Fred Couples joked on Wednesday that it might be time to call his University of Houston teammate and suitemate Jim Nantz to write another speech.
Couples received the Ambassador of Golf award Thursday night after first-round play in the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship was suspended by rain. Presented by the FirstEnergy Foundation, the honor is given to someone who has fostered the ideals of the game on an international level and whose concern for others extends beyond the course.
Nantz, the voice of CBS Sports, received the award a year ago during the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. Apparently, the two didn’t chat before the dinner, because Couples told the Golf Channel during the rain delay he would be talking for about one minute.
When Couples was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013, he casually mentioned to Nantz at a luncheon hours before that he was “winging” his speech. With the prestigious event televised live, Nantz was incredulous.
“He said, ‘I’m just going to thank a few people, I’ll be done in about a minute,’ ” Nantz said during a June 3 phone interview. “I said, ‘You’re not doing that. This is the speech of your life. This is something that’s going to outlive us all. You’ve got to get up there and know what you’re saying.’ ”
Nantz grabbed four lunch menus off the table to use as notecards and they headed back to Nantz’s hotel room to talk through what Couples would say. Nantz knew his close friend is an unfiltered guy and wouldn’t be at his best reading something.
“He’s truthful and he’s got that warmth and naturalness and honesty about him. We weren’t going to compromise that,” Nantz said.
So Nantz made an outline, planning how Couples would get from story to story.
“He delivered the talk like a skilled motivational speaker,” Nantz said. “He told it from the heart.”
Couples finished with the line, “Thanks for taking a kid from Seattle and putting him in the World Golf Hall of Fame.”
“I could tell when we were talking it through that would be the last line because he would not be capable of having a line behind it,” Nantz said.
On Wednesday, Couples was still trying to figure out how he’d been selected the Ambassador of Golf, a list that since 2010 has included Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, Johnny Miller and Judy Rankin.
“Maybe Jim Nantz got it last year and said, ‘Throw a bone to my roommate,’ ” Couples said. “I do love the game of golf, I always have, and I try and represent it in a way unlike some. It’s mostly by golf. I’m not going around curing cancer and doing a lot of things; I’ve done stuff in Seattle.”
Couples said he played in Japan, Sweden, Germany and on the European Tour for a number of years because he enjoyed it, knowing that he may also have been promoting the game.
“I still enjoy playing,” he said. “I physically can’t do the grind anymore, so I kind of got away from it.”
Cook’s son caddies
John Cook, 61, an Ohio State product who has 11 career victories on the PGA Tour Champions and 10 more on the PGA Tour, has his 33-year-old son, Jason, caddying for him this week. John Cook’s father, Jim, was a longtime tournament director for Firestone’s PGA Tour events.
Duke capitalizes on WD
Fred Funk withdrew before the start of Thursday’s round, citing a back issue, and was replaced by Ken Duke.
Duke fired a 1-under 69, one of only 11 players under par when play was suspended. He was one of only 15 to finish play and the only one who broke 70.
Among 17 players in the field who have not previously competed at Firestone, Duke has one top 10 in 10 Champions tour starts this season.
Funk, 63, last played in the U.S. Senior Open, missing the cut.
Where's ‘Two Glove?'
Vijay Singh (2008) and David Frost (1989) are the only players in the 78-man field with previous victories at Firestone.
Singh recalled he frequently stayed and practiced at Glenmoor Country Club in Canton and hopes a friend he met there will attend this weekend.
“I met a young kid there that became a good friend of mine. I don’t know where he is, but he was always there,” Singh said Wednesday. “We called him 'Two Glove' — he always practiced with two gloves. Hopefully he’ll show up. He’s not a kid anymore.”
The Senior Players defending champion, Singh recorded six top 10s in 14 PGA Tour starts at Firestone.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.