Last summer, right around this time, I wrote a column in which I took a few shots at the USGA for holding the U.S. Open at a toothless golf course like Wisconsin's Erin Hills. The fairways at the 11-year-old course are a mile wide and were as hard as an airport runway, making the deep fescue an afterthought and the 7,800 yards play quite a bit shorter than one would expect. In reality, nothing short of a howling wind could possibly make Erin Hills a serious test for the PGA Tour's best players. The result? Brooks Koepka won it with a John Deere Classic-like score of 16 under par.
"Go deep." "Make it to the weekend." "Elite Eight." Whatever descriptive phrase you prefer, the Jimmie women's basketball team did it again last week at nationals in Sioux City, Iowa. And for a fleeting instant, the way things were playing out, I thought I was about to witness another "Willis Reed moment" down in Siouxland.
The Stanley Cup. Simply put, Lord Stanley's Cup is the most prestigious trophy in sports. It's not even arguable. If you're a serious hockey fan and you haven't been up close and personal with the Stanley Cup, making that happen should be on your bucket list. It was on mine, and thanks to former UNDer Matt Greene, who brought the Cup to the Ralph a few years back, I was able to check it off.
Will Tiger catch Jack? For the last two decades, that has been the number one topic bandied about by golf fans and the golf media. Of course, we're talking major championships here. Jack Nicklaus, the all-time leader with 18. Tiger Woods, battling all kinds of problems, physical and otherwise, has been stuck on 14 for nine years. Into his 40s now with questionable health, it's hard to fathom Tiger chalking up another four majors.
The NHL Playoffs started off with promise for UND hockey fans. Ten former North Dakota players laced 'em up with hopes that their name might be engraved on Lord Stanley's Cup. But things got ugly quickly. The Chicago Blackhawks, poised to make a long playoff run in many people's minds, were knocked out in round 1 by Nashville. There went Jonathan Toews and Nick Schmaltz. Ditto the Minnesota Wild and Zach Parise.
I was off in fantasyland as I watched the last NCAA ice hockey regional final the other day. Penn State, the Nittany Lions from my old stomping grounds of central Pennsylvania, were battling it out with the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Denver University, for a trip to the Frozen Four. You see, it was just five years ago that Penn State was playing ACHA Division I hockey, just like the University of Jamestown. Could that be the UJ hockey program someday, perhaps 10 years down the road?
The North Star Athletic Association basketball tournaments kick off at the Jamestown Civic Center this week, the University of Jamestown women on Wednesday evening vs. Viterbo and the Jimmie men on Thursday afternoon against arch rival Valley City State.
It's nutcracking time for the Jimmie men's and women's basketball teams. With about two weeks and three conference games left in the regular season, it's a perfect time to look at the home stretch, and yes, I'll even take a shot at handicapping where UJ's roundballers might finish the regular season.
Winning and losing. Is that what sports is all about? We all live and die with our favorite teams. No question about it. But in the final analysis, there are plenty of things more important in life than the wins and losses compiled by our teams of choice. For instance, you need to be able to hold your head high and look yourself in the mirror every morning. If you've attended a Jimmie sporting event, you've undoubtedly heard the standard NAIA announcement regarding sportsmanship and character-driven athletics.
Jimmie hoop fanatics, regulars at the Jamestown Civic Center, you probably already have January 7th circled on your calendars. For all the other sports fans of our little city, this is your advance notice. You do not want to miss the UJ/Valley City hoops doubleheader at the CC on Saturday.