Golf notes: Birthday treat for Jordan Spieth at Preston Trail
Paramus, N.J. • Jordan Spieth celebrated a big birthday with friends in Las Vegas, had a two-week stretch at Firestone and the PGA Championship, and then headed home to Texas to take advantage of the biggest perk to turning 21.
He finally played Preston Trail.
The private club in Dallas is strict about its rules, and one of them is that a player has to be at least 21. Never mind that Spieth contended at the Bryon Nelson Championship while still in high school. Or that he became the youngest American to ever compete in the Presidents Cup. Or that he reached No. 7 in the world when he was 20.
"I must have played Bent Tree about 50 times and I always looked over at Preston Trail knowing I couldn’t go over there," Spieth said. "When I was playing in college, or even last year as a professional, I’d get home and a couple of buddies would say, ‘Yeah, we’re going over to Preston Trail.’"
He was invited to play by Malcolm Holland, a Preston Trail member and prominent USGA official. Spieth said the superintendent prepared for their visit by rolling the greens twice and finding some of the toughest pin positions. He played with former U.S. Amateur champion Colt Knost and Carlos Ortiz, who tops the Web.com Tour money list.
It was everything Spieth thought it would be.
"Like a tour event without the rough," he said. "We played 16 holes when the storms rolled in. I was at 6 under with a putt to go to 7. I was up a bunch of money and it washed all the bets. So I still haven’t played 17 or 18. I told them the fact we didn’t finish means we get another round."
Scott Verplank, another Dallas prodigy, laughed when he heard the story. He has his own tale.
Verplank was 17 when he received a phone call from Byron Nelson. It seems Lord Byron had been seeing some remarkable scores by Verplank in the newspaper and wanted to get together.
"He said, ‘Why don’t you meet me at Preston Trail?’" Verplank said. "So we go out there and I probably hit about six balls. Here comes the head pro. He says, ‘Young man, how old are you?’ I told him I was 17. He said, ‘You’re not going to be able to hit golf balls here.’ Then he said, ‘Mr. Nelson, y’all are going to have to leave. The club rule is you have to be 21.’
"Byron didn’t know," Verplank said. "And me being 17, I was like, ‘You’re telling THIS guy he has to leave?’"
So they went to Northwood and played 18 holes.
Verplank eventually got in his round — and a lot more — at Preston Trail. He won an NCAA title at Oklahoma State. He won the U.S. Amateur. He won his first PGA Tour while still in college. And when he turned pro, he joined Preston Trail.
"My goal was to join when I was 21," he said. "I’ve been a member for 29 years now."
EARLY EXIT: The PGA Tour policy for a 54-hole cut — in effect when more than 78 players qualify for the weekend — was not popular among the players when it began in 2008 at the Sony Open. Imagine how much attention it got during the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Brian Davis was No. 100 in the FedEx Cup, and the top 100 advance to the second playoff event. He not only made the cut, he was five shots out of the lead going into the weekend, a real chance to move up. Instead, he went the other direction. Davis shot 77 and finished out of the top 70s and ties on Saturday. He missed the 54-hole cut. His season was over.
Scott Langley (No. 73) was four shots out of the lead. He shot 76 and made the 54-hole cut on the number. The next day, Langley closed with a 66 and wound up improving eight spots to No. 65. Now he has a reasonable shot at advancing to the third playoff event.