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Grant Me This: The difference between anonymity and immortality
By Grant Boone, Special to PGA.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- First off, the good news for fans of Team USA: the Americans have their first lead going into the Sunday singles since 1995. The bad news? I gave Howard Clark a ride home Saturday night.
On our way out of the TV compound after a second straight 12-hour broadcast day for Ryder Cup Live, my on-air partner Brian Katrek and I bumped into Clark, who asked if he could mooch a ride back to the hotel in downtown Louisville where all of us were staying. Of course, we said yes. Could you say no to Howard Clark? I mean, presuming you knew who he was.
Having covered golf regularly for the last dozen years, I recognized Clark instantly. Specifically, I believe it was the instant Katrek whispered to me, "That's Howard Clark."
If you're searching your mental My Pictures for a face to go with the name, don't bother. There's nothing particularly extraordinary about either.
Unless it's a September Sunday in 1995 at Oak Hill Country Club and you're Peter Jacobsen and out of nowhere this Yorkshire terrier is nipping at your heels all day, completely ignoring the script that calls for him to roll over and play dead. In the second of the 12 singles matches that day, Clark would ace the 11th en route to a 1-up-set of Jacobsen, who'd won twice on the PGA Tour that year. It earned Clark's team an early and unexpected point and signaled an historic comeback that saw Europe rally from a 9-7 deficit and reclaim the Ryder Cup. It was the first time the Europeans had ever won a day of singles on American soil.
Clark, a native of Yorkshire in northern England and six-time Ryder Cup participant, is one of the reasons it happened. And the fact that it did happen is the reason why European television network Sky Sports employs Clark for his commentary during weeks like this one and consequently why he found himself in the sprawling TV compound Saturday night and why he eventually found Katrek and me.
The Ryder Cup makes heroes of Howard Clarks. And David Gilfords. And Philip Waltons. Even a single moment in a three-day weekend can mean the difference between anonymity and immortality. But the conversion rate isn't reciprocal, to wit: name a single American golfer celebrated solely for his Ryder Cup heroics. Let me know when you get past zero.
I'm not exactly sure why that is, but I think it has something to do with what kind of sugarplums dance in our young golfers' heads. When our lads play make-believe on practice greens and backyards and bedroom carpets, they announce in their inner monologues, "To win the Masters" or "This putt for the U.S. Open." American players' careers are defined by their success in major championships. That helps explain why NBC's Johnny Miller didn't need a ride when I saw him leaving the compound Wednesday. Miller played on a pair of U.S. Ryder Cup teams, but he was waving to me from behind the wheel of a Lincoln Town Car in large measure because of what he did on that record-setting Sunday at the 1973 U.S. Open.
The majors are obviously important to European players, too, but the Ryder Cup offers them an alternate route to Glory Road. What's been fun to watch this week is how the younger members of the U.S. team have played as if they want to arrive at both destinations. Guys like Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan certainly have the passion and potential to one day earn Jackets, Jugs, and Trophies. But their actions and reactions -- those two lead the team in fist pumps and fanny slaps -- seem to say nothing could be more important than this Cup.
Ryder Cup heroes may always be more celebrated across the pond. And in some ways it's what makes those unsung Europeans so dangerous Sunday. They'll tee it up fully aware that for some of them a win could mean forever fame. At least over there. And, yes, the U.S. team is in the driver's seat through two days, needing just 5 1/2 points from the 12 singles matches to win the Ryder Cup back. But if they can't stay there, there's a good chance it'll mean that Europe will have found some new heroes.
And that from now on I'll need a bigger car.
Grant Boone is a husband, father, broadcaster, and journalist born in Tennessee and living in Texas. During his nearly 20 years in sports journalism, he's been heard on tape delay in pizza joints half-filled with fully drunk beer league softball teams and around the world covering major sporting events for ESPN, Turner Sports, Golf Channel, and CBS Radio. To read past installments of Grant Me This, click here. You can contact Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.