Couples Right at Home & Looking Good

By: Tony Dear


Editor's Note: Tony Dear will be reporting for Cybergolf through this week from Sahalee, site of the U.S. Senior Open. Here's Tony's first report.

Fred Couples is clearly in his element this week. The 50-year-old Seattle native who worked the range at Jefferson Park from the age of nine, and won the 1978 Washington Open in his tennis shoes, is well known for his relaxed demeanor, of course. But even by Fred Couples standards, the Champions Tour player looked cool, calm and collected as he joked with the crowd and gave kids from local Boys and Girls Clubs and the First Tee of Greater Seattle a few pointers on getting started in the game during a clinic on the range at Sahalee Tuesday afternoon.

"He always did look pretty comfortable of course, but I don't think I've ever seen him looking so trim, fit and content," says Gordy Graybeal, the Director of Golf with the First Tee in Seattle who remembers first playing with Couples at Jefferson in about 1970. "I've not seen him for probably seven years; we played a bit down in the desert where he lived, but I think he's looking about 10lbs lighter than he did then."

Graybeal suspects Couples is working hard on his core to strengthen the muscles in his ailing back. "It's a big deal for him, and he's obviously taking it very seriously," says Graybeal. "He's said he wants to play a lot on the Champions Tour, so he'll need to say in good shape."

I first saw Couples in the flesh at the 1989 World Match Play Championship at Wentworth GC near London, and I'd put money on his being lighter and fitter (apart from his back perhaps) now than he was 21 long years ago.

Question Time

The First Tee kids and Boys and Girls Club members came armed with some interesting questions for the hometown hero. The older kids obviously wanted to pick his brains about how to become a world-beater - "How do you keep your cool? How do you hit it so far when your swing is so slow?" - while the young'uns seemed somewhat less interested in the technical aspects of the game.

One girl asked if Couples had ever had a hole-in-one (yes, three), while another wanted to know what his favorite color was (Augusta Green, of course). The question the crowd seemed to enjoy the most, however, came from one young lady who inquired if she could have one of Couples's golf balls. "Take all of them, and the clubs," Couples joked before signing and handing over a brand new Bridgestone B330.

Mekhi My Day

Ten-year-old Mekhi Metcalf has never heard of Fred Couples. Well, until today that is. A member of the Rotary Boys and Girls Club in the Central Seattle District, young Mekhi would rather be in the pool or shooting hoops than watching golf.

It's unlikely his preferred activities will change that much as he gets older, but after watching Couples at Sahalee today, Mekhi figures he might actually head out to Jefferson Park to see what this golf lark is all about. "Couples is pretty cool," he says. "He's got a really good swing. He's not my favorite golfer though. That's Tiger."

Allen Bickham, Mekhi's friend, nods. "Yeah, I like Tiger best, but I like Couples too. He might be my second favorite now."

Museum-Goers

Even at 5.30 p.m., fans were still heading to the Founders Museum in the "Village Area" for a history lesson. Put together by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association's Tom Cade with help from former Sahalee club president David Torrell, operated by Loa Anderson, and largely paid for with a generous donation ($100,000) from Gene Lynn, one of Sahalee's original founders, the temporary structure of the museum houses a number of fascinating artifacts showing the history of golf in the Pacific Northwest.

Also on view is a number of trophies from the region's most prestigious tournaments, including the Macan Cup which is awarded to the winner of the PNGA Men's Amateur Championship. You can also look at (but not touch!) the Havemeyer Trophy which will be up for grabs at Chambers Bay next month when 312 of the world's best amateurs compete for the U.S. Amateur. It's a handsome prize to be sure, but the top sure looks awfully wonky. The trophy is notoriously difficult to hold together, especially when your hands are still shaking after winning the amateur game's most important title. But one more drop and the thing looks like it might have to be retired altogether.

Open Till Late

Also still doing brisk trade was the merchandise tent where Sahalee member Ann Wrenn is in charge. "Yesterday was a little quiet certainly, but it's really picked up today," she said. "It's been great to see so many families and children come through." As for the most sought-after items, Wrenn says the adults are mainly choosing U.S. Senior Open-logoed hats and shirts while the rubber autograph balls are very popular with the kids. "I think they all wanted to get Fred Couples's signature this afternoon."

Wrenn adds the buzz is definitely picking up too. "You can see people are excited to have such a big golf event back in the Seattle area," she says. "Everyone is obviously very happy to have Fred Couples here."

Tony Dear is an Englishman living in Bellingham, Wash. In the early 1990s he was a member of the Liverpool University golf team which played its home matches at Royal Liverpool GC. Easy access to Hoylake made it increasingly difficult for him to focus on Politics (his chosen major) and, after dropping out, he ended up teaching golf at a club just south of London where he also made a futile attempt at becoming a "player." He moved into writing when it became abundantly clear he had no business playing the game for a living. A one-time golf correspondent of the New York Sun, Tony is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, the Pacific Northwest Golf Media Association and the Golf Travel Writers Association. In 2009, Tony won first place for Editorial/Opinion in the ING Media Awards for Cybergolf. The article (http://www.cybergolf.com/golf_newsa_euros_take_on_the_2008_ryder_cup_matches) that impressed the judges was the one about Europe's Ryder Cup team and Captain Nick Faldo's decision to pick Paul Casey and Ian Poulter rather than Darren Clarke.


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