Follow Cliff Kresge, Version 2008
After Cliff Kresge chipped in for a birdie on the 15th hole, moving him to 8-under par and within sniffing distance of the third-round lead, his mother made like a teenager at a Jonas Brothers show. "That was good!" she said, after her shouts had died out. "That was fun!"
"I can't get that excited about golf," observed 52-year old Jake Seher of Chevy Chase, standing several feet behind Dell Kresge.
Seher was informed that the whooper was Cliff's mother. "Of course she is," he said.
For 18 holes at Congressional, Dell Kresge led her son's cheering gallery, which consisted primarily of herself and Fairfax County resident Rocky Poliseo, a friend of a friend of a friend. Midway through the back nine, Anna Weinstein--another thrice-removed acquaintance--swelled the Kresge support group to at least three. Kresge's playing partner, Anthony Kim, had perhaps 50 times the support; there were nearly as many gallery members wearing homemade Kim t-shirts as their were Kresge fans.
"Anthony Kim comes up, he's minus-6, and they all cheer for him," Weinstein noted at one point. "Cliff comes up, he's minus-7, and they don't say a word. It's unbelievable."
Which is nothing new for Kresge, who enjoys robust support in central Florida but relatively modest adulation in suburban Maryland. Last year in this space, we spent 18 holes with the Kresge fan club, which at the time consisted of his then-girlfriend Judy Gosselin and several local acquaintances. Judy--now Kresge's fiancÃ©e--came to Congressional on Thursday before departing for a beach vacation with her sons, leaving Dell Kresge to spearhead the cheers.
"Look look look!" she said, as a big-screen scoreboard flashed late-round results. "Tied for third! This is exciting!...I'm just bursting with pride."
Over the final nine holes, Dell explained her son's unusual path toward the PGA Tour. The son of a schoolteacher and a truck driver from the Orlando area (and the nephew of an extremely active blogger), Kresge began visiting the local golf course primarily to raise enough money to support his baseball ambitions. If he wanted a $50 catcher's mitt--which he did--he went in search of $50 worth of golf balls.
Eventually he began to pick up the game, working in the cart barn as a way to get on that course, which didn't have caddies. Several local players took him under their wings, but he never took a formal lesson until he was a college player at Central Florida. His mom still doesn't know all the intricate rules of the game, occasionally calls the fairway "the green" during particularly nerve-racking moments, and doesn't play the game herself, despite some lessons from her son.
"He's very nice," she said. "He didn't laugh. But I stink."
Kresge, meantime, is in the midst of his best professional season, with four top-10 finishes, although he still has yet to win on tour. He remained on the front page of the leaderboard for most of the third round--"I'm going to eat a pear, I'm getting nervous," his mother said at one point--but a bogey on 18 left him in a three-way tie for sixth, three shots off the lead.
"I played terrible today," he said, a few minutes after signing his card. "Just really scrambling hard to stay in there. Not very happy. Not at all." A marshall asked if he had had a good day; "not really," Kresge said.
His gallery took a slightly different view.
"Today's still Saturday," Dell Kresge said. "Tomorrow is for winning."
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