The Very Best of Tom Meeks

meeks.jpgIt’s been rumored that a Tom Meeks going away party would be held this week at Merion. The retiring Director of Rules, Competitions and Setup Calamities will be thanked for his years of service to the USGA.

Since we won’t be invited to this great moment in USGA open-bar history, we can only wonder if anyone will bring up these episodes while celebrating Meeks's long and illustrious career?

  • The 1978 U.S. Junior Amateur when Meeks told Mark Brooks to tee off in his match, even though opponent Willie Wood was not present. When Wood showed up, Meeks showed great compassion by not DQ'ing Wood, and instead, allowed him to play Brooks. Wood eventually won the match.  
  • The 1991 Senior Amateur at Crystal Downs saw Meeks warned by the club staff not to use the front location on the treacherous 11th green. He did anyway, and most players who hit the green putted off.
Then he took over for David Eger, setting up U.S. Open courses. The real fun began!
  • The 1996 Open at Oakland Hills, where Meeks was asked about playing conditions when several inches of rain had flooded the bunkers and drenched the course. Meeks responded with a less than subtle jab at the PGA Tour, "No, we won't play lift, clean and cheat."  The Commissioner received an apology call from Mr. Meeks’s boss for that one.
  • There was the stellar hole location on #18 at the 1997 Senior Open (Olympia Fields) that caused nearly every player to at least three putt, while then-leader David Graham four putted.
  • Who will ever forget the 1998 at Olympic and that wonderful Friday afternoon hole location on 18 (which I was blessed to witness in person). And then there were the nice chats Meeks had with Payne Stewart about slow play and sand-filled divots. All of this distracted folks from the horrific fairway contouring on holes 2, 4, 9, 10, eh…you get the idea.
  • The 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills was particularly special. That’s where chicken wire was placed in front of 9th and 18th greens during practice rounds to prevent players from wearing out turf in the areas where every ball rolled off and collected short of the greens. And the excessive green speed led to the infamous slowing down of the 9th and 18th, leaving them nice and lumpy for Retief Goosen, Mark Brooks and Stewart Cink to look foolish on Sunday.
  • Another epic, the 2002 Open at Bethpage where Meeks refused to movethe 10th tee markers up so that players could reach the fairway. And funnyman Meeks telling the press "it doesn't say in the Rules of Golf a player has to be able to reach the fairway."  The 270 yard carry and tiny landing area on the long 12th was special too. (Well, long back then in 2002. 496 today is a drive and a wedge! Okay, maybe a 9 iron for some.)
  • Oh, then there was Shinnecock where Meeks didn’t say much other than to insist the greens didn’t need to be watered Saturday evening despite the 7th green fiasco earlier that day. And even though a dry wind was blowing. No water! He instead saved his best commentsfor a month later at the British Open, noting that "a lot of golfers lost their patience and gave up early in the round. I really think Ernie Els gave up after the first hole."  Els responded: “You know what? They have got no idea," Els continued. "To take one of the best golf courses in this entire world and to make it a farce like that, they’ve got egg on their face."  So Meeks apologized. Sort of: "I just said, 'Ernie, I was wrong. I shouldn't have said that.' I explained to him it was just a casual remark. And it was just my opinion."  So, if it was just your opinion, you still believe he gave up?
  • Finally, 2005 saw Meeks go quietly, but he did finish off with one final head scratcher at Merion Tuesday. Joe Logan wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that “when somebody noted that not a single golfer was under par at Merion by mid-afternoon yesterday, Meeks seemed almost fiendishly pleased." "I think this golf course is just that hard," Meeks said. "If we wanted a bunch of 62s and 63s, we could have held it on some municipal course."Not to be picky, but there was a 64 and a 65 at stroke play co-host Philadelphia Country Club. Does that mean it’s almost a muni?  Like, say, Torrey Pines?
Thanks for the quotes...err...memories Tom!