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AUTHOR : MARK BUTTON

author-mark buttonMark Button has spent the past 17-plus years writing about sports for newspapers, magazines and the Internet. He's worked for the Dallas Morning News, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Rocky Mountain News, CNN/SportsIllustrated.com, Mobile Press-Register and Avid Golfer.

Originally from Kansas, Button has worked for Texas Links since 2008. He published his first children's book in 2011. "Finding Ti Ming & Tem Po, Legend of the golf gods" is a magical journey filled with character-building life lessons. Button plays golf about four times a month and carries an 8.7 GHIN handicap index.

He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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National Team Golf is the ultimate thrill

Written by Mark Button on 01 October 2011.

Tis the season to don your colors.

No, this isn't a column about your favorite college football team. The colors in question here are the red, white and blue of the American flag.

Starting last month and running through November, patriotism continues to be on high in the golf world. With apologies to the contrived FedEx Cup Playoffs, international team golf has taken center stage with the playing of the Walker Cup and Solheim Cup last month and the Presidents Cup looming in November.

The pageantry of individuals playing as teams for their countries will soon touch Texas, too. The sixth playing of The Spirit International starts Nov. 2 at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity. In one of the most unique formats in all of golf competition, teams consisting of two men, two women and a coach from 20 countries will vie for gold medals in five events played through 72 holes of best ball format.

If you've never been to Whispering Pines, this is the perfect opportunity. It's free, the golf is superb and the passion is contagious.

There's something special about golf events played in team formats. Maybe it's because golf is such an individual game. Other than one's caddie, golfers rely solely on themselves for success. So many of our other favorite sports allow for teamwork—a key block in football, a timely pass in basketball—and it underscores how unique and difficult golf is. It's just you, the golf ball and the course.

When you add in patriotism and playing for an entire country to the team format in golf, the results are extraordinary.

Just look at the photo of Jordan Spieth on page 43. It really says everything about playing on a team for your country. The emotion is raw, genuine and unadulterated. He's played on the PGA Tour. He's won USGA national championships.

He'll also be the first to tell you that playing for his country means more to him than any of it. It showed in September during the Walker Cup. Spieth was the only U.S. Team member to post an undefeated record (2-0-1) in Great Britain & Ireland's 14-12 victory.

During the weekend of the Solheim Cup, I woke by 6 o'clock each morning, rolled out to the couch and flipped on the telecast from Ireland. One of my favorite things in the world is waking early on the weekend for international team golf played across the ocean—namely the Ryder Cup every two years. This year's Solheim Cup was equally as thrilling.

I rooted hard for LPGA Tour rookie Ryan O'Toole, who was a controversial pick by U.S. captain Rosie Jones. Like Spieth at the Walker Cup, O'Toole finished undefeated (2-0-2) and was one of the bright spots for America.

Even though Europe rallied to win back the Solheim Cup for the first time since 2003, it was compelling TV. Watching players like Christina Kim, Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie show so much emotion was a joy to watch.

Maybe that's why I love these international competitions so much. It's really the only time in golf (outside of winning a major, I suppose) when it's acceptable for players to go over the top with fist pumps and tree-rattling screams after making a clutch putt. You just don't see that kind of emotion in other events.

I'm looking forward to witnessing that kind of passion at The Spirit International. With the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and Solheim Cup all resting in the hands of the Europeans, The Spirit is the next chance for the U.S. to win one for the red, white and blue.

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