The Last Putt: Two Teams, One Dream, and a Freshman Named Tiger

The Last Putt: Two Teams, One Dream, and a Freshman Named Tiger

College golf is the breeding ground for the PGA, and the sport’s overlooked chapter. And in 1995 college golf saw its ultimate showdown. At the NCAA championship, a freshman who would become the sport’s biggest icon stood on the green in a sudden-death playoff that would settle the score in a tense and heated rivalry. Would Tiger Woods sink the putt?

Based on exhaustive reporting and interviews, The Last Putt tells the story of an epic rivalry that encapsulated the changing face of the game. On one side was Oklahoma State, a true golfing dynasty featuring the young bloods of a privileged golf family and a coach whose winning record and reputation for toughness made him a mythical figure. On the other side was Stanford, born of the creative recruiting of an unforgettable group of players: Notah Begay (golf ’s first prominent Native American), Casey Martin (who broke down barriers by playing with a severe disability), and Tiger Woods.

A stirring ensemble tale of young men carving out their futures on and off the course, The Last Putt makes for compelling, stroke-for-stroke reading down to the last putt.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547487113

  • ISBN-10: 0547487118

  • Pages: 368

  • Price: $12.99

  • Publication Date: 04/05/2010

  • Carton Quantity: 10

Neil Hayes

Neil Hayes

NEIL HAYES is an award-winning columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and the author of the acclaimed When the Game Stands Tall.
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Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy

BRIAN MURPHY is a golf columnist for Yahoo! Sports and the host of the popular Murph and Mac morning radio show in San Francisco. From 2001 to 2004 he was the national golf writer at the San Francisco Chronicle.
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  • excerpts

    Iron Mike

    Columbus, Ohio

    September 24–25, 1994

    At forty-six years old, Mike Holder was the unquestioned

    dean of college golf, as recognizable in his sport as Bobby Knight

    was in the world of college basketball and Joe Paterno in college

    football. His focus was so acute, his intensity so singular, he was

    oblivious to the whispers that followed him from the parking lot

    to the clubhouse to the practice range at the Scarlet Course, site

    of the early-season Ping Preview tournament in late September of

    1994, whispers that defined a legacy that towered over his sport like

    a monument.

    Whether he was scouting or coaching, everybody on the course

    knew the man with the expressionless face and orange wraparound

    sunglasses, resting beneath a thick mop of reddish blond hair. His

    was the most familiar pose in college golf. "Look, it’s Mike Holder,"

    they would say, the respect discernible in their voices, the news

    spreading through the gallery. When he was recruiting at American

    Junior Golf Association events, people followed him just to see

    which player he had come to see. It was a great compliment for a

    junior player to know that Holder was watching. Galleries parted

    when he passed through, which also spoke to his natural ability to


    He put people off, made them feel uncomfortable. It had always

    been that way. You might find yourself getting to know college golf ’s

    mystery man at one tournament only to have him walk past without

    a word or a look of recognition two weeks later. Just because he

    was scouting a potential recruit on the practice range didn’t mean

    he wanted to engage in friendly conversation with the recruit’s parents.

    He was often referred to as arrogant, aloof, or worse.

    Holder didn’t worry about what other people thought of him.

    He was the embodiment of Oklahoma tough. To him, golf wasn’t

    a country club sport. He was disciplined, demanding, and determined

    to push players to their limits both mentally and physically.

    He made them qualify in the rawest weather, made grueling earlymorning

    workouts mandatory, and considered character building

    the most important part of his job, which wasn’t always the most

    popular approach in a sport where athletes were often coddled as in

    no other.

    At different stages of his career Holder made players run laps

    for hitting balls out of bounds and do pushups for three-putting

    greens. He loved Oklahoma State’s other dominant sport — wrestling

    — and impromptu greenside matches between player and

    coach were not uncommon. He had once angrily and, he believed,

    justifiably bloodied Bob Tway’s nose in a wrestling match moments

    before Tway was to tee off in the first round of a tournament.

