A dedicated fan vents: LIV Golf participants are making a mockery of the game

Tom Reiter (left) and John Conway prepare for takeoff Sunday night at JFK airport on their way to Scotland and the 150th Open Championship. The tournament starts Thursday on the Old Course at St. Andrews. — Photo special to The JB Replay

Editor’s note: After the Saudi Arabian government-backed LIV Golf group announced in March a $255 million, eight-event schedule, a controversy erupted that lingers going into this week’s British Open. Dozens of pros have linked with the upstart series, and while LIV golfers have been suspended from PGA Tour events, they’re allowed to compete in the major championships, including this week’s British Open in Scotland. My friend Tom Reiter, who is attending the 150th anniversary of The Open, doesn’t like the LIV concept at all. As he was packing his bags the other night, the former student journalist at San Antonio College filed a searing commentary.

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the best of golf, it was the worst of golf. It was a tale of two tours and two tournaments nearly 2,000 miles apart geographically and even further apart philosophically. Let me take you to the final hole recently of both The John Deere Classic in Illinois and the LIV Golf series in Oregon.

First, the LIV event. Famed lefty and suspended PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson walks up the 18th fairway of the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club at 10 over par, knowing if he makes bogey he will drop to 42nd place (out of 48 golfers) and his winnings will drop from $133,000 to $127,000, pocket change for a man who was paid $200 million by the Saudi Arabian government to join the LIV tour. As a matter of fact, if Phil scores a 12 on the last hole, he stills collects $120,000, the lowest an LIV tournament participant can earn. Pressure? You tell me.

Two thousand miles to the east, 29-year-old J.T. Poston walks up the 18th fairway at the TPC Deere Run course in Silvis, Ill. During his seven years of professional golf he has earned nearly $8 million and he knows if he only holds on to the lead he will earn his biggest payday ever at $1,278,000. Also, the victory would give him an invitation to the Open Championship at St. Andrews, as well as invitations to the 2023 PGA Championship and the 2023 Masters. Pressure? You tell me.

Walking next to Poston is Emiliano Grillo, a 29-year-old Argentinian ranked No. 151 in the world. Grillo knows if he makes par he will tie for second and earn $631,900, and an invite to St. Andrews. If he misses his par putt, his earnings drop to $423,633, and just as importantly he loses his St. Andrews invite. If he makes it, he packs his bags for Scotland; if he misses, he instead heads home less a quarter of a million dollars. He stands over his putt. Pressure? Ya think?

The LIV tour is a farce

This new tour financed primarily by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund is just plain bad for golf. Being a long-time lover of the game and a spectator at many professional tournaments, why would I watch what is basically a 54-hole exhibition? Besides Mickelson several other big names have jumped at the big money the Saudis are throwing around. It is reported that Dustin Johnson received $150 million to join. Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed quickly followed. Honestly, I have no problem with professional golfers making as much money as they can, but the hypocrisy of these turncoats drives me crazy. The LIV golfers say it’s not just the money. They say the tour will be good for the future of golf. I guess shortening tournaments 25 percent and adding rock music is good for those that like Happy Gilmore Golf. I would give them more credit if they just said the money was too good to pass up. I know if the Saudis offered me the big bucks to write this article, I would take the money and run, but I wouldn’t go on and on about how me making millions is good for The JB Replay.

Also ludicrous is the suggestion that the shorter tour (eight events this year) will give the overworked more quality time with their family. It’s ironic that more time off is given as a reason yet three players who were banned from playing in the Scottish Open (a four-day World Tour and PGA co-sponsored event ending today) were able to get a stay through international mediation that allowed them to play. I guess family was not important this weekend. I can happily report that one of those playing under that injunction, Ian Poulter, was in 156th place after the first day. Someone needs to tell Ian there is no money for last place in the real golf world. (Poulter played two rounds in the Scottish Open and missed the cut).

North Carolina resident Tom Reiter is attending the British Open in Scotland this week as a fan and will chronicle his adventure for The JB Replay. Here, he’s shown working as a marshall at a Tiger Woods-sponsored event in the Bahamas last December.

Golf etiquette

Now, as I am just days away from stepping on the most hallowed golf course of all time, I find myself facing a conundrum. I believe in rules, I believe in golf spectator etiquette, and I have enforced those rules as a marshall at the Hero World Championship in the Bahamas. People screaming, “Get in the hole,” or, “Mashed Potatoes!” makes my blood boil. As a spectator I cheer for a good shot and offer condolences for an errant one. Later this week on the four days of The Open Championship I will be rooting for three of my favorite players — Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Thomas — and rest assured I will be the gentleman spectator I have always been, but in my head I will be loudly booing Phil, Dustin, Brooks, Patrick, Ian and Sergio Garcia for their making a mockery of golf.

When a door closes, somewhere, a window opens

Tom Reiter (right) and friend John Conway are expected to leave Sunday on a trip to Scotland for the British Open. Reiter will chronicle his trip to St. Andrews for The JB Replay.

Editor’s note: Good morning, all. Today, you’ll be treated to a piece from my old friend Tom Reiter, who discusses the genesis of his upcoming trip to the British Open.

In his essay, he quotes from a wide range of pop culture icons. From Charles Schulz, the “Peanuts” comic-strip creator. Also, from the soundtrack to a 1965-movie classic, “The Sound of Music.” For the kicker, he throws in a line from “The A-Team,” a 1980s-era action television series.

I hope you enjoy Tom’s work. The 70-year-old North Carolinian is scheduled to take a commercial flight on Sunday morning — winging his way to New York and then on to Scotland — for next week’s 150th anniversary of The Open Championship.

