When play on the PGA Tour resumed last week at Laurel Valley
Golf Club in Ligonier, Pa., 60 miles east of Pittsburgh, the
Marconi Pennsylvania Classic was billed as a return to business
as usual, but, of course, it wasn't. How could it be? Barely a
week earlier Laurel Valley caddie master Gregg Garrison had been
standing in front of the massive brick clubhouse when an
airliner roared directly overhead at an alarmingly low altitude.
"It wasn't even 3,000 feet up," Garrison says. "As it went over
the hillside a mile away, the wings waved and wobbled, and it
started to bank."
United Flight 93, hijacked by terrorists, crashed less than 20
miles away, in Shanksville, about three minutes after passing
over Laurel Valley. "From what I heard later," Garrison says, "I
figure the passengers were going for the cockpit right about the
time the plane went by here."
Two weeks after tournaments in Tampa and St. Louis had been
canceled and the Ryder Cup had been pushed back a year, the
Pennsylvania Classic was as much about flag-waving group therapy
as it was about golf. "Everybody is talking about how we need to
get back to normal," said Paul Azinger, a member of the Ryder Cup
team. "I'm sorry, but we're never getting back to normal, and I
don't think we should."
The crash site was the focal point of the week. "I feel as if I
should go there," said Stewart Cink, another Ryder Cupper. Among
others, First Lady Laura Bush, Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge,
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller
toured the site, attended memorial services and spoke with
mourners during the week. Last Thursday, the day the tournament
began, Senator Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) introduced legislation
calling for all 44 of the passengers on Flight 93 to be awarded
the Congressional Gold Medal for what law enforcement agencies
have concluded was a heroic effort to thwart the hijackers.
With evidence of the events of Sept. 11 close at hand, the PGA of
America's decision to delay the Ryder Cup drew support from the
six U.S. team members at Laurel Valley as well as from captain
Curtis Strange. "Nobody's focus is much on golf," said Cink, who
proved it by missing the cut. "I can't take three steps without
thinking about what happened."
U.S. flags were everywhere at Laurel Valley--on the tee markers,
on the flagsticks (similar star-spangled banners were also on the
pins at Senior and Buy.com tour events) and on the caps the Tour
gave the players and their caddies. The caps also bore the words
UNITED WE STAND. Larry Mize, who came in second, three shots
behind winner Robert Allenby, pinned a red, white and blue ribbon
made by Brian Watts's wife, Debbye, on his hat. "United We
Stand--I like that," Mize said, "and I believe it's true."
Fred Funk's wife, Sharon, set a record for dandy Yankee doodling.
Early in the week she painted a flag on her husband's golf bag
and then did likewise on the bags of at least two dozen players.
She supersized one version, painting the Stars and Stripes on the
Cleveland Golf equipment van. "I wanted to do something," she
The Classic was a step toward normalcy, albeit a small one.
Bomb-sniffing dogs checked packages that arrived at the
clubhouse, and on Friday morning every player on the practice
range froze when two large, unmarked helicopters lumbered over
the course. The players' reaction was a sign of the times. "I
agree with President Bush that we need to get back to normal,"
said Mize, "but normal now will be different than normal used to
--Gary Van Sickle