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By James A. Frank
If you’re not a fan of high-tech on the course—cell phones, GPS watches, swing sensors, and the like—then you might want to stop reading now.
But for everyone else, golf’s brave new world continues to evolve. Some very interesting people are rolling out some very clever and exciting products to bring the game into the modern era and, as with almost all of today’s most compelling ideas, to entice Millennials.
I recently had the opportunity to test-drive what is being called the “Shark Experience.” The shark, of course, is Greg Norman, whose company is spearheading a new, technology-rich way of bringing much-needed fun and entertainment into golf. And without making the hole bigger, throwing Frisbees, or kicking a ball with your feet.
Norman is collaborating with Verizon (wireless network), Club Car (golf cars), and GPSi (GPS systems) to, in their words, bring “connectivity, content, and customization” to the course.
Their vehicle for this is, in fact, a vehicle—golf cars and the video screens that are increasingly found in them at courses both public and private. Right now, those screens are used primarily to show how the hole looks and plays, and occasionally to order food and drinks. But Norman said he had a revelation while walking around a car-staging area at a club he frequents: Only about a third of the vehicles had those screens, which got him wondering how they could be put to better use.
That was more than four years ago, and it took him that long to convince the other companies that this was “virgin space” for a big idea that would help grow the game while also shaking it up.
What they came up with is a Club Car model featuring a high-definition touchscreen, built-in speakers, and Bluetooth connectivity, with streaming content powered by Verizon that includes dozens of music channels, video of live sports, highlights, news, other entertainment, instruction tips from Norman, and sophisticated yardage tracking plus other course information from GPSi. The platform also offers the golfer the chance to go cashless: Purchases are charged to an account associated with the car, providing a “member for a day” experience that does away with constantly dipping into your pocket or golf bag for money.
Those features will be available in the roll-out phase, which begins early next year when the new cars begin turning up at select courses. The next functions—which should be available by the middle of next year—include food ordering, hole-in-one competitions, and the ability to use Shot Tracer, following the track of your shots as they do on TV. “It’s a living breathing platform that will continue to develop,” said Jason Goldberg, who runs the media division of Norman’s company, as we were testing it out on the sporty and classic (circa 1896) Ocean Course at The Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
So what’s it like? In a word: Fun.
The yardage information is dynamic, allowing you to drag a finger across the screen and see how far it is to or from any hazard or the green. Watching highlights of yesterday’s big game or live feeds of sports and other programming certainly fits the demographic and sociological profiles of most golfers I know, who already spend a good part of every round talking about other sports. And while there are some obvious Rules and slow play issues, watching Greg get out of the sand might help you do the same.
For me, the home run is streaming music. As a certified Baby Boomer, I’m used to music everywhere and have long wanted it on the golf course. I’ve tried, using portable speakers and such, but there were always drawbacks, starting with annoying other golfers. The Shark Experience has this licked.
As a number of the people associated with the product told me, they’re especially proud how the speakers fit in the cars—just under the roof and angled slightly down so the music (or whatever you’re listening to, and the Slacker streaming service has dozens of offerings) sounds great when you’re sitting in the car but is almost imperceptible when you step out. No bothering other golfers or your Led Zepplin clashing with their Willie Nelson.
The other great thing about music is how it makes the round more enjoyable. Conversation in the car seems easier, there are other things to talk about besides golf and your game (“Hey, put on Disco!”), and you’re likely to swing with better rhythm when listening to anything with rhythm. There are many studies that show music helps people be happier, more social, and more productive. I felt all of those, and more.
Sacrilegious? Some people may think so, but I’d argue that those same people should still be using brassies to smack at featheries. Golf could use a shot in the arm, a little life and levity, and while I don’t think attracting Millennials is the end-all and be-all of the game’s future, a more relaxed and social atmosphere ultimately will be good for everyone who plays. This certainly isn’t for use under tournament conditions and it would be great if more people walked their rounds.
But most golfers ride and they all want to have fun. That’s what the Shark Experience is all about.
What do you think about this new technology? Is it something you’d want in your golf cart? If you had it in your cart, would you use it? Let us know in the comments below!
By Tony Dear
When Steve Kealy hosts a First Green field trip, he likes to send the kids home with an incentive to protect water quality in their homes and surrounding neighborhoods. “I teach them about storm water and waste water,” says the 27-year Superintendent at Glendale Country Club in Bellevue, Wash. “And I give them four things they and their families can do to make a difference.”
Kealy’s simple four-point plan is:
1. Scoop up your pet’s waste.
2. Wash your car at a car wash, not on the driveway at home.
3. Make sure all fertilizer and other lawn products hit the target, and don’t end up on hard surfaces.
4. Keep your cars in good repair. If it’s leaking oil, get it fixed asap!
“The kids usually go home and ask their parents if they know the difference between storm water and sewage,” says Kealy. “If they don’t, the kids teach them. They tell them nothing but rain should go down the storm drain.”
Founded in 1997 by internationally-known golf coach, psychologist, and speaker Dr. Bill Meyer, and Jeff Gullikson, the superintendent at Kalispel Country Club in Spokane, Wash., the First Green is a 501 (c ) (3) non-profit based in Bellevue that provides school kids with valuable STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)-based learning experiences at golf facilities. “Golf courses are essentially environmental learning labs,” says Dr. Karen Armstead, the organization’s Executive Director.
Kealy has welcomed local elementary and middle-school students to Glendale over 100 times since the year 2000, and through him roughly 2,500 schoolkids have learned how golf courses influence the surrounding watershed, provide wildlife habitats, and can actually benefit the environment. According to statistics issued by the First Green, that means almost 23,000 people (extended family members and friends of the participant) in the Bellevue and Greater Seattle area have heard Kealy’s message one way or another, and have probably developed a far more positive attitude towards the game and its playing fields than they once had. What’s more, a number of the children Kealy has instructed have worked summers at Glendale, and/or gone on to study subjects such as environmental protection, land management, and landscape architecture at college.
Jeff Glaser, a sixth-grade teacher at St. Louise School in Bellevue has allowed his students to take advantage of Kealy’s experience and expertise several times. “I want them to see a real-life application of what we learn in class,” he says. “And I want them to see how our local golf course is putting environmental science to work.”
Glaser’s students learn about Glendale’s holding pond and how it filters water before it enters Kelsey Creek which runs through the course. “They take water samples and count macro invertebrates that live in the pond,” he says. “They take soil samples and learn about water conservation. And they become familiar with the course’s different types of turf.”
The kids are introduced to the course’s different mowing machines, and Kealy has them work out the stream flow to see how much water moves down Kelsey Creek. “There is lots of science, math, and technology at each station the students visit,” says Glaser. “Steve and the First Green do a wonderful job of connecting what we learn in the classroom to what actually happens outside the school.”
The First Green’s focus was limited in its early days, reaching courses almost entirely in the Pacific Northwest. In recent years, however, its impact has been felt nationwide with courses across the country getting involved.
The highest-profile club to have participated is probably Philadelphia Cricket Club in Flourtown, Penn. which had nearly 100 students from Whitemarsh Elementary School in nearby Lafayette Hill on the grounds in June of this year. “We usually advise against groups that large,” says Armstead, “but Dan Meersman, the club’s Director of Grounds, had been preparing the event for a long time and had a good deal of assistance from other organizations.” Indeed, in addition to Meersman, his staff, and several club members, the children heard from representatives of the Golf Association of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Association of Golf Course Superintendents, the Philadelphia Section of the PGA, the First Tee of Greater Philadelphia, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Montgomery County Conservation District, the Morris Arboretum, Temple University, the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, and the USGA which has provided funding for the First Green since 2000.
“It was a really memorable day,” says Meersman who’d had the idea for the event after meeting Armstead in Seattle a couple of years before. “It was shortly after completion of Keith Foster’s restoration of our Wissahickon Course,” he says. “A group of Seattle-area superintendents had invited me to speak about the project, and while there I had the opportunity to speak with Karen about the First Green.”
