News & Opinion

Wishing for a few more bucket-list feats

I always read on airplanes because it efficiently passes the time on long and uncomfortable flights. I don’t fly much these days, but I recently returned from a media golf trip to the West Valley near Phoenix. I renewed some old friendships and cultivated some new ones during some brilliant days in the temperate desert.

The book I took along was “The Range Bucket List,” written by my good friend James Dodson. Jim and I go back to 1990, when he was a contributing editor to Golf Magazine and I had the privilege to be his editor.

Since then, Jim has authored 10 books, some of which were New York Times bestsellers. I ended a 13-year career at Golf Magazine and a few years later, had the best job in the world at Global Golf Post, the last couple as editor in chief. The best part was that I had the good fortune to work with a staff of great journalists and even better people.

Dodson’s latest book was a sweetly written memoir that I read blinking though tears as he described ticking off his golf bucket list and saying goodbye to a number of old friends, including his ever-optimistic father, his loyal ex-mother-in-law and the great Arnold Palmer, with whom he grew extraordinarily close while writing the King’s biography, “Arnold Palmer: A Golfer’s Life.”

After finishing “The Range Bucket List” just as we landed in Charlotte, N.C., I decided that I, too, needed a list. I am on the back nine of my golf life – early in the back nine, I like to think – but I’ve done most of what I’ve ever dreamed of in golf. 

So, when I sat down and created a list, nothing on it seemed urgent, just things that would make my life richer than it already is. They are in no particular order.

1. Play Pine Valley. This is probably at the top of every serious golfer’s bucket list. Perennially the No. 1-rated course in the world, Pine Valley holds a mystique that is a siren call, and I’d like to experience it just once.

2. Play the Sand Belt courses in Australia. One of my favorite things to do in December is watch Golf Channel’s coverage of the Australian majors: the Australian Open, the Australian PGA and the Australian Masters. More often than not, one of the majors is played in the Sand Belt around Melbourne. They are fascinating to watch and, I’ll bet, better to play. I just don’t know if I could sit that long on an airplane.

3. Write a memoir. I wrote one almost 20 years ago, but the publishing house was sold before the book could be published. The new owners didn’t want the book. I have the galley proofs somewhere. In today’s climate, no publisher would want my memoir, either, but I should write it as if I would be the only one to read it, which I probably would be.

4. Play Augusta National. I played Augusta in 1989, the day after the Masters, when I was the golf writer for the Charlotte Observer. I wasn’t a sophisticated enough golfer to appreciate the course properly at the time, which is why I would like another chance to walk America’s shrine to the game.

5. Spend a week with three friends in Ireland. This one is not likely to happen, but I would cherish sharing such a trip with those closest to me. The best thing about being a golf writer is the places visited. The worst thing is traveling there alone.

6. Play the Old Course one last time. I’ve had the privilege of playing at St. Andrews on three or four occasions. I’ve loved it better every time. I’d like just one more.

7. Qualify for the U.S. Senior Amateur. I tried once a few years ago, posted a smooth 80 and impressed no one. But I relished the experience and would like to get my game good enough for just one more try. I’m afraid I’m too old for this one, but you never know.

8. Find a new dogfight. For the past few years, I’ve played at Springfield Golf Club in Fort Mill, S.C., with one of the best groups I’ve been a part of. Mostly volunteer starters and rangers and mostly retired, we had 12-32 players on most Mondays and Wednesdays. We didn’t play for much money, but it was great fun. New management has ended the career of Bud Welch, the head pro, and the dogfight will be gone soon. When you reach a certain age, golf is whom you play with, and these guys loved one another.

Golf has given me a brilliant life. If it ended today, I’d be wholly grateful for what I’ve experienced, whom I’ve met and where I’ve visited. And the great thing about the game is that the next experience just makes things all the richer.

Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email:; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf