The Presidents Cup at 51st-ranked Royal Melbourne seems to be occupying the middle-of-the-fairway media. I can think of no other reason for the relatively-short shelf life of Gary Van Sickle’s recent triumph at the 21st Annual Shivas Invitational. Van Sickle, the Top 50‘s chief course rater, withstood 40-degree temperatures, gale-force winds and a donut breakfast to shoot 78 on the Philadelphia Cricket Club’s 37th-ranked Wissahickon course.
A score of 78 may not sound impressive, but par was about 80 on a day that reminded neighbors in nearby Valley Forge of the winter of 1777-78, which sent the handicaps of General Washington and his 12,000-man Continental Army soaring. Finishing a stroke behind Van Sickle were Mike Donald, remembered for his 19-hole playoff loss to Hale Irwin in the 1990 U.S. Open, and 15-year PGA Tour veteran Bill Britton.
Van Sickle, upon presentation of the Shivas Trophy by tournament chairman Michael Bamberger, said, “You’ll have to ship it to me. There’s no way I can take this on my flight back to Pittsburgh.”
Also in the field were Sirius Satellite Radio host Peter Kessler, R.E.M. bass player and songwriter Mike Mills, and Top 50 founder and chief executive John Garrity, all of whom finished in the top 18.
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Alister MacKenzie’s Royal Melbourne composite course was in the Top 50 for an uninterrupted span of 252 months before dropping off the list this past July. Asked why the famous sandbelt course had been demoted, Van Sickle said, “No, really, I have to catch that plane.”