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Longtime AP sports writer Ed Shearer – covered Masters, football, Olympics – dies at 82

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ATLANTA — Ed Shearer, a longtime sports writer with The Associated Press who covered the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series, Masters and Hank Aaron’s 715th homer but left his most lasting mark as the “SEC Seer,” a prognosticator of Southern football known throughout the nation, died Monday. He was 82.

Working at the AP for more than 40 years, Shearer covered a range of sports but was most passionate about college football. Shearer parlayed his extensive knowledge into the popular “SEC Seer” column, a fixture in Southern newspapers giving his predicted scores for that weekend’s games in the powerful football conference.

Edgar Kearney Shearer was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and moved frequently throughout that state and neighboring Mississippi during his childhood as the son of a Methodist minister. He eventually settled in Jackson, Louisiana, where he met his high school sweetheart and future wife, Mary Jane. They were married more than 50 years until her death in 2015.

Shearer attended Louisiana Tech, where he studied journalism and covered school sporting events, and left The Times of Shreveport to begin his long career with the AP in the mid-1960s. Shearer transferred to Atlanta in 1969 to become a sports writer, chronicling a wide range of local and national events.

He covered the Summer Olympics in Montreal (1976), Los Angeles (1984) and Atlanta (1996), as well as numerous Masters, several World Series involving the Atlanta Braves in the early 1990s, and the 1994 Super Bowl held at the Georgia Dome. Most notably, he wrote the account that ran on front pages around the nation when Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1974.

Shearer worked at the AP into his 70s, taking young colleagues under his wing and regaling everyone with humorous stories about all the people he met along the way — from Bear Bryant to Vince Dooley to Hammerin’ Hank — all while watching over the AP report with a keen editing eye that routinely picked up dropped words and typos others had missed.

“Ed taught a generation of news people, including me, that came through AP bureaus in the South everything about sports news, from how to formulate a box score to how to write a game story with nothing but a faxed stats sheet to how to deal with a flustered stringer at the ballpark,” said Michael Giarrusso, the AP’s global sports editor who worked with Shearer in the Atlanta bureau. “And he did it all without ever making even the most inexperienced writer feel bad, joking constantly, ignoring complaints from New York all while living on a diet exclusively of jalapeno peppers and Fritos.”

A prolific smoker through much of his life, Shearer was among a hearty group of football writers who took part in the SEC Skywriters tour, hopping aboard a propeller plane for a whirlwind tour of the league’s then-10 member schools before each season. They were able to interview the players and coaches in a relaxed, informal atmosphere — a striking contrast to today’s regimented behemoth known as SEC Media Days — and get a feel for what was really going on in each program.

Terry Taylor, the AP’s sports editor for more than 20 years before her retirement in 2013, said Shearer was a calming presence during her first Masters.

It was 1986 — the year of Jack Nicklaus’ famous victory.

“I still remember walking into the press room at Augusta National for the first time, not sure where I was going and how I would find my colleagues. Then I saw the broad shoulders in the first row and, as I got closer, the cigarette. I didn’t need to see his face,” Taylor said. “The Masters — though in a class by itself — was one of the hundreds of tournaments, championships, playoffs and meets he covered year in and year out in Georgia. It’s hard to imagine anyone connected to sports back then who didn’t know Eddie, an easygoing gentleman who perfected the art of juggling assignments.”

Shearer is survived by three children, Margaret, Laura and Jim, and their spouses, as well as three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for next month at St. Barnabas Anglican Church in suburban Atlanta.

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Forecaddie: Bagpipes out, Irish flute in for NBC’s Portrush coverage

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The Forecaddie is guilty as charged when it comes to focusing on the mundane, which is why he’s reporting exclusively that Yanni’s “In Celebration of Man” will sport an Irish flair during this year’s British Open coverage.

The theme, as you undoubtedly recall, was NBC’s longtime introduction for U.S. Open coverage. It was updated by Yanni when NBC took the music overseas for its coverage of the British. But with the event going to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, Yanni has woven in a more Irish sounding flute in place of the bold bagpipes used in re-imagining the catchy, dare The Forecaddie say, beloved theme music.

