Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Touch of Grey; But Still Kicking Butt!

One weekend in July, 2009, two men, gave all of us, young and "old" something to think about.
Are we, as old as we feel?

This past weekend, some of us in the over 50 crowd were drawn to a little golfing event over at the Turnbury golf links in Scotland. What we saw was 59 year old Tom Watson playing as if age had no limitation on mind, spirit, and physical control in a game that can bring the best to their knees in submission. Each day of the four day British Open found Tom at the top of the leader board, while others fell to the winds of the Irish Sea. At the end of Friday's round, we saw Tiger Woods had missed the cut. It wasn't his weekend, and he packed his bags. Saturday night, there was one name at the top of the leaderboard.

Tom had shared the lead on the other days. Tom Watson, alone... A few months shy of being 60... Sports writers, and commentators were jumping all over this story. Final round; Tom came to the 18th tee with a one shot lead over Stewart Cinc, who had made a birdie putt on the 18th green to put him in contention. Tom hit a beautiful tee shot, and an equally beautiful second shot. Unfortunately, the second shot was too beautiful for the golfing Gods, and they let it roll past the hole, and off the back edge. Tom ran his next shot 8 feet past the hole, and Tom made a feeble putt that came short of par. The play off was all Stewart Cink, and he deserved the win. But Tom, Tom gave us all a show! Tom was asked at the end, if he expected to win the tournament from the start. He said "yes". "When I play at the Masters, I feel like a ceremonial golfer. I can't win there. But at Turnbury, I knew I had a chance."

Portland International Raceway; 81 year old Hershel McGriff strapped himself in his Camping World West Series car, and fired it up one more time. Hershel was the reigning champion at the Portland road course, the only other time the series, then known as Winston West, visited the track was in 1986. He had to start one lap down because of a carburetor change after qualifying 26th in a 26 car field. He said "I really didn't have a lot to lose. I didn't want to go out there and flop around". Hershel finished the race placing 13th. Jim Inglebright, who won the event, said "there were a lot of other cars out there that were a lot slower. I followed him for awhile, and I couldn't get around him. He did a great job". Hershel, who last raced in 2002, broke his own record for NASCAR's oldest driver to race. McGriff drove his first race in the family sedan at Portland Speedway in 1945 when he was 17. In 1950, he won the Pan American road race in Mexico and met Bill France. He ran in the first Southern 500, and raced 85 Cup races with 4 wins. He won the 1986 Winston West series championship, was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers, and was inducted in the the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2006. He retired twice, in 1954, and again in 2002.
Now the sports pundits will argue that Golf, and Auto Racing are not "athletic" sports. I say hog wash! It takes skill, and athletic endurance to perform at a competitive level in either of these fields, and I for one, was amazed at both of these guys! Thanks Tom and Hershel, for not giving in to the natural order of what others expect. You both are Champions!


  1. Watson certainly was the story of the weekend. The ovation he got while walking up 18 at the end of regulation is what sport is all about.

    McGriff driving in a highly competitive series at 81 is mind blowing! The man finished top-10 in the first Southern 500 back in 1950!

    Thanks for posting this CR.

  2. Nice! You know that is going to be Morgan Shepherd when he turns 81... still out there doing his thing.

    Congrats to both of them, well done.

  3. Gene, the 1st Southern 500, didn't they have over 50 cars entered for that? I know some of those early races had huge fields!

  4. Great post CR! Didnt watch the golf but certainly heard plenty about it. Both of these are great feel-good stories about athletes who are STILL athletes! I hope I can "flop around" like that when I am in my 80's!

  5. Great reading, CR, especially for those of you over 50. lol Great job, Tom! and Great job Stewart, who is from Duluth, GEORGIA, right up the road!

  6. Oh, yeah, the Emmylou Harris song on the playlist is for you. lol

  7. Thanks Bev! Since Tom had to lose, I was glad Stewart won and not somebody else.

    USA! USA! USA!

  8. I have to admire these people that play golf. Any one that can hit that stupid tiny ball over 200 yards with a stick and a bulb on the end of it onto the green for a par has my admiration. I on the other hand do better just picking it up and throwing it.