Golf had been in my life for 60+ years. I have experienced wonderfully magical moments on great courses, playing alongside editor buddies at Cypress Point, Bandon Dunes and Pinehurst, to name but three.
I’ve always been more a ball “striker” than “player.” Hitting a pure shot in the exact middle of the club has mattered more to me than winning a hole. (Sorry, playing partners, for lost bets.)
My handicap was a not-too shabby “7” at age 50. That was on my tough, home-course, Wachesaw Plantation in Murrells Inlet, S.C.
I shelved golf in 2014, the year my Parkinson’s was diagnosed. That monster was, and is, pounding my autonomic nervous system, especially equilibrium and balance functions.
I was unable to swing without falling down for three years. Physical therapy and intensive exercise brought my game back in 2018, albeit with a swing modified for Parkinson’s. (Technically, maximum possible trunk rotation with minimal arm turn.)
Encore June 8, 2019.
My longtime, travel group was playing the Senator course at the Robert Trent Jones Trail course in Prattville, Alabama.
I joined them from my Macon home for the day, more tag-along observer than player. I did, however, swing without falling down.
This story is about a group of guys connected by golf who became a tribe of close—and gently needling–friends. You couldn’t expect more, or less, from a bunch of top newspaper editors — most of them retired rather than daily practitioners of their journalism craft that Saturday in Prattvile.
The Fourth Estate Golf Society (FEGS) came to be in the mid-to late 1980s at a convention hotel bar in Washington, D.C., legend has it.
The late David Burgin turned to his buddy Will Jarrett and said something choice like this: “I am bored as shit by this fucked up meeting. Let’s go play golf.”
They did, then decided to form a group of golfing newspaper editors who would gather each year in late Spring or early Summer at first-rate golf resorts.
For a figurative five minutes, Dave and Will conjured their group’s name as the First Amendment Golf Society. The acronym FAGS didn’t quite work for the two machismo guys.
Thus, FEGS was born.
I was invited to join in the late 1980s when I was editor of The Sun Newsin Myrtle Beach.
At its peak, I remember as many as 20-24 players making the five days of golf at superb courses: Hilton Head, Pebble Beach, Kiawah, Cherry Hills, Whistling Straits, to name but a few.
Our overt bond was a game. The subtler tie was emotional. FEGS guys could and do call on one another for all manner of support, professional and personal.
The rollcall of members includes top shelf, prize-winnings editors and related newspaper executives, such as the late Charles Cooper (our detail guy and historian), Peter Bhatia, Larry Tarleton, Don Nauss, Jim Box, Walter Mears, Frank Denton, Jim Baltzelle, Mike Waller, Jeff Cohen, Craig Ammerman, John Matthews, George Blake, Joe Urschel, Bob Duffy, Darrell Christian, Mark Mulholland, Bil Horton, Reid Miller, Jack Osteen, Byron Yake, Steve Wagenlander.
FEGS this year numbered eight players. Morbidity and mortality have taken their toll.
Those eight, and those who couldn’t join this time, are my golf tribe.