Niagara Gazette

Columns

July 21, 2013

SINGER: Sporting tradition in 2013

Niagara Gazette — Despite laudable innovations, such as this year’s first Women’s Porter Cup at lovely Niagara Falls Country Club up the hill from central Lewiston, today’s sports world also yearns to cash in on the current nostalgia boom. You see it all over the place–in the stockings of certain pro teams mirroring a younger, “Field of Dreams” era in baseball; and recently, in the choice of Merion country club as venue for the 2013 U.S. Open, despite the fact that it was putatively too compact a course for today’s pros, and too surrounded by fine homes and such to allow room for a huge influx of fans.

But this was the grand old dowager where Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam in 1930; and where in 1950, Bantam Ben Hogan recovered from a terrible car accident, drove a thrilling one-iron into the 18th green (I used to find two-irons next to impossible!), and won in a playoff. And where Jack Nicklaus was then defeated in a playoff by a rising star, Lee Trevino, in 1971.

Somehow, despite nay sayers who said today’s pros would crucify this smallish gem of a course, it didn’t happen. Despite, or in part because of soaking rain (making greens hold, but U.S. Open-type rough more cloying), Merion fared admirably, and not one player broke par, including the winner, England’s Justin Rose. And there was even tradition in yet another runner-up finish by Phil Mickelson, overly sassed by the media (easy to forget he’s also won three Masters and a PGA).

Tradition was in the air, too, at hockey’s Stanley Cup finals this year, featuring two Original Six teams, the Boston Bruins and Chicago Black Hawks. And with old skating royalty predictably on hand. I can remember that royalty in its heyday–Chicago’s “Golden Jet,” Bobby Hull, the most electrifying player I saw as a kid, or the Hawks’ Stan Mikita, one of the rare ones then born in Europe. For the Bruins I beheld a blond pup of a defenseman at his N.H.L. outset, one who would then revolutionize the game–Bobby Orr.

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