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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast



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I almost made Herb Kohler cry.

As we approach the 92nd Annual PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, I recall my favorite moment as a fan back in 2004. As I learned, it was one of Mr. Kohler's favorite moments too.

It was Sunday afternoon. Play was wire to wire in a glorious event on the shores of Lake Michigan that would ultimately end in a playoff. Herb Kohler was living a dream he'd pursued for so long. If not for him... there is no Whistling Straits. There is no Major Championship in Wisconsin. There is no venue that parades the planet's greatest golfers before throngs of Wisconsinites tightly lining the ropes.

It was Sunday afternoon. Hot as it was, it was a classic August day in Wisconsin. In a week that had seen cooler temperatures, clouds, even a nasty lake-effect mist, the sun was welcome.

It was Sunday afternoon, and the man who made it all possible emerged behind the tee at number 12. It was all right. The vistas at Whistling Straits shimmered as Mr. Kohler and Pete Dye intended. The scores fell in line too, and the golf course played to its challenging reputation.

It was Sunday afternoon. I imagine it felt, on much larger scale, like you do when you host a big party at your house. You don't often have time to enjoy it, but you do reach a moment. It's the moment you give a sigh of relief and satisfaction. The weather cooperated. People commented on the music. You didn't burn the brats. Everybody loved the pasta salad, and you did buy enough beer after all. You pulled it off.

It was Sunday afternoon, and while it was not over, Herb Kohler must have known at that point... he pulled it off. In case he wasn't sure, the fans were about to let him know in fitting Wisconsin style.

There was a slow rumbling in the crowd, as more and more people keyed on Kohler's presence. Someone yelled out, "Thank you, Herb!"

That seemed like a good idea.

More people yelled.

Then they yelled in unison, chanting, "Thank you Herb! Thank you Herb! Thank you Herb!"

On Wisconsin! I tear up writing about that moment. It was one of the most moving moments in sports I've ever witnessed in person, and I've been to a few. Super Bowl 32, Final Four's for Wisconsin and Marquette. The All-Star game in Milwaukee, the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, Playoff baseball at Miller Park! This was right there with all of them. 

I was proud of him, of Herb Kohler, for having this dream and sharing it with us. I was proud of us for realizing that's what it was.

It was an honor to share that experience with Mr. Kohler then, and to relay it to him years later when I chatted with him at the PGA 2010 Media Day. Click on the video icon above to hear how he remembers the moment.

If you've got a memory from '04, share it on my facebook page


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