It seems like it is the little things in golf and life that mean the most.
Robert Allenby will be wearing a pink shirt on Sunday in memory of his mother while playing the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
If you were in his gallery on Saturday afternoon you couldn’t help but meet one of the nicest gentlemen from Australia—his father. He was the one rooting the hardest for Allenby’s putts to go into the hole.
When you uttered your sympathy for the passing of his beloved wife you could see the moist twinkle in his eye and know the special love they shared. The man in grief would then humbly mention to you that Robert will be wearing a pink shirt tomorrow on Sunday to recognize all that his mother did for him in life.
Allenby, one of the nicest guys on the PGA TOUR is playing his heart out and literally on his sleeve trying to win a tournament for mom.
Back in December down under at the Australian Masters Allenby sized up the situation for what it was. “I knew that it would be the last tournament and last shot that really she would ever see me hit.”
His mom passed soon afterwards and there is that sense of emptiness we all feel when our mother leaves us alone in this world. She was an inspiration to him and left him with some departing words that December day in Australia.
“There are more important things in life than winning tournaments.” We all know that but we all know we have to do what it is we do even after our mom has gone on to a better place.
The little things in golf like making those short putts for par sometimes seem the most elusive to nail down. Twice yesterday Allenby reached the green in regulation on Nos. 9 and 15 and three-putted for bogey missing four footers.
His putting this week ranks almost last in the field. He has averaged almost 31 putts per round and took 35 putts on Saturday in his four-over par round of 74. His putts for Greens in Regulation (GIR) was 2.077 meaning that on average it took him more than two putts to get the ball in the hole when he hit the green.
On the par-five sixth hole, you could sense his mother’s presence as he almost three-putted for par after reaching the green in two shots. He lagged his 60-footer for eagle to seven feet. The ensuing putt stayed on the lip for what seemed like an eternity before dropping in the hole for the birdie.
One spectator quipped that “it took longer than Tiger’s chip at the 16th at Augusta to fall in and it wasn’t even a Nike.”
Allenby, a winner of four PGA TOUR tournaments, the last one coming way back in 2001 is trying hard to win a tournament in his mother’s memory. Winning Mr. Palmer’s tournament would fulfill that dream.
Maybe there is a special connection with the almost 80-year old golfing icon that is known for wearing pink shirts. Maybe the colorful Payne Stewart himself a lover of the pink will be masterminding a special conclusion to tournament come Sunday afternoon.
Playing in the sun with a heavy heart under adverse conditions such as rough, wind and a dried out course due to Florida’s drought conditions Allenby is in contention tied for sixth place seven strokes back of Sean O’Hair.
Yes, one of those five guys in front of him is named Tiger Woods who has won this tournament five times including last year with a dramatic putt on the 18th green.
But who knows who will win this thing? That is why they play the game. It will be a different course on Sunday after heavy thunderstorms passed through the area early in the morning.
With softer conditions maybe a low round like say a 63 or 64 out of the pack may win the tournament. Allenby can’t putt any worse so maybe the change in conditions is a sign from above that things will go in his favor.
Allenby is staying lighthearted knowing humor is an important part of life too. Back at the Honda a few weeks ago on the difficult par-four sixth hole he took off his shoes and rolled up his pants to blast one out of the muck.
“I was going to take my pants off but I thought about Ian Baker-Finch, that scene has been shown so many times, and I know I've got better legs than him.” That incident was back in 1993 at Colonial.
Both incidents were trumped a week later at Doral when Henrik Stenson played his strip club for the world to see. It’s funny how humor gets us through the tough times both on and off the course.
Allenby is playing for someone else too: his father.
Back at the Honda he was thinking about when they would be together next. “I've got my dad coming over in three weeks, starting the week of Bay Hill. And he'll be here for probably three months.
So he'll be at all of the tournaments that I go to, and my weeks off, we'll play golf together, go fishing, probably do a lot more fishing than golf.”
He is a lucky guy to have them as parents. “She just had a lot of belief in my ability with anything that I did, but with golf, my mom and dad were just so supportive, but never pushed me once, not once.
"They said, just do it if you love it; otherwise, it not a problem. It's fine. You can do whatever you want.”
“I believed that I could be a great player in golf and I could be a winner, and, you know, it's all because my mom and dad believed in me and just gave me the confidence in my ability.”
We believe in you too Robert Allenby—sooner or later go out and win one for mom and dad. It doesn’t matter when. Thanks for reminding us that it is the little things that do matter the most in golf and life.
Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering for the tournaments and working part time for NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and The Golf Channel. He resides in Jacksonville Beach, FL near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to Andy@MrHickoryGolf.net