Sometimes things happen so fast, that you need to compress a couple of things in one post, as today we remember three Absent Friends.
Back in 2006, I can recall that Tiger Woods won his 50th PGA Tour event. By any measure this was a milestone event, and the TV announcers noted that he was only the seventh player to achieve this mark. Who were the other six? Well, the easy ones to name were Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, and Byron Nelson. The hard one, the one that no one comes up with is Billy Casper, but he is indeed on the list. Seventh in wins all-time, a Masters Champion, and two time US Open Champ, Casper died this past week at the age of 83.
In the 1966 US Open, Casper was paired in the final round with the leader, Arnold Palmer. As they stood on the tenth tee, Palmer led the second place Casper by seven strokes. The story goes that Casper said to Palmer, "I'll just try to stay out of your way", and Palmer told Casper, "Let me know if I can help you with anything". Golf history nerds know what happened: Palmer's seven stroke lead evaporated, Casper tied him at the finish, and won the Open the next day in an 18 hole playoff. This Open is always referred to as one that Palmer gave away, but it was Casper who chased him down and won the event.
University of North Carolina and Hall of Fame Basketball coach Dean Smith also died this past week, also at the age of 83.
Perhaps no coach was more revered and respected by his associates and, especially, his players, than was Dean Smith. Even Larry Brown, a Hall of Fame coach himself who is now in his seventies, still refers to him as "Coach Smith".
You can recite all the numbers - the wins, the ACC and NCAA titles, the roster of great players, but the thing that stood out to me in reading the stories this week was a quote of Smith's in John Feinstein's story yesterday:
"You should never be proud of doing the right thing. You should just do the right thing."
Finally, Ed Sabol, the man who created NFL Films, died yesterday at the age of 98. There may be no one more responsible for the popularity of the National football League than Ed Sabol and his son, Steve, who preceded him in death three years ago. What football fan among us doesn't have great memories of NFL highlight movies with those great shots, fabulous movies, and the voice of John Facenda? Ed Sabol, rightly so, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
RIP Billy Casper, Dean Smith, and Ed Sabol.