The skins game will be fun, but Seminole already has one of golf’s coolest events
This is the fourth installment 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.
It was Davis Love, droller than most people realize, who came up with this description for a member-guest event played at Seminole in March: “The first major of the year.” It was somebody else who said the Seminole’s Pro-Member event, held annually on the Monday after the Honda Classic, has the best field in golf. That’s not far off.
Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, three of the four participants in Sunday’s TaylorMade Driving Relief event, have all played in the event a half-dozen or so times. McIlroy and Fowler, alongside their amateur partners, have won it.
Sunday’s fourth at Seminole, 21-year-old Matthew Wolff, won on Tour last year. But, like Johnson, he’s still looking for his first Pro-Member title. Give him time. He’s only played in it once. Seminole has never really seen DJ’s A-game, as Monday golf is not exactly showtime for him. The Sunday afternoon event, with the cameras on, will likely be a whole different thing.
As Alex Cejka likes to say, “The Tour player knows how to turn it on.” An insight, earned by playing the world for 30 years. Cejka’s played in the Seminole event. All your Tour legends have.
OK, that overstates it. Tiger Woods has not played in the event. But Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman, Beth Daniel, Ernie Els, Jack Nicklaus, Amy Alcott, Curtis Strange and various other World Golf Hall of Famers have. They’re not there for the prize money (there is none). They’re not there to earn valuable World Ranking points (ditto). The draw is the course, the food, the company, the pace-of-play — and the lost-world vibe.
You may add to the list of attendees this sparkly bunch: Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jessica Korda, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott, Justin Rose. King Louis. Some of the pro participants live in the vicinity — Jupiter, Fla., is to elite golfers what Brooklyn is to elite handball players — but many do not. The timing, on the Monday after the first event of the Florida swing, is good for the Honda Classic and good for the Seminole Pro-Member. Talk about your win-wins.
Keith Mitchell won Honda last year and played Seminole the next day. Justin Thomas won Honda in 2018 and played Seminole the next day. Rickie Fowler did the same in 2017. Adam Scott did the same in 2016.
There are various other interesting people who have played in the event: The Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, as a pro guest; the baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, as a member host; the NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, as a member host; the LPGA legend Helen Alfredsson, as a pro guest. Have you ever heard Helen Alfredsson on the subject of . . . anything? Interesting person.
It’s a nice day of golf and it’s more than that, too. The Seminole Pro-Member, revived about 20 years ago after a long period of dormancy, is a reminder of an old American golf tradition, by which touring pros, as they were known then, and prominent clubmen, as they were known then, commingled, to everybody’s benefit. Talk about your win-wins.
For example, Arnold Palmer of Latrobe, Pa., developing a relationship with Spencer Olin, of Olin Chemical of Hobe Sound, Fla. Olin was a clubman, and a pilot. He introduced to Arnold the pleasures of flying your own plane, thereby changing the course of Palmer’s life. Or Jack Nicklaus, in the company of Bill Campbell, a Seminole member, an insurance man, a USGA president, an R&A captain. Or Ben Hogan, who had that kind of relationship with George Coleman, an industrialist and a golf nut and a Seminole mainstay. You couldn’t write the life story of those touring pros without those clubmen.
Commingling is a beautiful thing, even if it must be done at a distance of six feet.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael_Bamberger@GOLF.com