Meersman set up six learning stations on the 1st and 18th holes. At four of them, the kids learned about responsible golf course maintenance, and at the other two they got a chance to try their hand a golf.
“They learned a lot, and had a great time,” says Meersman. “At the end of the day, one boy came up and gave me a hug, and at a follow-up meeting at the school a little while later, several students told me how much they’d enjoyed it. That was special. The day was a great success, and we’ll definitely be doing it again.”
What do you think about programs like First Green? Do they help to grow golf or do they simply better society? Let us know in the comments below!
By James A. Frank
I recently played a round with a friend in his early 70s who said he’s anxious to turn 80. Seems his club has a “rule of 90”—he can’t play tournaments from the forward tees until the sum of his age and handicap total at least 90—and he’s desperate to gain the additional yardage.
Which is just further proof of something I’ve been thinking—and banking on—for years: Unlike almost everything else, golf gets better as we get older.
I’m not talking about the Tour pros, although it’s hard not to envy the players on the Champions Tour (that’s what they’re calling it now, right? My memory is older, too): Golf has gotten better for them merely by still being available to them. But for us “real” golfers, aging as we keep playing hasn’t only brought wisdom, patience, experience, and some tolerance, it’s also gifted us with an entirely new set of skills.
True, one of them is not distance. But once I realized that I wasn’t able to hit it long I gave up trying to and found accuracy. Less yardage has also meant more short game, which has many advantages: Pitching and chipping are far less taxing on my creaking body, and are more fun to practice. (Although I refuse to say, yet, that working on my short game means my driver.)
As for technique, I’d been hoping that an aging body would force me to slow my swing, something I was never able to do despite years of lessons. Indeed, my swing has not only gotten slower, it’s gotten shorter, another plus.
Speaking of lessons, it was only in the last few years that I was able to swallow my pride, shut my mouth, and open my ears, all of which allowed me to find a pro I could connect with. The basis of everything he’s taught me—resulting in the best, most consistent golf of my life—is my body’s chronic inability to make the classic in-square-in swing I was chasing for decades. Once he told me to strive for effective rather than ideal, my results and outlook improved.
And I’ve noticed other reasons that age is the golfer’s friend:
There’s no reason to lift your head in an attempt to watch the ball if you can’t see the ball past about 75 yards.
There’s no point grinding over a putt if the grinding is just the sound of your joints.
My opponent says four, I hear five, forget, and write down six.
I know walking is good for me, but carts are our magic carpet.
It’s easy to stay “in the moment” when you’ve forgotten where you just were and can’t remember where you wanted to go.
You don’t have to lie about taking a sick day when you’re really running out to play golf, and there’s no feeling guilty about neglecting the kids.
And maybe the best reason of all, you have more time to play more.
Finally—much as I hate to ever use that word—growing older in golf means living with that gnawing thought in the back of my mind that there are only so many rounds left. Yet I’ve found that to be liberating, forcing me to appreciate the activity, camaraderie, and passion that are unique to this wonderful game.
In golf, getting older truly does mean getting better.
By Susie Burning
I came to the 1967 U.S. Women’s Open, at the Cascades course of the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va., feeling confident. I’d won twice that year, including just two weeks earlier, and my game was in good form. Besides, I loved the whole atmosphere of the Open. Back then it was the only televised event on the LPGA Tour, and at the first tee, an official announced your name and said, “Play away, please.” It was all so frightfully formal!
That tone probably intimidated some players, but it inspired me. I was fortunate to win the Open three times—in 1968, ’72, and ’73—and I also took home a share of the first-prize money in 1967. But I didn’t win. Instead, the victory went to a young French woman named Catherine Lacoste, who at the age of 22 became 1) the youngest woman to win the title; 2) the first non-American to win; and 3) the first (and only) amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open.
I recall the Cascades course as being tight and hilly, and under Open conditions it yielded few low scores. When Catherine played the first 36 holes in one under par, she had a stunning five-stroke lead.