As for the important stuff: NBC and Golf Channel plan more than 200 hours of “linear programming” including 50 live hours of the actual golf. That’s easily more than any event on the calendar by TMOF’s calculations. Besides loads of coverage on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive and Live From, there will be a documentary commemorating the 10th anniversary of Tom Watson’s near-win at Turnberry (July 8, 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel) and a Sky Sports documentary chronicling “The Road To Royal Portrush” (July 15, 9 p.m. ET).

David Feherty fans will also be pleased that the golfer-turned-funnyman is a huge part of the Open’s return to his native Northern Ireland. Expect his take on the Gaelic and Irish spot of Hurling, another on proper Irish music and a look back at 16-year-old Rory McIlroy’s course record-setting 61 at Royal Portrush.

As great as that all sounds, The Forecaddie is mostly just happy that an Irish flutist got some work out of the British Open’s historic return to Northern Ireland. Here’s a preview, if you don’t believe TMOF.

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What Chez Reavie said after winning the 2019 Travelers Championship

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Chez Reavie ended an 11-year PGA Tour drought on Sunday afternoon, winning the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.

Reavie entered the day with a six shot lead and shot a 1-under 69 in the final round to outlast Zack Sucher and Keegan Bradley by four strokes. Reavie’s last win on Tour came at the 2008 RBC Canadian Open.

Here’s what the 37-year-old Reavie had to say Sunday evening after taking home the $1,296,000 first prize.

LEADERBOARD: Travelers Championship
MORE: Who is Chez Reavie? | Winners bag

Question: Keegan Bradley made it very interesting. Just get some thoughts on what it means it step into the winner’s circle for the first time since 2008.

Chez Reavie: Yeah, it means everything. I knew Keegan was going to come out firing today and ready to go. I’ve played a lot of golf with him. He’s a fantastic player. I just was fortunate enough to stay patient and make that big putt on 17 to give myself a little cushion on 18.

Q: You move into the 12th spot in the FedExCup standings. Really since your wrist surgery you’ve been making progression in the FedExCup. This really sets you up well for the rest of the season.

Reavie: Yeah, making it to Tour Championship would be a goal of everyone at the beginning of the year, and fortunately I’m a long way towards that goal. Hopefully I’ll be inside that top 30 and be off to the Tour Championship and hopefully make the Presidents Cup team.

Q: Well I was going to say, before questions you’re 13th in the Presidents Cup standings. There is a certain captain (Tiger Woods) of the team that’s in 12th spot. Tell us a little bit about that.

Reavie: Yeah, he’s a fantastic player. He’ll be a fantastic captain. It would be an honor to be on his team.

Q: When you came here yesterday you said you feel nervous. At what point did the nerves start to take hold and how did you control them on the back nine?

Reavie: Yeah, I think I was more nervous this morning when I was just sitting in the hotel room and the mind was wandering kind of going through the round, the different possibilities and stuff. Once I got out here and started warming up on the range I was very comfortable. I was still nervous but not as nervous. Once we got playing, yeah, they kind of went away and it was just time to play golf.

Q: Just curious. You go back to 2008; you win as a rookie. Curious if you felt like next win was around the corner, and the difficulty of when it doesn’t come for almost 11 years.

Reavie: Yeah, you know I went through some injuries; had long years there in the middle. It was great because it gave me good perseverance and good perspective of what life is and what golf. I enjoy every minute of every week I’m out here now, and I don’t think I would necessarily be that way if I didn’t go through those tough times.

Q: Would you have expected to win sooner? I know there were a couple years with injuries.

Reavie: Not really. Golf is tough, right? There are a lot of great players on the PGA Tour. To win out here is an honor and something that shouldn’t be overlooked or under appreciated.

Q: Have you ever had any road golf matches like that before? Obviously you were clearly the No. 2 choice.

Reavie: Yeah, Chez, we love you, but we love Keegan more.

Q: How difficult was it? There was a spot at 10 where you stepped off.

