Memories of the 2009 PLAYERS Championship won by Henrik Stenson!

President Bush No. 41 honored with Life TIme Achievement Award.

President Bush No. 41 honored with Life TIme Achievement Award.

The 2009 Players Championship was my second so I knew my way around TPC Sawgrass a little better than 2008. It was an extraordinary year both before and during the golf competition which has become known as "Golf's Fifth Major" and one-and-only THE PLAYERS Championship. On a somber, sad yet joyous note there was the tribute to Dave "Duffy" Lemon, a.k.a. "Reptile" on the 17th green. I literally had met him a few days before his death. He lived next door at the beach and we chatted a little with a promise to "talk more golf" next time. See the article I wrote at the time below past the picture gallery. On Wednesday, which is always Military Day at THE PLAYERS, in 2009 it was incredibly patriotic with President George Walker Bush, No. 41 present to receive the PGA TOUR's highest honor, a Lifetime Achievement Award. There was a procession up the 18th fairway and a memorable ceremony near the green complete with an F-16 flyover.
Hal Sutton's portrait revealed in the Clubhouse in 2009.

Hal Sutton's portrait revealed in the Clubhouse in 2009.

Hal Sutton's "Be the right club today" portrait was unveiled in the clubhouse on the other side of the front door from Steve Elkington's "3-iron first to win on the 18th with a birdie." Both two-time winners joined two, now three, two-time winners Tiger Woods (second win in 2013), Davis Love III and Freddie Couples. Three-time champion Jack Nicklaus and first time winner at TPC Sawgrass Steve Pate complete the seven-portrait greeting in the lobby of the Clubhouse. On Sunday I spotted Henrik Stenson's group for NBC Sports and he shot a bogey-free 66 to come out of the pack and lap the field and win by four strokes. At the start of the final round he was tied for second with Tiger Woods and five others five strokes behind Alex Cejka. It was the most amazing round I ever witnessed with two incredible bunker saves on Nos. 3 (back bunker with back flag) and 5 (short upper right bunker) before his first chip putt birdie on No. 7. "Spectacular," as Sj would say, memories from 2009!

Longtime PGA TOUR Caddie Dave Lemon Dies Unexpectedly at Age 54

Dave “Duffy” Lemon, a.k.a. the “Reptile” caddied for John Mahaffey when he won the 1978 PGA Championship. He was a regular guy that grew up in Chicago and caddied on the PGA TOUR for 27 years. I met him only three days ago as I was to become his new upstairs neighbor living on the beach in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. He started a conversation with me about life on the tour caddying for the likes of John Daly before he won at Crooked Stick. Unfortunately that conversation ended Christmas Eve morning when I came back from the YMCA just in time to see the coroner take his body from his apartment on a stretcher draped in black. Dave “Duffy” Lemon, a.k.a. “a really nice guy” is dead at age 54 as a result of complications of kidney failure and diabetes.

Duffy as his close friends knew him liked his caddie nickname “Reptile.” He told me there were a lot of Dave’s out there caddying on tour and the nickname made him unique so people could remember him. So even back then in the early 80s the world of marketing impacted the caddies. He told me he received the nickname playing a little golf up in Hilton Head with some tour buddies. He wasn’t that good so his golf ball was always out past the outskirts of the fairway in the friendly confines of the swamp and jungle where the reptiles live. Hence Duffy being appointed the “Reptile.”

The surfer dude young civil engineer Dustin next door recalled Duffy recently telling him “he was living on borrowed time.” He would wait patiently outside his apartment sitting for a friend to pick him up and take him to dialysis treatment. Duffy mentioned to me in our brief encounter that his vision would become so clouded at times from the diabetes that he could hardly see. I had to put my name and number in his cell phone for him. His life was simple and good which is pretty much what all of us hope for especially around this time of year.

I can tell you he had friends. His dialysis-driving friend was there with him three times a week. Tony called to check on him in the morning and knew immediately something was wrong and came over to find out what it was. His landlord and billiard-shooting friend Terry who virtually let him live at the beach rent-free. They met at a bar during the PLAYERS many years ago and were friends for life after that. His upstairs neighbor Jeff who could fix just about anything. The PGA TOUR didn’t forget one of its own as Terry told me they contacted him to pay his rent and make sure Duffy was being taken care of. Maybe there will never be a movie about Duffy’s life but it surely is an example of the goodness of life around the game of golf and living here in America. 

Our conversation, I wish could continue. Maybe it will. That’s the funny thing about the game of golf- it is never what you expect and usually it is what you least expect. I am researching a golf book about the history of the golf course I grew up on in Binghamton, New York. I never expected to, but what I received was a million stories about my deceased father who was a one-time club champion including newspaper articles I had never seen with his picture of him in them. I think the Duffy conversation will continue though it will be others doing the talking for him.

Doesn’t it seem we always find golf clusters in our lives? When the surf was low neighbor Dustin managed the building of the Tom Fazio designed Amelia National Golf & Country Club course. Duffy, the PGA TOUR caddie was downstairs. Golfers bring a special type of friendship and bond to each other. Maybe it’s the fact that the game is difficult to excel at and humbles you and your playing partners in a way that only brings you closer together. I think professional players and caddies take it to a higher standard of being. Where else can you see a player lose the game and a lot of money and then genuinely take his hat off, congratulate and shake the hand of the person who defeated his hopes and dreams? A caddie like Duffy is the fiber of our community. It is a good game that brings out the good in people. “Reptile” is certainly one of the good guys that have left us behind only to make us more thankful for the gift of life and to think about what we should be doing with that gift.

Merry Christmas Duffy and Happy New Year in your new home up in Heaven.

Say hello to Payne Stewart for me.