Most of the competitors were staying at the resort in a cluster of cottages surrounding a fire pit. On Friday evening, the topic around the pit was, of course, Catherine, the consensus that she would never hold up on the weekend. It wasn’t the fact that she was young, or a foreigner, but that she was an amateur. Amateurs just didn’t beat professionals… or so we all believed.
Maybe we should have had more respect, if not for her then for her pedigree. Catherine’s father, Rene Lacoste, was one of the world’s finest tennis players, winner of seven Grand Slam titles, not to mention the creator of the Lacoste tennis shirt with the iconic crocodile logo. Her mother, Simone de la Chaume, won the 1927 Ladies British Open Amateur Championship, the first non-British player to do so.
I was paired with Catherine in round three and although she lost some of her sharpness, posting a 74, no one—myself included—put any pressure on her. “The Crocodile Kid” entered the final round with the same five-stroke cushion.
My 76 on Saturday had left me seven behind, paired with Beth Stone in the penultimate group as Margee Masters, in solo second, joined Catherine in the final pairing. When Margee double-bogeyed the first hole, Catherine’s lead was suddenly seven. Her victory seemed inevitable, even to the staunchest doubters.
Then, incredibly, she began to crumble—six bogeys in seven holes. There were few scoreboards in those days, but we sensed what was happening behind us.
When I reached the 16th hole I was one over for the round when someone told me I was just one stroke back. I proceeded to chili-dip a wedge, leading to a bogey. That shot would haunt me for months.
Catherine, to her credit, played the dogleg 17th hole with boldness, hitting a big drive around the corner and striking a wedge to 10 feet for a birdie. A par at the last gave her a 79, good enough for a two-stroke victory over Beth and me. She had not played well that day, but under the extreme pressure of the final round—and of history—she had played well enough to win.
Catherine never turned pro. She returned to France, married, had four children, and is now the happy grandmother of eight. A few years ago, the USGA held a reunion of past champions at Pinehurst. I was able to spend some quality time with Catherine and truly enjoyed getting to know her better. Catherine Lacoste is a lovely person and I am proud to have my name just above hers on the U.S. Women’s Open trophy.
By Marcia Pledger
Renee Powell, who owns and runs Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio, is not your everyday golf pro, as evidenced by the honorary doctorate (one of two she’s been awarded) sticking out from behind the big-screen TV on the wall of the pro shop. There’s also a plaque naming her one of Golf Digest’s Top 50 Women Teachers and an award from the PGA as the 2003 First Lady of Golf. And it doesn’t take much researching to learn that Powell was the second African-American woman to play on the LPGA Tour.
Her golf course is different, as well. It was built in 1946 by her father, Bill—the first African-American to own and operate a course in the U.S.—who returned from serving in World War II only to be turned away from local courses. He carved Clearview by hand from an old dairy farm and opened it to all; in 2001 it was named a National Historic Site for “putting the fair in fairway.”
Yet Renee Powell doesn’t speak in the negative. Instead, she’s a proud and optimistic ambassador for diversity in golf.
At Clearview, she goes out of her way to make everyone comfortable, interrupting an interview to greet golfers, black and white, young and more seasoned, including 75-year-old Ted Thomas, who’s been playing the course for 40 years. She tells an 8-year-old boy to work on his putting because his lesson with her will be slightly delayed. Then she smiles as the boy’s mother talks about how she was terrified to pick up a golf club until one of Powell’s programs aimed at women changed everything.
The 71-year-old Powell shows no signs of slowing down. From coaching and organizing tournaments to serving on boards including the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Women’s Golf Journal, her energy seems boundless.
“If you’re going to do something right, or be more than average, you have to apply yourself,” she says, recalling her childhood regimen of hitting 500 to 1,000 golf balls every day.
Two years ago, Powell, Queen Elizabeth’s daughter Princess Anne, and five others became the first women granted membership into the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, ending 260 years of male exclusivity. It was one of her proudest moments, a validation after a competitive career that brought threatening letters, racial slurs, and exclusion from the hotels, restaurants, and pro-am events enjoyed by other players.