Reavie: Yeah, they were screaming at me. You know that happens. You get it every week. It’s not just this week. People are just having fun. I don’t think they necessarily understand how important it is to us. Keegan was great. He told them to stop it and back down when I was trying to putt. It wasn’t malicious by any means. It was Sunday and just another test I had to go through today.

Q: Do you feel a notable difference in your confidence level from winning this week versus coming close last week?

Reavie: Yeah, absolutely. I think finally getting it done you feel like you can win. I’ve played well down the stretch. In Phoenix I birdied the last hole to force a playoff and lost. Finished second the week after that. I’ve been close, but it’s just not the same as sealing the deal and winning a golf tournament.

Q: Going back to those ten years, what was the lowest point for you?

Reavie: You know, when I was in a long-arm cast after my wrist surgery I went and met with the doctor and he said the surgery went great, but there was a 50/50 shot whether it was going to work or, and there was no guarantee that I wasn’t going to go make one full swing when he allowed me to and it wasn’t going to happen again. So those were probably the darkest days. Just the unknown and sitting at home not being able to do anything and your mind wandering. Okay, if it didn’t work, if I can’t play golf, what am I going to do?

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Amy Bockerstette story provides hope to community of people with Down syndrome

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By now, most know the Amy Bockerstette story.

The college golfer captured the hearts of sports fans when she made par on the par-3 16th hole during a practice round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open in January with her father, Joe, and “best friend” Gary Woodland by her side.

But Amy’s influence is greater than a viral video that fades with time. To Michelle Tesori, co-founder of the Tesori Family Foundation which ministers to families in need and children with special needs, Amy’s story provides hope that people who have Down syndrome are approaching a time when they will no longer be automatically limited on what they can achieve because of an extra chromosome.

“I can’t wait for the day when someone with Down syndrome playing golf is not so novel that there’s a video and people are like, ‘Oh my goodness,’…  I also hope for the day when we see something like that happen and we go, ‘Of course she did,’ instead of, ‘Did you see that?’ ” Tesori said.

Tesori sees society nearing that point and said that’s largely thanks to people like Woodland, who has referred to his relationship with Amy as a friendship, not built on sympathy, but on respect because of her talent and character.

Amy’s parents, Joe and Jenny, have also been a major factor in her successes because they supported her golf career on the high school and collegiate level at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, Ariz., when there were no examples of a high school or collegiate golfer with Down syndrome. They chose for Amy to pursue what she loved, and for her to be seen, publicly discussing her achievements the past few months.

Being visible through media coverage has allowed people around the world to see that yes, Amy has Down syndrome and yes, she is pursuing golf on a high level — something Tesori said she hadn’t seen to this extent.

Michelle Tesori and Amy Bockerstette. (Michelle Tesori)

Tesori, 43, thinks this is because many in her generation did not grow up in proximity to peers who had Down syndrome. She said she had two friends with Down syndrome in school, but they were placed in separate classes. Due to this separation, Tesori said she has spoken to several adults who were surprised when they saw Amy’s video because they didn’t know someone with Down syndrome could play golf. 

“Like they genuinely think it might not be possible,” Tesori said.

That unnecessary, sometimes unconscious, limitation placed on people with Down syndrome is something Tesori and her husband Paul, like Amy’s parents, were confronted with when they learned their son Isaiah, now 5, was born with Down syndrome in 2014.

“We did talk about, ‘What if Paul never gets a chance to golf with his son?’ Again, ignorance,” Michelle said. “We had no idea because no exposure. We had those conversations, ‘Do kids with Down syndrome golf? Are they athletes?’ The exact same thoughts.”

Paul caddies for Webb Simpson on the PGA Tour and played professional golf in the late 1990s.

Joe Bockerstette, MIchelle Tesori, Amy Bockerstette and Jenny Bockerstette (from left to right) at the Tesori’s home while they watched Gary Woodland win the 2019 U.S. Open. (Michelle Tesori)

People with Down syndrome are sometimes perceived as being weaker than someone who was born with 46 chromosomes. Looking at Amy and Isaiah specifically, Tesori said the extra chromosome didn’t create weakness, but rather a strength.

