FALCON POINTS

Disappointing World Series result reminds us how special 2017 really was - and it will likely never happen again

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As the Astros watched the Nationals win the World Series Wednesday night in Game 7 by a 6-2 score, it was hard for Houston fans not to be disappointed, especially how the Astros choked it away. Seeing Washington celebrate its first title on the Astros home field was a tough pill to swallow. It was an exciting time for the Nationals and their fans, however. And it should be a reminder of just how special 2017 was for the city of Houston.

Hard to come by

Unless you are Boston, championships don't come often. In 1995, the Rockets won their second title when Clyde Drexler came home and Rudy T reminded us to never underestimate the heart of a champion. It seemed like it would go on forever.

It didn't. Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen came and went, and the Rockets have been chasing a title ever since. Many of you reading this might not have even been born when it happened.

Special memories

That's why 2017 was so special. It was a rare moment, where a team took a city that was still reeling from Hurricane Harvey and brought it one magic memory after another. They went through three of the legendary franchises - the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers. It was something that could never be repeated.

Those Astros were charming. They were MVP Jose Altuve. World Series MVP George Springer. They were the magical trade for Justin Verlander, who brought Hollywood flash with his wife, Kate Upton. It was pure magic. It brought all of the city together. That is something rare indeed in our society these days.

This is what it meant to me at the time. I am certain many of you felt the same way.

Something to enjoy


It was what makes sports great. The pain of all those years of losing just reminds us how incredible it is when you finally see it happen. That's why this disappointment should remind us of just how excited we were in 2017. Those moments are made even more special when you come up well short, as the Astros did Wednesday night.

Not so lovable

Unlike 2017, outside of Houston, no one liked the 2019 Astros team. Everyone was rooting for the Nationals. They became the lovable first-timers. The thought of Max Scherzer finally getting to hoist a trophy. The annoying Baby Shark. A pesky, gritty lineup. When the capital of political corruption becomes more popular than you, it's time to embrace your inner villain.

The Astros became the bad guys. They added Roberto Osuna, whose domestic violence case brought a stain to the organization, no matter how it played out. Justin Verlander caused a scene with a reporter. Yuli Gurriel was suspended for a racist gesture in the 2017 Series. The antics of Alex Bregman and Josh Reddick might be loved by Houston fans, but they are both players that you hate if they aren't on your team. Then, of course, there was the infamous incident with their former assistant general manager. It was overblown and mishandled on both sides, but it also created a false narrative about "culture" in the national media, who continued to pound the Astros no matter what they did to try to make it right.

Fair or not, this was the national image of the Astros. And with a World Series on the line, they folded, and the rest of America celebrated.

What's next?

The Astros will be good for a few more years, and might even win another title, although it is unlikely. Gerrit Cole is certainly gone, but Lance McCullers should be back, Jose Uquidy looks promising, and someday even Forrest Whitley might show up. Or the Astros will make some off-season moves to boost the rotation. George Springer, Carlos Correa and Michael Brantley are under contract for another year. But there is nothing guaranteed; this year's team should prove that. Getting past Tampa, the Yankees, and even coming back from down 2-0 to take a 3-2 lead was damned near impossible. The Yankees will be better next year, so too will the Red Sox. Not to mention the Dodgers should the Astros get that far.

The bottom line

So 2019 is in the books. A.J. Hinch, who made all the right moves in 2017, mismanaged the pitching staff in Game 7 in an ugly way, and the Astros came up short. He brought in Will Harris, who was overworked, when Cole was there to do the job. It cost them a title.

Still, it was a great ride that ended with them coming up short of the ultimate prize, but it was still fun to get there. An American League championship is nothing to sneeze at. But that's also why the memories created in 2017 were ones that will last a lifetime. As great as Hinch and the Astros were in 2017, they were failures in 2019.

Feel bad for this loss, but enjoy 2017 again, because it is not something to be taken for granted. It is more likely than not it will never happen again.

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Dustin Johnson already committed to play in the Houston Open. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Golfers around the world have been able to enjoy playing 18 holes despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as golf has been deemed a "social-distancing" sport. Houston golfers have been rewarded this year with a newly renovated Memorial Park course that is already being spruced up in preparation for the upcoming Houston Open.

The PGA's adjusted schedule has the tour coming to Houston November 2-8, a week before the Masters.

Current hope is for the Houston Open being played in front of cheering fans, according to tournament director, Colby Callaway. Callaway recently talked with SportsMap about what fans and players can expect when the Houston Open returns to Memorial Park for the first time since 1963.

SportsMap: What is the Houston Open's current position in regard to fans in attendance?

Colby Callaway: Currently we are working on a number of contingency plans and exploring all sorts of options. I wish we could say 'this is our plan' right now, and put that thing in concrete, but I just can't. 2020 is causing all of us grief in all sorts of imaginative ways, and it's certainly creating some chaos when it comes to putting a plan together for us. We're all committed to being as flexible in our planning as possible and will adjust as need be. We do think we'll have an idea very soon, and hope to announce some sort of plan over the next couple of weeks.

SM: What can Houstonians look forward to with the new course at Memorial Park?