The LPGA was founded in 1950, but it wasn’t until 1964 that Althea Gibson broke the tour’s color barrier. Since then, the LPGA has had only seven other African-American players, including Powell.
“Yeah, that’s sort of mind-boggling,” she says. “Most people don’t realize there hasn’t been much change in 67 years.”
She steers the conversation to other subjects, including a golf program she runs for women veterans in Northern Ohio. Powell launched it six years ago as a way of combining recreation and therapy for these women. It’s the only program of its kind, and it’s free.
Continuing to stress the positive, Powell says that women and minorities will be major contributors to the future growth of golf.
“In a game with decreasing numbers, we have to look at areas where there’s a lot of potential. Young people may be the long-range goal, but short-range goals are adults who have never played or are now getting back into the game,” she says. “Remember: Golf is the game you can play for a lifetime.”
By Tony Dear
He won’t take the credit and will insist nothing could have happened without the Board’s efforts prior to his becoming involved, but it’s safe to say Jason Way has been the catalyst behind the restoration/renovation project currently going on at Canal Shores Golf Club, 15 miles north of downtown Chicago.
Forty-four-year-old Way is a father of two boys and the remote manager of a small consumer goods business based in Phoenix, Ariz. He doesn’t have a lot of spare time, but what little he does get he uses to dig, cut, prune, mow, shovel, plant, clear, and shape the 40 or so golfing acres of the nearly century-old community course that opened in 1919.
Canal Shores, officially the Evanston and Wilmette Community Golf Course, is a 3,904-yard 18-holer split almost in half by the canal—actually the North Shore Channel which was built between 1907 and 1910 to flush sewage from the North Branch of the Chicago River down the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (visitors needn’t worry, the Chicago Deep Tunnel does the job now). Seven holes run alongside its eastern edge, nine are on the opposite side of the water, and two par threes cross it.
The land on which the course sits is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Cook County which leases it to the City of Evanston and Village of Wilmette which, in turn, sub-lease it to the entirely voluntary, non-profit, self-funded Evanston Wilmette Golf Course Association (EWGCA).
About four years ago, Way turned up at an EWGCA board meeting wondering how he might get involved in the renovation efforts the Association had begun.
“I’d basically been free-riding for years,” he says, “coming over and hitting balls whenever I liked. But I could see that people really cared for the course and the community it’s part of. So I stopped free-riding, got an annual pass, and offered to work wherever needed.”
Spend any amount of time with Way and you soon realize he’s a doer, not a talker. “The course had been decaying for decades,” he says. “The City had basically turned the water off, and the Association was a couple of weeks away from turning in the keys. I didn’t want to sit by and watch it happen knowing I could do something about it. This is where I live and spend time playing golf with my kids. It’s important to me.”
Local politics in Chicago can get pretty complex, Way says, and with a 19-man Board, he sensed things might be slow to happen at the course. So he joined forces with the course’s then-superintendent Tom Tully, Chris Carey—now the President of the EWGCA, and Board committee member Steve Neumann. “I suggested we just tinker with some stuff to begin with, and see if anyone notices,” he says.
They did. One day, shortly after starting, Way was rebuilding a bunker with Pat Goss, former coach of the Northwestern University golf team, Luke Donald’s swing coach (Donald lives in the area, used to practice at Canal Shores, and is a big supporter of youth golf) and an Evanston resident who wanted to help out, when a man approached and asked what was happening. “We told him about our plans for the course,” says Way. “He was really excited, and said the green at the 2nd looked like something at Augusta.” Way and Goss later laughed at the comparison, but admit it felt great that someone had noticed a difference.
“A little while later, I was clearing the tree line at the 3rd when a group of women came over,” Way remembers. “They were all neighbors and lived on a road that borders the course. They asked when I would be coming to their area, and said they had kids that would get out and help.”
These are just two such stories among dozens. “People have been very curious,” says Way. “And they want to get involved. When people volunteer for something like this they take ownership of the project, and become good stewards of the land.”
