I’m going to miss you, Old Blue.
Growing up in the north, Doral’s Blue Monster was more than a golf tournament. It was a symbol, with its shimmering beauty beamed into my living room from overhead blimp shots.
Its stirring images were a hopeful sign I would soon be seeing that first robin returning home in the spring.
Doral’s arrival on our family TV set was a reminder that the last patches of winter snow were about to disappear and we would soon be thrusting open our windows to let the warmth of spring’s invigorating thaw inside.
Doral was a ritualistic experience.
The Florida “swing” arrives this week, and for the first time in 55 years, it won’t include Doral.
It’s gone, unceremoniously swept off the tour schedule last summer. It was cut loose three months after last year’s event was played, with no farewell sendoff.
It was like somebody just flushed the toilet on all that rich history.
That’s sad for more than South Florida golf fans. It’s sad for a generation of North Americans who once thought of Doral as the real start of the golf season, as the real start of the journey toward Magnolia Lane and the Masters.
Doral was the oldest tour stop in the Sunshine State, the first stop in the Florida swing for the longest time. With Mexico wedged between the Honda Classic and the Valspar Championship, is it really still a swing?
When Billy Casper won the inaugural event in 1962, John F. Kennedy was president, the Beatles were working on their first hit in the United Kingdom (“Love Me Do”) and astronaut John Glenn was being celebrated as the first American to orbit the Earth.
I hate the way Doral was written off and discarded.
When Casper won that first year, he beat Paul Bondeson by one shot, Jack Nicklaus by two and Ben Hogan by three. No, I didn’t see that, but I watched that unforgettable Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson duel around the Blue Monster in ’05, an epic struggle that breathed new life into the old property.
Nicklaus, Trevino, Floyd, Weiskopf, Crenshaw, Norman, Faldo, Els, Woods and Mickelson all won there.
The 18th hole might have been the most exciting finishing hole in all of golf, the work of Dick Wilson, a tortured genius who designed the original layout. Doral pro Frank Strafaci, however, is actually credited with giving Doral’s Blue Course its “Blue Monster” moniker.
That’s what Strafaci called it after watching the 18th hole devour the hopes of so many tour pros that first year.
“This is a monster,” Strafaci told reporters. “A Blue Monster.”
And by the way, there’s history in the name Doral. It’s a combination of the first names of the resort’s original owners, Doris and Al Kaskel.
Yes, Doral’s Blue Monster got old, another victim of golf’s power surge, another casualty that got carved up with a facelift that altered its identity after Donald Trump bought it. Trump put the teeth back into the Blue Monster, with Gil Hanse his architect, but the nature of the test changed, with forced carries and all that extended water taking away some of the genius Wilson built into the design’s playability in high winds.
Who really knows why the PGA Tour cut its ties with Doral and moved its event to Mexico, whether it was solely a sponsorship issue or a Trump issue or some combination of both? It’s just a shame all the memories the PGA Tour’s greats built there are “lost in time, like tears in rain,” as director Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner said in the SciFi flick. It’s a shame we didn’t get to remember the best of times at Doral with a proper goodbye.