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Mark Soltau: Farmers Past and Present
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 12/21/2012

Dec. 21, 2012

STANFORD, Calif. - Catching up on the latest happenings around The Farm

Last week, the PGA of America selected fiery Tom Watson to captain the U.S. Ryder Cup Team against Europe in the 2014 matches at Gleneagles in Pershire, Scotland. It marks the second time the 1971 Stanford graduate (psychology) and three-time All-American has been chosen, Watson leading the Yanks to a 15-13 win in 1993 at The Belfry in England.

Some have suggested Watson, who will be 65 when the competition resumes at Gleneagles, is too old and out of touch with the younger players. They have short memories. In 2009, the 59-year-old Watson nearly pulled off one of the greatest feats in golf history, coming up just short in the British Open at Turnberry, Scotland.

A final-hole bogey by Watson forced a playoff with Stewart Cink, who out-lasted the dejected Watson, who counts five Claret Jugs among his eight major titles. Watson handled the defeat the same way he always does: with a well-done, firm handshake and Huck Finn smile.

I was lucky enough to cover the event and will never forget the next morning, when bleary-eyed, I boarded an 8 a.m. flight to London Heathrow Airport for my return to the U.S. Dozing in the back of the plane, I was awakened by the sound of applause. Tom and his wife Hilary were the last to board and he received a hero's welcome.

It was a touching scene, and Watson appreciated it. At baggage claim in Heathrow, he signed autographs and received many handshakes and pats on the back, lifting his spirit after such a crushing defeat.

My guess is Watson will do just fine in his second term at U.S. Ryder Cup captain. But don't take my word for it.

"I'd like to congratulate Tom on his selection," said former Cardinal star Tiger Woods. "I think he's a really good choice. He knows what it takes to win, and that's the ultimate team goal. I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the team."

Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988, Watson owns 39 PGA Tour victories. He's also been a force on the 50-and-over Champions Tour, capturing 13 tournaments, including five senior majors.

For more than a dozen years, Watson hosted a men's golf team fundraiser at Stanford, now called the Cardinal Classic.

"For so many years, not only did he raise dollars for the program, but he helped develop a stewardship with the community," said Conrad Ray, The Knowles Family Director of Men's Golf. "He's clearly one of those guys we talk about, along with Tiger, when we recruit. Both have been a great asset to our program."

Watson is beloved in Scotland. Given how Europe has dominated the series, winning seven of the last nine meetings, the Yanks need all the love and support they can get.

"It's going to be great to follow," Ray said. "If you're a Stanford golf fan, you can't help but cheer for them."


Still scratching my head about Stanford's Zach Ertz not winning the John Mackey Award given to the best tight end in the country. A consensus first-team All-American, his statistics topped winner Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame, but somehow Ertz was passed over.

Here are the numbers: Ertz caught a team-leading 66 passes for 837 yards and six touchdowns. Eifert caught a team-leading 44 passes for 624 yards and four touchdowns. You do the math. Both played on run-first offenses and did their share of blocking. But the numbers don't lie.

Here's guessing Ertz goes higher in the NFL Draft and contributes immediately to his new team.


Congratulations to Stanford fans for your resounding support of the 2012 football team.

Cardinal faithful have purchased nearly 39,000 tickets for the 99th Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year's Day against Wisconsin, where the stadium capacity is 92,542. That assures the team of a major national presence in the "Granddaddy" of all bowl games.

Find your seats early. The Stanford Band will play the national anthem.


Three of Stanford's biggest football and men's basketball fans reside in Moscow, Russia.

Michael A. McFaul, Professor of Political Science and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, is currently serving as United States Ambassador to Russia. It's not unusual for McFaul and his two young sons to wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning to watch live streams of the games.

"And I have tweeted from here real-time in games, interacting with some alums," said McFaul, who attended Stanford's win against UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship Game.


Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor recently made a visit to the home of Stanford chair and professor of economics Jon Levin, to help his son Ben celebrate his 6th birthday. Taylor ate cake and ice cream, signed autographs, posed for pictures, and threw the football around in the backyard with Ben and his friends, earning life-long fans.


According to a new story in Forbes called, "The Best College Football Teams For The Money," Stanford ranked second behind Kansas State. The study, conducted over a three-year period (2009-2011), reported that the Wildcats were the most cost-efficient program in the country, spending $38 million in expenses. That averaged out to $1,445,623 per win, while Stanford was second at $1,522,942.


Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institute, and professor of political economy in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, was the keynote speaker last week at the 9th Annual Lott IMPACT Awards Dinner in Newport Beach, Calif. The winner was Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. Stanford senior outside linebacker Chase Thomas was one of four finalists and also attended.

-- Mark Soltau



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