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

It was a dark and stormy night (sorry, Snoopy) when the first seeds of a plan were planted in my brain. On April 6, 2020, I read the following statement issued by organizers of the British Open: The R&A has decided to cancel The Open in 2020 due to the current Covid-19 pandemic. The Championship will next be played at Royal St George’s in 2021.

Was it possible that as the pandemic sowed quite a bit of uncertainty and some fear into our lives, the R&A was throwing me a lifeline? As a long time sports fan, I was suffering through a myriad of cancellations. NCAA Women’s Final Four tickets purchased a year before now became just another piece of memorabilia. My brackets were as unfilled as my desire to attend the basketball festivities in New Orleans.

If I were a comic strip character, a balloon above my head would depict either a tree branch about to fall or a light bulb shining brightly, because an idea was about to form. An idea that could sustain me through this epic plague, along with shots and booster shots. The R&A’s announcement, to me, was a lifebuoy thrown from the deck of a ship. I grabbed it and was reminded of a line from ‘The Sound of Music,’ as Maria von Trapp exclaims, “When The Lord closes a door, somewhere, He opens a window.” For many, a door closed when the 2020 Open Championship was cancelled. But for me a window opened, a window that I would jump through for the next 26 months.

A plan begins to form

Although I only taught English for some 40 odd years, I was very proud of my math skills and those skills immediately went to work following cancellation of the 2020 Open. In assessing the situation, I noted that the 150th Open Championship would no longer be played at Royal St. George’s in 2021 but at St. Andrews in 2022. It was fate. In my 70th year, I was going to the birthplace of golf.

As a good buddy of mine was fond of saying, “Wishing it don’t make it so.” I quickly realized there would be many hurdles to clear and I’m no Edwin Moses. First and foremost I had to determine if my dream was even feasible. Heading straight to my computer, my Internet search began. Getting tickets was going to be through a worldwide lottery and I certainly did not want to leave my journey up to chance. I wanted a guarantee, so I started looking at packages. Narrowing it down to two companies was easy. I found two — Voyages Golf and Golfbreaks. Both were licensed by the R&A to offer packages to The Open. The cost was similar so I decided to go with the one headquartered in the USA, Golfbreaks.

After several phone calls, I had decided on a package that would give me a week’s lodging in Dundee (breakfast included) and a Wednesday-Sunday ticket to the championship all for just under $3000, based on double occupancy. Okay, one hurdle jumped; it was feasible. Hurdle number two was my wife of nearly 50 years. Rather than beat around the bush, I just explained why I wanted to go (although not a golf fan, she did know about the British Open and St. Andrews) and how much it would set us back. How could I forget her wonderful reply, “Just get someone to go with you because I’m not.” Hurdle number two jumped but perhaps the toughest hurdle loomed directly ahead. How do I find someone as crazy about this idea as I am?

My two best buds were still in New York. Chris, a teacher and colleague of mine before I retired and John who I worked and coach with for a dozen years and like me had recently retired. I sent them a link to my Golfbreaks package. I didn’t ask either John or Chris to join me, but rather I was just sharing my trip with them.

I was pleasantly surprised when I read John’s text which simply said, “I’m in.” Two days later and a $600 deposit by each of us we were locked in to the 150th Open at St. Andrews. As Hannibal Smith on “The A Team” often announced, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Tally ho! Former San Antonio student journalist prepares for a dream trip to the British Open

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

I’m guessing right about now some of you may be wondering who I am and why this is appearing in this particular blog. I’d like to say “I’m Jean Val Jean” or that, “I am just a poor boy and my story seldom told,” but those monikers have already been taken by Les Miserables and Simon Garfunkel. In reality, I’m Tom Reiter, a 70-year-old retired English teacher and a transplanted New Yorker living in Charlotte, N.C. Now why my words of wisdom are appearing in this particular blog is a much longer story and it goes back nearly half a century. May I have a little flashback music please.

Tom Reiter once served as editor of The Ranger, the student newspaper at San Antonio College. Reiter, a retired school teacher living in North Carolina, will chronicle his trip to the 150th British Open for The JB Replay.

After serving my country honorably for four years in the United States Air Force, I found myself living in a country very unfamiliar to me, Texas. My new bride still had two more years to serve at Lackland AFB, so I decided to restart my education. I found a community college on San Pedro Avenue and that is where I met this funny sounding person, Jerry Briggs.

I had this crazy idea that I could be a sportswriter so I took some journalism courses at San Antonio College and began writing for its award winning newspaper The Ranger. Jerry, being the sports editor, took me under his wing. Jerry and I did some great things together, and I must admit some crazy things (driving three hours to see our men’s basketball team play San Jacinto might have been one of those things).

As Robert Frost penned, “As way leads to way,” a year later we took two different paths. Jerry became a Texas Longhorn and later steered (get it) himself to the San Antonio Express-News and the San Antonio Light and I headed to New York scrapping my sports writing plans to become a teacher.  Although separated by 2,000 miles we managed to see each other now and then. I was in Texas for his wedding (I still don’t know what Paula sees in him) and we got together when his work covering the Spurs and the Houston Oilers brought him to the East Coast. Well, back in October Mary and I once again visited Jerry and Paula.  45 years older, but still talking funny, Jerry and I sipped a few brews and when I mentioned I was going to The Open Championship  (dramatic music please) the blog idea was created. So basically, if you’re reading this and it makes you nauseous, blame Jerry not me.

Editor’s note: Tom’s stories will appear periodically this month in The JB Replay. The British Open is set for July 14-17 in Scotland. The tournament will be played at the Old Course at St. Andrews, which is considered the oldest golf layout in the world.