When I look back on the 2023 professional golf world, there are certain images and moments that stick out in my mind. Here’s a few:
THE CHEVRON CHAMPIONSHIP JUMP: Lilia Vu (Titleist Pro V1x) showed no fear jumping into the water after winning the 2023 Chevron Championship in a playoff against Angel Yin (Titleist Pro V1).
The tournament took place at The Woodlands in Texas after it was moved from its longstanding home at the Mission Hills Country Club in California. At Mission Hills, the winning player and her caddie leaped into Poppie’s Pond. But the question was how would the tradition carry over to a new venue and a pond that apparently included snakes and had been dredged to clean out mud and weeds and nets to keep out alligators? On top of that, it was a cold day, and the final round had been delayed 50 minutes because of lightning and rain.
With the crowd repeatedly shouting “jump,” Vu and her caddie took a running leap off a dock into the chilly water.
It was a heartwarming moment for a player who had to rebuild her game on the Epson Tour after she struggled on the LPGA and then lost her game and her confidence. She struggled so much, she almost quit but displayed mental toughness and worked her way back up to the LPGA and at the end of the season was voted Player of the Year.
To me, it collectively represented redemption.
THE BLOCK PARTY: PGA of America Club professional Michael Block (Titleist Pro V1) became the story in the PGA Championship surviving the cut, but the fairytale story became even greater when he nailed a hole-in-one on the 15th hole in the final round and couldn’t believe it actually happened.
Playing alongside Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5), Block hit the ball so perfectly it landed in the cup on the fly. McIlroy immediately hugged him, but Block didn’t elicit any kind of victory celebration. McIlroy told him, but Block was still stunned and could be heard asking, “did it go in?” On his ball, he had written “why not” dating back to something his caddie said before Block made 22-foot putt in a playoff to qualify for the U.S. Open in 2007.
THE CANADIAN OPEN: Because I’m Canadian, I distinctly remember the 72-foot eagle putt by Nick Taylor (Titleist Pro V1x) on the fourth playoff hole to beat Tommy Fleetwood (TaylorMade TP5x). First of all, it was an amazing shot to win a tournament, but also marked the first victory by a born-and-raised Canadian since the tournament began in 1939.
What happened afterward was equally memorable when Canadian Adam Hadwin (Callaway Chrome Soft X) ran toward Taylor spraying a bottle of champagne and was tackled by a security guard. It received worldwide attention. The poor security guard simply didn’t recognize Hadwin as a golfer. Hey, good thing we Canadians don’t take things personally.
A BIG DAY FOR DAY: Jason Day (Bridgestone Tour B X), once the top-ranked golfer in the world, won the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic, ending a winless drought on the PGA Tour that lasted 1,835 days. It happened on Mother’s Day, almost a year to the day his mother, Adenil, passed away after battling cancer.
The victory celebration took place in the rain but didn’t dampen the spirits of Day and his pregnant wife and their four children, who were in attendance.
THE CLARK DOUBLE: Wyndham Clark (Titleist Pro V1x) won the Wells Fargo, his first victory in 139 starts on the PGA Tour and 10 years after his mother, Lise, who was his biggest supporter, passed away following a battle with breast cancer. A month later on Father’s Day, he won his first major with a victory in the U.S. Open. He was overcome with emotion afterward talking about his mother.
CHARLIE AND TIGER: Charlie Woods (Bridgestone Tour RSX), son of Tiger Woods (Bridgestone TOUR B XS), drove it over the green on the par-four, 321-yard 13th hole at the PNC Championship. This is essentially a tournament for a father and child, though it can some other form of a family relationship. The fact the 14-year-old could do that happened around the same time that the USGA and R&A announced plans to roll back the ball starting in 2028. It will essentially reduce drives by 15-30 yards for elite ball strikers, which is what Charlie is headed towards. He has a swing and a temperament very similar to his father.
THE U.S. RYDER CUP DEFEAT: It was a stunning loss by the Americans in the Ryder Cup, but the image that really struck me was of captain Zach Johnson (Titleist Pro V1x) interviewed afterward. Even wearing sunglasses, it was easy to see the dejection in his face and body language and taking ownership of the loss. In contrast, the European captain, Luke Donald (Titleist Pro V1x), beamed with pride after his team’s win.
THE MASTERS: Jon Rahm (Callaway Chrome Soft X) won the Masters for the first time in his career, defeating Brooks Koepka (Srixon Z-Star), in what became a battle between two of the great players of the game. It also pitted Rahm, representing the PGA Tour, and Koepka, who had jumped to LIV Golf. Who could have ever guessed that by the end of the year Rahm would join LIV after pledging his allegiance to the PGA Tour.