Dressed from hat-to-cleat in his Little League uniform, Blaine McCallister first swung a golf club on a course adjacent to a ball diamond while he was supposed to be warming up for a game.
“I grabbed the club like a baseball bat and hit it about 200 yards with a slight fade,” McCallister recalled. “I thought, ‘Man that’s pretty neat.’ ”
The next day he tried again with much different results. The ball never got airborne, shot after shot topped with nary a lick of positive movement.
“Swinging for the fences,” McCallister said. “Just falling backwards all over the place.”
But McCallister was intrigued by the game of golf. Soon the kid from Texas, who first saw professional baseball when Willie Mays was named MVP at the Astrodome in the 1968 All-Star Game, found passion with a different white ball.
“The aspect of the ball sitting perfectly still and I couldn’t hit it? That made me want to get better and better at it,” McCallister said. “I just got hooked.”
McCallister went on to win five times on the PGA Tour and comes to the 3M Championship this week in Blaine in search of his first Champions Tour victory. In preparation, he spent time on the driving range using camera analysis. But when a few other players showed up it didn’t take long for conversation to start up on the Astros, and the big AL West series with the Angels in Houston.
McCallister has never strayed from his baseball roots. He proudly wears Astros gear on the golf course and has the logo stitched on his golf bag.
He counts several players and management among his close friends and coaches his grandsons on a team aptly named the Astros.
“I’m too old to worry about the golf anymore,” McCallister said. “But those guys on the Astros are really starting to believe in something.”
Makeshift set makes good
John Inman returned home to Raleigh, N.C., on time from the Senior British Open. His golf clubs, including the putter he’s used for 40 years, did not.
“Never even got put on the plane,” he said.
With three hours to spare before he hopped a flight to Minneapolis ahead of Tuesday’s 3M Championship qualifier event, Inman packed a suitcase and came up with a makeshift set of clubs from his garage.
Whatever he put together was quite the combo.
Inman fired a 5-under 66 at Victory Links in Blaine to win the qualifier. He’ll play the 3M with the backup set, and take the clubs with him to the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open next week in New York.
“I have no idea how old some of these clubs are,” Inman said Wednesday. “They were in service during a much different time in my career. Some of them had such slick grips I feared I’d throw them halfway down the fairway.”
Spectators fear not. He had the whole set re-gripped Tuesday night.
Friday’s first-round tee times for the 3M Championship feature some marquee groups.
The area around No. 1 tee will be a popular gathering spot late morning for Tom Watson’s 11:50 a.m. tee time with Paul Goydos and Corey Pavin. The group after that features a trio of big-draw names: Tom Lehman, Bernhard Langer and defending champion Kenny Perry scheduled to tee off at noon.
Former Masters champion Ian Woosnam makes his 3M Championship debut with Jay Haas and Fred Funk off No. 1 at 11:20 a.m.
Brooklyn Park’s Don Berry tees off on No. 1 in the day’s last group at 12:20 p.m. while John Harris of Minneapolis is in the day’s first group off No. 10 at 10:10 a.m.