– the man who faced fear straight on and took the Golf Digest Challenge at Torrey Pines this weekend, playing one round at Torrey Pines in the exact conditions that the pros play at the US Open.
Remember last year, Tiger Woods said that a 10-handicap player couldn’t possibly break 100 on the US Open setup – no way.
Well, some smart person at Golf Digest jumped on that and created this wonderful challenge that resulted in over 56,000 essays being submitted by people just like Atkinson who desperately wanted to win that coveted spot next to singer Justin Timberlake, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and NBC’s The Today Show co-host Matt Lauer.
A 39-year-old medical device salesman from Omaha, Nebraska and father of three children, Atkinson is fighting more than fear of feeling naked on the first tee at this event. A non-smoker, he’s also fighting inoperable lung cancer after being diagnosed with it a year ago. But he’s no loser…
“If I can beat America’s deadliest cancer, then I can definitely break 100 at its Open. Everybody will witness a man with a heart of a champion and a soul of a survivor. More importantly, you will understand why you never, never NEVER give up!”
There were some pretty impressive caddies in tow as well: Butch Harmon and Greg Norman were right there with the 4-some.
Watching the show today, I wished we’d seen a little more of the golf itself, but it was still great. Atkinson started off well, but struggled in the middle. But who can blame him! I would have probably wiffed it off the first tee – he was the only one to get it into fairway on the first hole from what I could see.
So was Tiger right? Well…
– Atkinson (8-handicap) shot a 43-over-par 114, but ended in style with a solid tee shot and great 2 putt bogey from a long way off.
– Lauer (6.2-handicap) shot the targetted 100 – bang on!
– Timberlake (6.0 handicap) shot 98 after a great 9-iron into that very scary 18th green.
– Romo (2.2 handicap) won with an impressive 84. Who knew football players could play golf!
But regardless of his final score, Atkinson is a winner…
“It was the best 114 I ever shot,” Atkinson said. “I had a good time, and that’s really what golf is about.”
Well done, John! Not sure why you didn’t hit driver off the tee more often after seeing you hit your tee shot off the 18th. Nice to see your bro on the bag for your final walk down 18 as well – very classy of you.
Yes, John, we all lived vicariously through you today as we watched you live your dream.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Greg Norman say that this challenge is “one of the most important events of the game’s history.”
Wow! That’s a little over the top perhaps, but maybe with this kind of support, this challenge will become a standard event before all majors – wouldn’t that be fun?
I sure hope they do it for the LPGA too. Golf for Women…it’s your turn!
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