Welcome to Winged
Foot, home of the 2006 Dads' Open. You know it as the U.S. Open, but the second
major of the year is really the game's unofficial father-son championship. The
Open is where golf, a game that bonds fathers and sons, meets Father's Day, the
holiday that celebrates the men who helped make us and that traditionally
coincides with the final round. � The biggest story going into Winged Foot was
Tiger Woods's playing in his first tournament since the death of his father,
Earl. Jay Delsing was the one player in the field who knew just what Tiger was
going through. Delsing's father, former major league outfielder Jim Delsing,
died on May 4, a day after Earl. Jay left a note in Tiger's locker. "Tiger
is such a private guy," Delsing says. "I simply wrote, 'I know exactly
what you're feeling. If you want to talk, I'm here.'" Delsing didn't hear
back from Woods and doesn't expect to. "I don't think he has my cell
number," he says, laughing.
Jim Delsing, 80,
succumbed to cancer, as did Earl. Delsing secured his spot in baseball history
in 1951, when he pinch-ran for Eddie Gaedel, the dwarf who drew a walk for the
St. Louis Browns during maverick owner Bill Veeck's most famous stunt. A week
before he died, Jim fell and broke a rib, limiting his mobility. "That took
the spirit out of him," Jay says. "Internally, something left him after
that." On the evening of Jim's death Jay visited his father, who lived with
Jay's mother, Roseanne, 15 minutes from Jay in suburban St. Louis, and gave him
a shower, an awkward act that they joked about. Jim felt ill and was helped to
bed. He urged Jay to go home. "I wasn't comfortable leaving him," Jay
says. "I had a feeling."
He called his
father from home. "He sounded strange, and I said I'd come back over,"
Jay says. "He said, 'No, I have chills right now, but I have a blanket. I'm
O.K.'" The phone rang at 2:30 the next morning. Roseanne couldn't wake Jim
up. Jay rushed over, but he knew his father was gone. "That was the longest
drive of my life," he says.
The church was
full for Jim's funeral, not surprising since he worked for the St. Louis
Review, a Catholic newspaper, for 30 years after his career in baseball ended
and, as a tireless volunteer for charities, made many friends. His favorite
song was On the Sunny Side of the Street, and the parish musician who performed
it at the service couldn't remember the words. "That was perfect," Jay
says. "My dad would've been laughing at that."
Jay, who is 45
and enjoying a bit of a revival after reworking his swing with teacher Jim
Hardy, filed an entry for the Open for no other reason than that his dad would
have wanted him to. "I hadn't even touched a club in two weeks," he
says. Local qualifying was held on the day after Jim's funeral. It was a
blustery day at Meadowbrook Country Club, and though distracted by his
emotions, Jay birdied the first hole of a playoff to advance to the sectionals.
His mind kept flashing back to fishing trips with his dad to northern Ontario
and to the stories he had to pry out of his modest father about serving in
World War II or about facing Bob Feller for the first time and protesting when
the umpire called the blur of a first pitch a strike by saying, "That
sounded inside to me."
Winged Foot was
Jay's first Open in 14 years. "After my dad passed, I knew I was going to
make the Open," Jay says. "I felt as if something great was going to
almost happened on Friday morning. Wearing a silver belt buckle he found in his
father's jewelry box, Jay birdied three of the first six holes and shot 33 on
the front side. Winged Foot's rough got him on the back. He shot 72 to finish
at 10 over par and miss the cut by a stroke. He showed off his dad's buckle
after the round. On it is engraved 1946 NORTHERN LEAGUE ALL-STARS EAU CLAIRE,
WIS.�The buckle was so black with tarnish that at first Jay couldn't tell
what was written on it. After his wife applied silver cleaner, he discovered a
family treasure. "It's so neat," Jay says. "It's the coolest thing
caddied for their amateur sons last week-- Dan Dougherty for Dillon, the
runner-up at the 2005 U.S. Amateur who recently graduated from Northwestern,
and Ed Moore for Jonathan, a qualifier who three weeks ago led Oklahoma State
to the NCAA title.
tomato farmer in Woodland, Calif., also carried for Dillon at this year's
Masters but says he's retiring his bib after Winged Foot. "Dillon needs a
caddie who knows what the hell he's doing," he declares.
An opening 85
meant that Dillon had no chance to make the cut, but simply getting to play at
the Open was a thrill and helped the family forget last year's tragic Father's
Day. Dan's father, Bill, came out to watch him compete in his club
championship. In a freak accident, a golf bag fell off the seat and onto the
accelerator of a motorized cart. The runaway vehicle mowed down Bill, breaking
his back. He died from complications later in the summer.