For the Northwest's sports future, dial 'Kyle'

Now there are two Kyles making a big impression on the Northwest sports scene.

Now there are two Kyles making a big impression on the Northwest sports scene.

Prior to Thursday (July 7), any mention amid the Puget Sound region’s sports-followers of the name “Kyle” might have prompted shrugs and a collective “hunh?”

Just three days later the response, legitimately, is: “Which Kyle you talkin’ about?”

Kyle One, by virtue of his longer ties to the region, would be Kyle Stanley. The 23-year-old Gig Harbor product just missed winning the John Deere P.G.A.-tour event in Illinois Sunday. He’s been a golfing prodigy since making the rounds at the Tacoma Country Club. Lately he’s emerged as a potential top-tier name among the many talented young Professional Golfers Association players afforded more shots at stardom if only because Tiger remains lost in the woods of his lifestyle transgressions and mysterious injuries.

Kyle One grew up near Tacoma but played his college golf in Carolina (South). Kyle Two is Kyle Seager, born 15 days before Stanley. The young third-baseman, who played his early ball in Carolina (North), was promoted from Tacoma to the Seattle Mariner roster after just a fortnight playing for the Rainiers, like George Brett in his prime.

Seager now has started his first four games for the M’s, exhibiting steady play as a big-league infielder. At the plate, though, he went into Sunday’s game 0-for-10: Kyle “Meager” through the M’s 9-3 loss to the Angels Saturday (July 9), the fourth-straight bad outcome for a club that suddenly doesn’t seem to figure in the American League West pennant race.

Kyle One started Sunday four strokes back of leader Steve Stricker in the Deere event. The tourney often is skipped by many of the top golfing talents, who leave early to adjust to the time change before playing in the British Open, which starts July 14.

Stricker, a fan fave and one of the game’s recent greats, entered the Deere as the defending champ two years running. On Sunday the narrative settled upon by CBS broadcasters was that Stricker would defend successfully. The idea endured during the front nine even while Kyle One was pulling into second place within a couple of strokes of the lead.

At about the same time Kyle Two had taken the field in Anaheim. His first at-bat came in the second inning with the M’s having handed all-star-pick Felix Hernandez (joined by M’s throwers Brandon League and Michael Pineda) a 2-0 lead. On a 2-1 count Seager slapped a solid line drive to center, singling and taking third on an error for his first of what promises to be many big-league hits. By game’s end he also had a walk as the M’s lost again and fell to 43-48.

On hole 10 at the Deere, meanwhile, Stanley, still in second place but down by five, smacked a tee shot 390 yards: perhaps the golf equivalent of a 500-foot home run. It was such an audacious drive that CBS commentators suddenly took special notice of the youngster. One called the tee shot “a Whopper with cheese” (“Stanley’s steamer” might’ve been more appropriate). Another duffing pundit decided that the bearded Stanley “looks like Justin Timberlake.”

Stricker eventually prevailed, nailing an improbable putt from off the 18th green, but Timberlake, ahem, Kyle One also could be called "Kyle Won." His single-stroke second-place finish netted him a big six-figure pay day along with admission to the British Open, the third of the grand-slam events. He was especially impressive with birdies at holes 12 through 15, featuring consecutive long putts on the latter three to pull even with Stricker at 22 under.

Stanley’s feat also brought the promise that he can be a “force de tour” well after Tiger Woods has graduated to senior-level play.

As for Northwest sports fans, it seems apparent that henceforth when they overhear someone ask, “did you see Kyle play today?”, they’ll again have to ask for good reason: “Which one?”


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