In addition to input from locals, Canal Shores benefited in December 2015 from being the first recipient of a joint USGA/ASGCA (American Society of Golf Course Architects) venture offering pro bono consulting to public facilities. “That enabled us to get architects Dave Zinkand, Drew Rogers, and Todd Quitno (Lohmann Golf Designs) on board,” says Way. “Their contributions were considerable, and helped us establish the four main sections of the facility—Rolling Green putting course; Kids’ Links; the Back Lot; and the Jans Course, named for Scottish immigrant Peter Jans who was instrumental in establishing the course in its early days.”
In March of this year, Tom Tully left Chicago for a government Parks position in Aurora, Colo., and was replaced by former Glen View Golf Club superintendent and turfgrass consultant Tony Frandria who made an immediate impact, utilizing his contacts, at John Deere specifically, to overhaul the course’s fleet of maintenance vehicles, and hiring an experienced maintenance team.
“Tony is hyper-anal about his work here,” says Way. “He’s made an incredible difference already. Tom did an amazing job with the tiny budget he had to work with. He took the greens (a salad of rye, Blue, bent, and poa) from an F- to a C+. Thanks to the Canal Shores 100 campaign (the course celebrates its centenary in 2019, and is attempting to raise $100k), Tony has had a little more money to work with and has taken the C+ greens to an A-. People frequently tell us they are the best greens they’ve seen all year.”
Frandria has hosted several volunteer groups, and typically has 40 or more people come out to work on the course each time. Way does the same once a month with a group of six or seven friends. LINKS Associate Editor Graylyn Loomis and I participated in one of Way’s sessions a couple of weeks ago when we turfed a former cart path to the left of the 14th green, dug a couple of small bunkers, and watched in something approaching awe as Quinn Thompson dug space for 30 wooden sleepers between the bunkers. Architecture geeks will know the name—Thomson was just back from Japan where he had worked on Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s renovation of Yokohama Country Club.
“Quinn called me one day and asked how he could help,” says Way. “He’s worked on several projects with Coore and Crenshaw, so he was certainly in a position to critique and comment. But he just showed up, put his head down, and worked hard. The result is amazing.”
Thompson, like every other volunteer, no doubt felt exactly the same as Loomis and I had. Canal Shores is a precious community facility where golfers of all ages and abilities can come together to enjoy the game. As C.M. Cartwright, the former President of the Evanston and Wilmette Community Golf Course, wrote in a 1946 edition of the Evanston Review “The course affords inexpensive golf for people of all classes.”
Way says there have been no deadlines for any of the improvements so far, but adds a formal master plan will be drawn up sometime next year. He can’t be sure exactly what Canal Shores will look like in five years’ time, but he’s confident it will be in a significantly healthier position than it has been in recent years. “This place is so special,” he says. “I don’t want it to sit on the edge of oblivion like it did for so long. And I can’t wait for the day it genuinely becomes a hub of community activity. We’re significantly closer to that now than we were just a few years ago.”
Do you have an old community or municipal course in your area that could use some tender love and care? Tell us about it in the comments below!
By Tony Dear
Last week at the PGA Championship, the issue of identity was front and center. LINKS Magazine’s Jim Frank argued in the Friday newsletter that the event deserves our attention and its status as one of the game’s four biggest events. Though certainly lowest on the totem pole, Frank said the quality of its field and venues, and its impressive list of champions warranted more respect.
All true certainly, but what about its identity? What does the PGA Championship mean to you, and what images immediately come to mind when you think of it? Picture the Masters and you see the delightful 12th hole over the creek, pimento cheese sandwiches, and a beaming champion being helped into a green jacket during an awkwardly executed made-for-TV presentation. You know to expect a pulsating Sunday afternoon’s play, and your heartbeat quickens at the mere thought of it.
The Open Championship conjures pictures of an old, silver, wine jug and weatherproof-clad players battling wind, rain, and pot bunkers. The U.S. Open has usually been all about par, rough, and Father’s Day.
