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My Year in Golf, 2016: Beth Ann Nichols

As 2016 winds down, members of the Golfweek staff reflect on their year in golf. Up next: Beth Ann Nichols.

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There’s a bunker on the sixth hole.

It took a second for that phrase to compute. We were minutes away from teeing off at Omaha Beach Beach Golf Club when word came down from the pro shop that a German bunker was on the Seaside Course.

The par-4 sixth doglegs right along the sea. It’s possible that one could play the picturesque hole and completely miss what could be the most stirring experience in golf. Don’t let that happen.

A memorial for the 47 Royal Marine Commando that served in “Operation Overload” on D-Day is situated below the green. Wooden crosses and red poppy wreaths surround its base.

Behind it, concrete stairs lead underground to a dark and cramped space where German soldiers looked out on the craggy shores of Normandy through two long, narrow slits in the concrete wall used for gunners.

I stood where Nazi soldiers stood and tried to envision how a place so serene and a seaside view so stunning was once the scene of a bloody World War II attack. I thought about the Allied soldiers on the beach below. We were there on 9/11, making the day’s emotions all the more powerful.

My putter, long forgotten, was lying on the ground somewhere by the sixth green. We waved several groups through as I wiped away tears.

It was a stirring start to our day in Normandy. A golf hole I’ll never forget.

• • •

The Golfweek crew rented a house for our two-week stay in Eugene, Ore., to cover the NCAA Championships. The first night the heat didn’t work. The second night the heat wouldn’t move off of 80 degrees. We had an ongoing ant problem and no cable TV.

Mercifully, Eugene Country Club provided a beautiful release with its vibrant flowers and lush greens. And the action there, well, nothing short of spectacular.

Several of the men’s teams came out to watch Stanford and Washington duke it out in the women’s final. They stood in awe at the short-game display these women put on.

One week later, a frenzied Oregon crowd rushed the 10th green after Sulman Raza drained a 6-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole to give the Ducks their first NCAA golf title.

Oregon head coach Casey Martin grew up at Eugene Country Club and lives across the street from his brother near the 13th hole. Martin said he felt like he was in a movie.

The scene on that 18th green was unlike anything else in golf. It felt, one brief moment, golf had loosened its tie and joined the mayhem of mainstream college sports.

Cheers to match play.

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There were so many firsts on my trip to South Korea. First time playing night golf. First time using driverless golf carts. First time eating a steak at the turn.

You read that correctly. Our host at Heasley Nine Bridges, an executive named Dae Yong Kim who insisted on us calling him Mr. Kim, ordered steaks for our foursome after nine holes, which we consumed in a clubhouse so elaborate it looked like a museum.

On our way to the 10th tee, I accidentally dropped the straw that went with Mr. Kim’s back-nine beverage. Before we could even get driver out of the bag, someone showed up with a fresh straw. Apparently our caddie had radioed in the request.

The service and attention to detail is unmatched in South Korea. And the food at these luxury clubs, well, it sure beats a hotdog and a bag of Lays.

• • •

When someone called out my name at LPGA Q-School, I turned to see Emma Talley and her mother, Jennifer, walking toward me after the third round.

Talley, a U.S. Women’s Amateur and NCAA champion, had struggled mightily that week.

In exchanging pleasantries I awkwardly asked, “I’m well! How are you?”

I immediately wanted to pull the words back into my mouth.

“I’m fine,” Talley said, in her Kentucky drawl. “But my golf game isn’t.”

College caches and mental gurus across the globe would praise Talley for that line. On a deeply disappointing week in which Talley missed the cut and failed to earn a tour card, she was able to separate who she is from what she does. She was kind.

You won’t find a better role model.

• • •

I was on a bus on the other side of the world when I received word that Barbara Romack died. One of the great characters in the women’s game, everything about Romack was sharp – her game, her dress, her wit. She was a constant at USGA events and gave me the nickname “Scoop” about a dozen years ago.

Romack defeated Mickey Wright in the 1954 U.S. Women’s Amateur and became the first female golfer to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1956.

The LPGA honored Romack as a pioneer in the women’s game at the 2012 Founders Cup, and she opened the speech by noting that two days prior, a golf program on Sirius Radio told its listeners she was dead.

“It has taken a lot of Scotch to get me here,” Romack deadpanned.

Her stories from the old days, like the time her plane to Palm Beach, Fla., got hijacked and flew to Cuba, were treasures. Romack said she got more press out of that than if she had won five U.S. Women’s Opens.

I’ll miss her phone calls.

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