“The thing that tugs at the heart of the man is this burning question of are we good enough? … It struck me the thing that I realized in watching Amy‘s video that was so compelling to me was that God has given our children a gift of never wondering if they’re good enough … Our job is to protect who God made (Isaiah) to be: a child filled with joy and love. Joy explodes out of our kid and it explodes out of Amy and that’s what people saw.”

Amy Bockerstette and Isaiah Tesori. (Michelle Tesori)

Anyone who watched Amy at the Phoenix Open knows she’s filled with excitement and she does not lack confidence. Even with a large crowd and cameras watching, Amy knew she could keep up with the pros. And she did.

“I think the thing that’s most compelling about Amy are those three sentences that she said (in the video),” Tesori said. “Gary planned to pick that ball up out at the bunker for her and she said, ‘No, I got this.’ Then she’s standing in the bunker about to hit the shot and then she’s standing over the putt. In both cases, she says, ‘You’ve got this,’ to herself. And then the crowd goes nuts and she turns to Gary and goes, ‘They love me.’ …

“I think that’s the thing that’s most compelling about her. It was this thing where people went, ‘Really, she’s got this? I don’t think I would’ve had it.’ And she was sure of it. Absolutely certain.”

Watching how certain Amy is as she steps on the golf course, it’s easy to see how she’s proving to the sports world she and a generation of athletes just like her are capable of achieving anything, on and off the course.

“What you learn as a parent of a child with Down syndrome is you should never limit anyone. Who are we to decide what someone’s capable of?” Tesori said. “And we do it all the time. We’re all guilty of it. And it just so happens the thing people think limits or defines (Isaiah and Amy) is an extra chromosome.”

Clearly that extra chromosome has been given too much credit.

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James Sugrue’s never-say-die attitude nets British Amateur title

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James Sugrue could have a good professional career if the never-say-die attitude that helped him win the British Amateur Championship is a harbinger.

The 22-year-old Sugrue, a County Cork native, became the eighth Irish winner of the British Amateur when he defeated Scotland’s Euan Walker by one hole at Portmarnock Golf Club.

“It is hard to believe really,” Sugrue said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. Just to think about this win is unbelievable.”

Sugrue arguably should never have made it as far as the final, or even the match-play rounds.

The member of Mallow Golf Club, Sugrue didn’t get off to the best of starts in the championship when he opened 36-hole qualifying with a 77 at Portmarnock. He rebounded in Round 2 with a 2-under 69 at The Island Golf Club to make the match-play field.

Both Sugrue’s opening two matches went to the 18th hole. He had an easier time in his third match with a 5&3 victory over Spain’s Sergio Parriego. However, he only got past Dutchman Koen Kouwenaar courtesy of his refusal to accept defeat.

Sugrue was one down with two to play but got up and down from a fairway bunker on the 17th to salvage a half. He then holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th to take the match to extra holes. He won the 19th with a steady par to advance to the semifinals.

Sugrue went up against the highest-ranked player in the match-play rounds when he faced the No. 7-ranked amateur in the world in David Micheluzzi. It looked like a mismatch on paper with the Irishman ranked 224 positions below the Australian in 231st. Yet Sugrue ran out a 3&1 winner.

The Irishman showed his resilience again in the final in front of a large patriotic gallery. Five up after nine holes of the 36-hole contest, Sugrue found himself pegged back to all square after 33 holes. He won the 35th to take an all-important advantage to the last and hung to win despite bogeying they hole.

“I was very worried when it went back to all square, very worried,” added Sugrue. “Euan is just that type of player where he doesn’t really hit bad shots. He has got a beautiful swing and very rarely hits bad shots. I wasn’t expecting to be given holes. Sometimes you can keep plodding away against other players and they will slip up eventually, but Euan not so much. I had to create opportunities myself and thankfully it worked.”

Sugrue earned a spot in the British Open at Royal Portrush starting July 18, an invitation to next year’s Masters and a place in the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. He will also play in the Walker Cup against the United States September 7-8.

“I can’t wait. It’s unreal. I’m really looking forward to it. I love Royal Portrush, it’s probably one of my favourite links courses, second favourite to Portmarnock. With the other major championship opportunities, it’s incredible to think about it. I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead.”