by Mitch Laurance
Five years ago, while talking to my good friend Jeff Gilder, founder and driving force behind the Myrtle Beach-based TheGolfDirector.com (now INetGolf, LLC), we came up with an idea while sipping on some single malt (a common practice when we sat around). I was talking to Jeff about my love of hickory golf and golf history, and he suggested that I add a show to his expanding list of golf offerings on his Golf Director lineup, one that dealt with that aspect of the game. I gratefully accepted, and what followed, for the first year, was my show “Hooked on Hickories.” Through earlier relationships built over the course of years of playing in celebrity Pro-Ams and charity events during my acting career, I was able to gather a wonderful lineup of guests, too numerous to mention here.
Going into the second year, I decided that I wanted to expand the nature of my interviews to include modern topics and guests, and “Golf Connections with Mitch Laurance” was born. Again, I gratefully welcomed a wide range of old and new friends and guests to the show. It was during this time that I came up with an ambitious idea, to record a series of shows centered each of the four major championships, with guests that reflected a wide array of connections to each. Players, caddies, photographers, architects, media personalities all joined in for the first two months, centered on The Masters and the US Open.
When it came time to schedule shows around the 2014 Open Championship, to be played at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, I somehow managed to pull together a great lineup…. SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio/Golf Channel’s Matt Adams, Royal Liverpool Head PGA Professional John Heggerty, Jack Niclaus club maker Jack Wullkotte, Philly sports writer Mike Kern, and more. On a complete whim, I decided to reach out to the legendary player who had won at Hoylake in 1956, one of his five Open Championship victories. It was a long shot, as the great Peter Thomson, at that point in his 80s, lived in his native Australia and obviously didn’t know me from the man in the moon. No matter. I began by reaching out to the PGA of Australia, the great association to which Peter Thomson had given (among other contributions) 32 years of his life as President. After a couple of back and forths, they were able to connect me to Mr. Thomson, who most graciously agreed to join me on “Golf Connections” for “Open Championship Month.”
I couldn’t possibly begin to explain not only what his acceptance meant to me, or how quickly I became aware of how true everything was that I’d heard and read about Mr. Thomson. Gracious, kind, incredibly passionate (still) about the game we all love, and full of remembrances about one of the most amazing careers put together by any player in history. And happy to share it all.
With Peter Thomson’s passing last week at age 88, the game and its followers have lost a true link, not only to greatness, but to the spirit and the history of the game. Enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame, Peter Thomson’s legacy is assured, and hopefully carried forward through podcasts like this. I’m beyond grateful to be able to share this “Golf Connections” episode with you, with intro song “The Old Course” by Billy Mac, in honor of Mr. Thomson. I hope you enjoy it, though it would be impossible for you to experience the joy I had in recording it.