, Port Arthur, Texas


August 7, 2012

West on golf: Jimmy Stroud takes gamble on PGA Championship

PORT ARTHUR — Jimmy Stroud has rolled the dice and, as this is written, is driving toward South Carolina hoping son Chris will move up from first alternate and into the field of the 94th PGA Championship starting Thursday on the Kiawah Island Ocean Course. There’s no turning back, since he’s already had to commit to a pricey hotel room near Kiawah for four nights.

    “Obviously, we’re counting on him getting in,” said Jimmy, who is being accompanied by his brother Joey. “It would be awfully disappointing to drive that far and not be able to watch Christopher get to play. He’s sweating it out, too.”

    Under PGA of America policy, Stroud must be on site ready to go, if somebody withdraws. He is allowed to use the practice range, but can’t play the course as long as he’s an alternate. He can’t even get one of the courtesy cars given to players, unless he becomes an official entrant.

    There have been instances of players being told they were in the field in a major championship only minutes before having to report for the tee time of the player they replaced. The most famous alternate story, of course, is that of John Daly.

    A total unknown at that time, Daly started out as ninth alternate in the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind., and got into the field very late. Because he didn’t expect to make it in as ninth alternate, Daly didn’t have a caddie with him. He was able to hire Nick Price’s bag toter, after Price withdrew for the birth of his first child.

    There is even a Southeast Texas tie to what had to be the most improbable winner of a major championship. Beaumonter Bruce Lietzke, who won 13 times on the PGA Tour but was never able to hoist  the trophy at a major, was in or near the lead all week and finished second to Daly. Lietzke ultimately won a major — the U.S. Senior Open — on the Champions Tour.

    It is almost unheard of for a major to be played without at least one alternate getting in on Tuesday or Wednesday. Stroud’s best chance seems to be Ben Crane who is dealing with back problems. The players wives are friends and Crane’s wife told Chris’ wife, Tiffany, that she didn’t think he was going to be able to play.

    Understandably, Crane is probably reluctant to withdraw if he thinks there’s any chance he could be good to go by Thursday. It’s possible he might not make a decision until Thursday morning at the latest, or after trying to play a practice round on Wednesday. Crane’s Thursday tee time is 8:20 a.m.

    In the meantime, Stroud will be hitting lots of practice balls while his dad closes in on the Charleston, S.C. area.

    Having played the Ocean Course last summer, I have one piece of advice for Chris, should he make it into the field. Bring your A game.  This, as players on both sides learned in the 1991 Ryder Cup, is one of Pete Dye’s most ferocious beasts. If the wind blows, some really good players are going to get embarrassed.

    Depending on how hard the PGA of America wants to set up the Ocean Course, there are going to be scores in the ‘80s. It can play up to 7,700 yards. Trouble, serious trouble, is not hard to find. Some of the back tees were so far behind the regular tees, I couldn’t have reached them with a 9-iron.

    As one who loves to watch the pros have to work just to make pars, and to break par over 18 holes, I can’t wait to watch and see what happens.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at

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