But what about the PGA? Yes, there’s that enormous trophy and 20 club pros in the field. But what else? Rough that’s not quite as punishing as the U.S. Open’s, and fairways that aren’t quite as narrow? Greens that are slightly less firm and quick than Augusta National’s (Quail Hollow’s Champion Bermuda surfaces excepted), and little of the intrigue or tradition? Yes, a long history going all the way back to 1916, but still 56 years short of the Open Championship?
Judging by Sunday’s TV viewing figures, which were the lowest for the tournament since 2008, even the prospect of a tight leaderboard with a handful of the game’s finest young players—Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler—in contention couldn’t ignite much excitement outside of core golfers and Charlotte residents.
None of this takes anything away from Thomas’s first major victory, of course, and the excellent two-under 34 he shot on Sunday’s back nine to seal the deal. But for many—true devotees and more casual drop-ins—this year’s PGA Championship, played at a regular PGA Tour stop, was only slightly more stimulating than… a regular PGA Tour stop.
If there’s a U.S. major really in need of an identity, it’s the PGA Championship. But it used to have one.
Most know that until 1958, it was a matchplay event. The last matchplay winner was Lionel Hebert who beat Dow Finsterwald 2&1 in the final at Miami Valley Golf Club in Dayton, Ohio. The five winners before that were Jack Burke Jr., Doug Ford, Chick Harbert, Walter Burkemo, and Jim Turnesa.
Even PGA officials probably had a hard time getting excited about some of the 1950s finals—Turnesa vs. Harbert at Big Spring Country Club in Louisville, Ky.; Walter Burkemo vs. Felice Torza at Birmingham Country Club in Birmingham, Mich.—you get the idea.
All due respect to those players and courses, but we’re guessing a Snead/Hogan final at Pebble Beach or Oakmont would probably have aroused greater anticipation, received more coverage, endured far longer in people’s memories, and maybe have convinced the PGA of America to stick with matchplay.
Imagine a Rory McIlroy/Jordan Spieth final at Merion; Justin Thomas against Brooks Koepka at Winged Foot, or a Dustin Johnson/Rickie Fowler Championship Match at Riviera. Better still (from a world perspective, at least), imagine those matchups at Royal Melbourne, Portmarnock, Royal Toronto, or Hirono.
Four years ago, long before talk of the tournament’s calendar move to May first surfaced, the PGA of America announced it was looking into the possibility of holding its flagship event outside the U.S., once or twice every decade. The organization’s CEO, Pete Bevacqua, said it had to think outside the box and hinted it would be unforgivable if they didn’t at least consider the move. He added there was no timetable for a decision.
Australian Mike Clayton, the former tour professional turned course architect, firmly believes that both the tournament and the game in general would benefit from its moving outside of America. “For a start, if you were deciding now which events should be majors, there’s no way three of the four would be in the U.S.,” he says. “The world of golf loves the Masters and the two Opens, but the PGA garners no affection, relatively. Maybe it does in the U.S., but nowhere else. And that’s why it’s always the spare wheel.”
Clayton adds the PGA of America are “always banging on about growing the game” and says taking the PGA Championship to other countries would be a great way of helping it grow globally. “Sometimes I think they forget there are club pros all over the world,” he says. “And the PGA Tour is very international these days. What a great way to acknowledge the not-insignificant contribution of ‘foreign’ pros to the game.”
If money were a sticking point for the PGA of America, Clayton knows they need have no worries going to Australia. “The Victorian Government has paid the PGA Tour $28m (Aus) for the 2019 Presidents Cup,” he says. “So they definitely have the money to pay for it.”
Assuming the notion of going international is still on the table, it’s doubtful anything would be announced for quite a while. Give the PGA time to adapt to its new date on the calendar first. And don’t expect conversation regarding a return to matchplay to start up within the foreseeable future either. Bevacqua is too intelligent to never say never, but even he might draw the line there.
But what if, by 2030, the PGA Championship has not only changed its dates, but has reverted to matchplay, and is being played in Ireland, Japan, or Australia?
Now that’s identifiable.
What do you think about Tony Dear’s proposals for the PGA Championship? Let us know in the comments below!
