I feel very confident that this will be the only golf tale you have ever read that talks about Rich Roberts, son of Oral Roberts; Ernie Banks, also known as Mr. Cub; Tiger Woods; and Billy Mayfair.
This story has two parts, with part one taking place in 1995.
While covering the 1995 Tour Championship held at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I had the opportunity to meet Rich Roberts, then president of Oral Roberts University, a very avid golfer with a strong game and a low single digit handicap.
On the day before the championship, I was in a meeting with Rich at Oral Roberts University. As my meeting ended, I asked Rich who he thought might win the Tour Championship. Without hesitation, he said that he had a vision during the night and that Billy Mayfair would be the winner. I must admit the preacher made a believer out of me after Mayfair walked away with the title.
Now, hit the fast-forward button to part two. Three years later, while covering the LA Open, I had the honor of being introduced to Ernie Banks, who had played 18 years for the Cubs, hit more than 500 home runs, and was a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ernie loved to play golf but loved talking golf even more. Needless to say, we enjoyed each other’s company. And, of course, I had to tell him the story about Rich Roberts and his pre-tournament vision of Billy Mayfair winning that 1995 Tour Championship.
Ernie Banks was a huge Tiger Woods fan and said he was really enjoying watching Tiger play. As luck would have it, after 72 holes of this LA Open, there was a two-way tie for the lead. Guess who?
Yep, it was Tiger and Billy Mayfair. As both players were preparing for the playoff, Banks asked me who was going to win, fully expecting me to say “Tiger.” I said, “Ernie, I’m going to call Rich Roberts for the answer.”
I pretended to call Rich and moments later I said, “Ernie, Rich said that Billy Mayfair was going to win.” Tiger, over the course of his career, was involved in 12 playoffs. He won 11 of them, with his only loss being against Billy Mayfair in that LA Open.
I was fortunate enough to be with Ernie at several other golf events, the last time being the 2012 Ryder Cup in Chicago, a town that idolized Ernie Banks. After the Tiger’s loss to Billy Mayfair, Ernie always called me the Billy Mayfair Man. I can still hear that distinctive voice saying, “There he is, ‘the Billy Mayfair Man.’”
US Open Update . . .
Preparations are moving along nicely. Many of my media friends thoroughly enjoyed playing Shinnecock last week on Media Day. It’s always nice to hear so many of them say Shinnecock is the finest course they’ve ever played. Of course, I agree.
Just a reminder . . .Thursday, June 7 through Sunday, June 11, the week prior to the start of the US Open Championship, the US Open Merchandise Pavilion will be open to the public — no ticket needed. I’ll be there broadcasting on WLNG . . . Hope to see you there.