest, as well as first native born American to win the national championship, which he did back-to-back (the sign of a true champion) in 1911-1912.

In 1971, a few months before McDermott died, his sister drove him to Merion to see the US Open. She left him in the Pro Shop while she took care of some business, and while she was gone, a young assistant pro thought the old man was in the way. He appeared disshelved, in a suit he'd had for decades, and wasn't recognized, and was told to go stand outside as he was in the way.

Someone then told the assistant pro, "Hey kid, you just kicked a two time winner of the US Open out of the pro shop."

Arnold Palmer saw what happened and went over and shook McDermott's hand and talked quietly with him.

Palmer later said he asked him for some advice and McDermott said, "All you can do is practice."

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