CC: Well it's a really fun course. Players can absolutely bomb drives. The key will be their approach shots and how they navigate the sticky rough and very tricky green complexes. Several holes were re-routed and in doing so it provided some great spectator viewing areas. There is a fantastic spot where the Par 3 2nd hole, the Par 5 3rdHole, and the Par 3 7th all come together. It'll be a great area to sit and watch golf all day long. The Par 3 9th will be a great viewing spot for spectators as well. On the backside, lots of risk and reward comes into play on 15, 16 and 17. Water becomes a big factor on all 3 holes so a sense of caution is created, but the temptation to do something spectacular is there as well. It's going to be a very exciting stretch.

SM: What changes to the golf course will Memorial Park golfers find following the tournament?

CC: Two things in particular will benefit Memorial Park golfers. First the range will be fully functional by then. It's been open awhile now, but limited in spots to what you could hit club wise. By the time the event rolls around we'll have expanded the range so you can bring and hit any club in your bag. Yes, the big dog (driver) will now be able to hunt!

The other nice addition is an oversized putting green and chipping area that was created adjacent to the 1st tee and 18th green. It's a much-needed improvement. The finished product will be a great spot for the casual golfer to roll some putts and work on his or her short game.

SM: When will Memorial Park Golf Course be closed to the public before the tournament?

CC: The plan is to close it down sometime during the week before the tournament. We'll be working around golfers for approximately 20 days leading up to the event building our operational needs. As a casual golfer it's a fun time to play. There is definitely a little more activity in and around the course, but it's a lot of fun to watch the progress of the build.

SM: What special COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place during the tournament?

CC: We'll have a plan above and beyond what is required per the rules and guidelines we are given. We are currently working with our operational partners to make sure we're all on the same page when it some to these regulations. I can promise we'll error on the side of caution, and make sure our patrons feel safe when they enter the grounds. The positive is we have over 250 acres of green grass and fresh air to socially distance on. A golf course truly does have its advantages.

SM: Are you under any pressure to bring fans to the tournament because of its placement a week before the Masters?

CC: I don't think so. Speaking for our team, I know they don't feel any pressure. Maybe if this was a different year, and we didn't have all of the uncertainty swirling around, there would be some. It's just not something we are going to put any energy into worrying about this fall. We have enough on our plate.

SM: In prior years, Golf Club of Houston made efforts to replicate conditions at Augusta National. Will you be doing the same?

CC: No. Honestly even if we wanted to we couldn't. With the time of year we are in it's really impossible to over-seed, and that's the only way to create those iconic Masters-like conditions. Now we'll do everything asked of us by the TOUR to make it the best 2020 Houston Open course condition wise. They ultimately put the competition plan together. That plan includes among other things: required rough height, green speeds, and tee to green yardages. I know Jason Harsh, Director of Golf for the Houston Parks and Rec Department, will have his team prepare the course to the best of their abilities. One plus when you are a course that hosts a PGA TOUR event is you receive year-long plans and assistance from the PGA TOUR Agronomy Department. That's big for the event, but also a nice plus for all of us who enjoy playing Memorial year around. Following these plans course conditions will continue to get better and better each year.

SM: You have a lot of experience managing golf tournaments, most recently serving as the tournament director of AT&T's PGA Tour Champions event in San Antonio. How will your experiences help you to execute a successful Houston Open?

CC: It's crazy to think this is my 20th year being a part of a team that manages professional golf events. Even crazier to think that less than a year ago I felt like I had seen it all when it comes to things that could affect golf tournaments. I've worked events since 2000 that have experienced tornadoes, floods, hail, high winds, sleet, drought, dead greens, etc… but no one ever said we'd deal with a pandemic. Good Lord, maybe I've stayed in the business a little too long!

Kidding aside, fortunately I've spent most of those 20 years working for and with some of the best in the business. I've kept my eyes and ears open, and maybe most importantly learned to adapt to the situation at hand. Concrete plans do not exist in the professional golf world as Mother Nature will always have the last say. You put a plan together, but always must remain fluid and have contingency plans in your back pocket. Of course, this is unlike anything I've ever had to deal with. We will, however, figure this out and do our best to put on a really successful, and safe, Houston Open.

SM: The Astros Foundation is well known to support youth baseball and softball programs, how will the new partnership between the Foundation and the Houston Open bring more opportunities to junior golf in Houston?

CC: Junior golfers will benefit greatly from the Houston Open moving to Memorial Park. The Astros Golf Foundation is finishing up a par 3 course, which sits adjacent to the 1st fairway and 18th fairway, that will allow participants in the First Tee program an opportunity to hone their skills year around.

The Astros Golf Foundation will continue to support the First Tee financially as well with a yearly donation of $500K. The First Tee is an incredible program and I know our team loves being a part of their growth.

Also via a generous partnership with Chevron, the Astros Golf Foundation is building the Chevron Center for Education & Kids. This classroom style space will be housed in the new Astros Golf Foundation building currently under construction behind the 9th green at Memorial Park. This center will be open year around and will host students from all over the Houston area teaching them skills within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) academic disciplines.

The best way to receive information about the event is to follow socially. Our social handles are located below.

www.houstonopengolf.com

@houopengolf on Twitter / Instagram

Houston Open on Facebook

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