Before anyone worries, the Traveling Duff is alive and well in western New York. Unfortunately for us, he’s neither alive nor well on BuffaloGolfer.Com. The Duff made one of those decisions a few years back to sacrifice a hobby/pastime/vice for the call of duty and family. While it wasn’t a life-threatening move, it eliminated his participation in a venture (BuffaloGolfer, formerly Buff-Golf) that he had been a part of from day one. Today, I reminisce about the Duff, so you get to reminisce with me.
I met the Duff when we worked at the same school in western New York. He had been recommended to me by a playing partner and the Duff was everything I anticipated. A tall gent with a look like Ernest Hemingway, he was much shorter off the tee than he should have been and a more timid putter than anyone need be. The Duff had played some soccer and other sports as a youth in Brooklyn, but he never translated the killer instinct, the whip, the lash, to golf. As a result, he is a bumper, a bunter of the ball.
The Duff and I traveled a bit over the years. We embarked on golfing tours of New York state, Long Island, Michigan, Charlotte and Wisconsin across the years. I saw him get his lunch served and eaten on courses from Whistling Straits to Arcadia Bluffs. Through it all, the Duff always complained that this was unfair and that was impossible, but he never failed to take another crack at the windmill. He wasn’t mad in an insane sort of way, but he may have been the closest embodiment of don Quijote that I’ll ever encounter. And it was a blast to be his squire, his Sancho Panza.
The Duff and I attended a few US Opens together, too. We made the scene at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, Bethpage Black in 2002 and 2009, and Oak Hill for the PGA in 2003. We had plans for more (like Winged Foot and Oakmont) but my own family called me home and those itineraries never materialized. My favorite memory of the Duff as reporter came at Shinnecock, where we both had press and photo passes, courtesy of the USGA. I had a nice camera, while the Duff left his lens at home. There’s nothing quite so hysterical as seeing marshal after marshal stop the Duff from taking pictures with a disposable camera (prohibited during actual competition, albeit not during practice rounds) only to see them step back in astonishment as Duff produced the official armband of the credentialed photographer. My regret is that I don’t have a photo of the Duff engaged in hand to hand combat with those guardians of the fairways.
The Duff is a believer. His spiritual upbringing was Roman Catholic and he brought a selflessness to his friendships. He encouraged me in golf and the website, and always had a supportive word or suggestion when the moment demanded it. He wasn’t afraid to call anyone out, a blend of honesty and bravado that led to a few spirited altercations best left unpublished
I see the Duff usually once a year. We get together to walk the fairways of Niagara Falls Country Club during the Porter Cup. In years past, such an afternoon would represent one of many and we would discuss harbors from which we had recently returned and destinations we would soon reach. Now, it’s melancholy at best and bitter at worst, as I know that it represents our only go-round for the year.
I’m proud to have known the Duff and prouder still of the choice he made at this stage in life. On this Memorial Day, despite the absence of relatives and friends who served in the military and defended our country, I choose to remember the living. Here’s to you, Traveling Duff.