Why Seminole will be the real star of Sunday’s high-wattage skins game

The 12th hole at Seminole Golf Club.

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This is the first in a five-part Bamberger Briefly series about the TaylorMade Driving Relief charity event, to be played on Sunday afternoon at Seminole Golf Club, a landmark Donald Ross course in South Florida.

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This has been a long time coming: Seminole Golf Club will finally have its coming-out party. It’s 91 and gorgeous. Must be that ocean air.

Looking good, Billy Ray!

Feeling good, Louis!

This Sunday, May 17, had originally been reserved for the fourth round of the PGA Championship at Harding Park, a city-owned course in San Francisco. Then Covid-19 washed ashore, and now our calendars have been completely rejiggered.

Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson will play Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a pandemic relief fundraiser at Seminole, live on NBC Sports and other outlets, starting at 2 p.m.

We’re starving. It will be fun to see those four mega-talents swing a golf club for real again. This will be the first live name-brand golf since March 12, when those four, and scores of others, played in the first round of the Players Championship, before the plug was pulled from the tournament.

rory mcilroy rickie fowler

Golf will return in just two weeks with star-studded event at Seminole

By: Dylan Dethier

But the real star of this show will be Seminole, one of the most private private clubs in the world. It has never hosted a Tour event or a U.S. Amateur or a Ryder Cup or, really, anything that allowed for a TV audience.

Of the so-called Big Four — Augusta National, Cypress Point Club, Pine Valley and Seminole — Seminole is by far the least known. Augusta National has the Masters. Cypress Point had a regular spot on the PGA Tour for years, as part of the Bing Crosby pro-am. The Walker Cup has been played at Pine Valley, as was one memorable Shell’s match. Seminole has not even had that.

Next year, Seminole will be the venue for the Walker Cup, the Ryder Cup of men’s amateur golf. The U.S. team will be captained by Nathaniel Crosby, Bing’s son and a Seminole member. This week’s mid-May event, at a time of year when the seasonal club is normally closing, is a sort of warm-up act for that. It’s also a charitable event that will stand on its own and follow in a tradition of golfers using their golf skill and charisma to help others. The Rory McIlroy role has previously been played by Bobby Jones, Bob Hope, Babe Zaharias, Byron Nelson, Butch Harmon and many others. Butch’s father, Claude, it so happens, was the longtime pro at Seminole. On a clubhouse wall there’s a map of the 60 Claude Harmon once shot at Seminole. Harmon logged many rounds at Seminole with his friend, Ben Hogan. The place oozes golf. Rory’s father, Gerry, is a member.

The Sunday event has a commercial name, TaylorMade Driving Relief. But the players are not getting paid in the skins game match, which will raise a minimum of $4 million for the American Nurses Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control Foundation. All appropriate social-distancing rules and regulations will be observed.

Over the next four days, in this space, we’ll tell you about the driveway, the course, the clubhouse — and the nonstop party at the pool beside it. (Kidding, kidding.) For now, let us just say that Seminole is a windswept Donald Ross beauty, on the Atlantic at certain prized moments. It has many exposed greens and the whiff of Hogan throughout. It also has a refined sensibility and fairways that, when the light’s just right, practically shimmer. Man, those Seminole fairways are tight. The players may be too. We’ve all been waiting for golf on TV for about two months. Now it’s coming. Live from Seminole on Sunday afternoon.   

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael_Bamberger@GOLF.com

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Michael Bamberger

Golf.com

Michael Bamberger writes for GOLF Magazine and contributes to GOLF.com. He also participates in podcasts, primarily in tandem with Alan Shipnuck. Earlier in his career, he was a senior writer for Sports Illustrated for 23 years and a reporter on The Philadelphia Inquirer for nine years before that. He has written a half-dozen books about golf and other subjects. His magazine work has been featured in multiple editions of The Best American Sports Writing. He holds a U.S. patent on a utility golf club called the E-Club. In 2016, he was given the Donald Ross Award by the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the organization’s highest honor.