    His players learned about excellence from being around him. He

    strove to operate with integrity and did everything to the best of his

    ability. Mostly, he did things his way. If his players preferred some

    other way, he would refer to the major north-south highway that

    splits the state. "I-Thirty-five," he would say slowly, looking his target

    right in the eye, his accent so purely Oklahoma it could double

    as a voice-over for the state department of tourism, "goes both


    No wonder other college golf coaches referred to him, behind his

    back, as the "Great Iron Fist of the Midwest."

    He preached the basic tenets: Be on time, go to class, tell the

    truth, give 100 percent, play one shot at a time, conduct yourself

    with class, stay physically fit, and never make excuses. Any player in

    need of discipline could expect to run steps inside the football stadium

    at sunrise.

    Everything he did was designed to make his players better. He

    dared them to be great, in the classroom and on the course, in everything

    they did. If you were going to play for Mike Holder, being

    average was not an option.

    All this contributed to Holder’s status as his sport’s most controversial

    and dominant figure and, by far, the least understood.

    Holder was the John Wayne of college golf, but to define him

    as one-dimensional failed to acknowledge his complexity. He was

    also perhaps the greatest innovator college golf had ever seen. He

    ran his program as if it were a Fortune 500 corporation and he

    the CEO. He had won six national championships, ten fewer than

    legendary former University of Houston coach Dave Williams,

    the dynasty builder who dominated college golf for thirty-six

    years. But Holder’s overall contribution to the sport was perhaps


    Williams reinvented the game and became known as the "Father

    of College Golf." Holder reinvented it again and again, in ways dramatic

    and subtle, forcing those who wished to compete with him

    to adopt his model and methods. Although the fi rst intercollegiate

    golf tournament was held in 1897, and although no coach will likely

    win more titles than Williams, Holder was, in many ways, college

    golf s first modern coach.

    He was the first to take the same microscopic approach to his

    sport that is common in football and basketball, single-handedly

    ending an era when golf coaches simply "drove the van," or shuttled

    players from tournament to tournament. As his teams continued to

    win, opposing coaches, albeit reluctantly and sometimes even unknowingly,

    would do as Holder did, and soon what seemed like a

    radical idea would become a standard practice.

    At a time when most college coaches did their recruiting by

    phone or simply welcomed players who arrived on their doorstep,

    Holder became a fixture at American Junior Golf Association

    events, always making sure he was the first coach to arrive in the

    morning and the last to leave at night. He spent ten weeks each

    summer scouring the nation and beyond for the best talent and

    forced others to do the same.

    The equipment kept improving. So did instruction. Holder was

    convinced his athletes had to improve as well, and that meant they

    had to be in better physical condition. He made demanding, thriceweekly

    6:30 a.m. aerobics sessions mandatory.

    Opposing coaches criticized him and his workouts while competing

    for recruits. "If you go to OSU you’ll have to do aerobics,"

    they would say. But within a few short years virtually every top program

    had adopted a conditioning program.

    Holder didn’t ask his players to do anything he didn’t do himself.

    He worked out right along with them, never missing a session,

    pushing the instructor to push his players — and himself — to their

    limits and beyond. On days when there were no aerobics, he and his

    stepping machine waged epic battles. Holder was a workout fi end,

    and the stepping machine was his torture device of choice. It was

    man versus machine in a daily pitched battle of wills. Holder wasn’t

    going to quit. As long as the electricity held out, the machine wasn’t

    going to quit either.

    The sport had experienced a major transformation during the

    two-plus decades Holder coached the Cowboys. Much of it was because

    of him. When Holder started coaching, coaches rarely watched

    their teams compete in tournaments. On the contrary, fearing their

    presence might disrupt their players, they often left the grounds

    altogether, sometimes even getting together with other coaches to

    play a different course. Holder remained close to the action. He began

    lingering near the par 3s to offer advice on club selection during

    the early 1980s and had recently started walking entire rounds

    with players in an attempt to steady

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547487113

  • ISBN-10: 0547487118

  • Pages: 368

  • Price: $12.99

  • Publication Date: 04/05/2010

  • Carton Quantity: 10

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