In the foreword to Olivera Cejovic’s 146-page compendium of artwork, Greatest Golf Legends and the Open Championship Winners, former R&A CEO Peter Dawson writes: “It is an absolute pleasure for me to introduce Olivera’s GolfArt. The quality of her drawings is of the highest order, and golfers the world over will instantly recognize her subjects.”
Given the book’s subject matter, and Cejovic’s obvious passion for the game and its champions, it’s astonishing to learn that she wasn’t introduced to golf until 2011, at the age of 36. Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now the capital of Serbia) but living the last 22 years in Montenegro, Cejovic watched with great curiosity as her husband Branko swung steel sticks at a white ball that a family friend found in his basement. “It looked fascinating,” she says. “I wanted to try.”
A few swings was all it took. “I became very interested and went back to the meadow, a park, any small space, every day,” she says. “But my pure passion for golf became complete when I discovered it is based on the greatest human values. That was when I understood golf is not just a game; it is a way of life.”
The Cejovics own an advertising company, but for the last five years Olivera has devoted herself to GolfArt, sketching with colored pencils based on images by photographers Tristan Jones, Joe Velotta, Frank Foehlinger, and Bernard Brault, with whom she works closely. She creates her artwork in a home studio and keeps all the originals for Branko. Limited-edition prints, available at oliveragolfart.com, range in price from $100 to $2,700; she occasionally accepts a custom commission.
Olivera is devoted to the game, watching the Serbian SK Golf channel and promoting golf in Montenegro. She formed Javorje GC on a small parcel of land around the family’s summer cottage in Durmitor National Park (it uses short-distance Birdie Balls, donated by company founder John Breaker) and co-founded Golf Club Knjaginja Milica, which was officially registered with Montenegro’s Ministry of Sport last May and currently has 58 members—but no course.
“I am sure people who live in countries that play much golf may think this story sounds strange, maybe stupid,” says Olivera. “But for me, it is an amazing experience. Thanks to my GolfArt, our golf club, and golf on TV, I can live with golf 24/7.”
It’s Tuesday of ATT Pro-Am week, and Zac Blair already has played Cypress Point, the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula CC, and Pebble Beach in the space of about 36 hours. Naturally, for a golf course architecture geek who knows his Alps from his Double Plateau, the 26-year-old PGA Tour player is a little giddy. “They’re all incredible,” he says. “I’ve been into golf architecture for years, but I really started to appreciate it at the Greenbrier a couple of years ago.”
The Greenbrier Classic is held on the West Virginia resort’s Old White TPC course, which C.B. Macdonald designed alongside his trusted associate Seth Raynor, and opened in 1913. It features a number of holes modeled on Macdonald’s favorites from his travels throughout the British Isles and Continental Europe—Hog’s Back, Redan, Biarritz, Cape, Eden, and others.
All these templates will be found on the course Zac Blair, a Utah native, is currently planning for a 400-acre site half an hour north of Salt Lake City. He has been recording development of The Buck Club for more than a year on both his (@z_blair) and the club’s (@thebuckclub) Twitter accounts, building awareness and attracting potential members. He’s also been busy sketching holes and devising logos, and will design the course himself.
“I actually began talking about something like The Buck Club back in college [Brigham Young; he graduated in 2014 with a degree in Recreation Management],” he says. “My friends thought I was crazy. But now it’s coming together. I want it to be somewhere the BYU golf team can play.
“I want to bring great Golden Age-style architecture to my home state,” says the man who admires the work of Colt, Tillinghast, Ross, and MacKenzie, but professes a particular fondness for Raynor courses. “Sand Hollow in Hurricane is excellent, but Utah doesn’t have many other really good courses.”
Blair, who played in 31 PGA Tour events last year (finishing 110th in FedEx points) and early in the wraparound 2016–17 season had made eight cuts in 10 events, insists he is a player first. But it’s clear that the numbers he’s putting up on the PGA Tour aren’t the only thing occupying his mind right now.
“There’s been a lot of interest in The Buck Club,” he says. “I’m itching to get started.”