It’s easy to be a cynic. For one thing, the odds are in your favor. But cynics — a category which probably includes me — risk missing out when life offers up a glimpse of goodness or light.
That paragraph is my attempt to justify getting choked up a few times watching CBS’s “PGA Tour 2015: Coming Home” this past Sunday afternoon. (What a stroke of luck I saw a promo for it on Saturday.)
The entire documentary — what else to call it? — was outstanding, but my focus will be on the opening segment concerning Rickie Fowler and the driving range in Murrieta, California. As you may or may not know, I’ve been calling for someone to cover Rickie Fowler’s modest beginnings in golf the way I felt it deserved, and needed, to be covered. While I’ve read a decent article or two about Fowler’s youth — how else would I have known the story? — nothing stressed, “Look, world, you don’t have to be a country club kid, or be nurtured in a First Tee-style organization, to find your way to the game of golf.”
“Coming Home” emphatically made that point.
If you don’t already know Fowler’s story, here’s a very abbreviated version: Rickie’s grandfather spent time with young Rickie by taking him either fishing or to the local driving range. Rickie rose from that very modest driving range to the PGA Tour (and The Players Championship).
The modesty of that driving range is what drew me to the story in the first place. When I wrote my little piece, I spent an hour at Google Maps “looking” at that range from both satellite and street views. It was a carbon copy of the parched and patchy ranges and courses I frequented when I took up the game (in my 20’s).
When I wrote my piece, which was sort of a suggested outline for an article, this was one of my suggestions:
Show the prices. Take a photo of the prices if you can.
The point was to contrast the affordability of learning golf at a driving range to what the public imagines it costs to learn the game. Imagine my surprise when a price list, written in chalk, flashed on the screen for a second or two. I could not tell if the prices were for buckets of balls or for potato chips, but it didn’t matter; the point was made.
People at the range were interviewed, as was Rickie’s family. (Many of us were introduced to Fowler’s family in the aftermath of his Players win; you’ll recall his mom and sister had given up and headed to the airport before Rickie made his run.) His sister tolf how she was forever picking Rickie up from the range, and it was easy to envision. Someone else — was it the range owner? — said something along the line of, “To think Rickie came from this little country driving range.” (Don’t think of Murrieta as “the sticks,” though. It has 100,000 people, and is an hour north of San Diego, an hour-and-a-half south of Los Angeles.) The point was made more than once that you did not have to be a country club kid to take up and excel at golf.
I wish I could provide a video link to the documentary, or at least this first segment. It’s sad to think such a quality piece of work, which makes such important points, will have such a short shelf life. But I can tell you this: I’m glad I saw it, and I could not be more pleased with the job done by all the people who contributed. By the way, Rickie Fowler narrated his segments.
Every segment was first-rate, but there is one other I will mention, and that is the one about Brendan Steele and Idyllwild, California. Idyllwild, a town of 4000, is a remote and beautiful mountain town which has no golf course. Steele, who didn’t take up the game until age 13 (another point worth stressing) seems to have learned the game and grooved his swing largely from hitting into an outdoor net.
The CBS documentary closed with a return to Rickie Fowler and a profile of his “second hometown,” Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he attended Oklahoma State University. That was another solid segment, and using Rickie to bookend the program was a terrific idea.
I would end by saying I never expected such a great documentary would be made about Fowler and the Murrieta driving range. I truly did get choked up a time or two, partly because I was so happy they made it, and partly because it made its points so effectively.
One image that keeps returning to my mind: a young Rickie sitting in a golf cart with his grandfather. That photo spoke worlds about life and family, and golf.
Lastly, I can honestly say this: The golf range in Murrieta, CA, would be on any top ten golf destinations list I would create. You’ll find more of the heart and soul of golf in that place than at any ten TPC courses.