Wednesday, April 18

A Magnificent Seven, Part 6: John Mahaffey at the 1971 Q-School and His Life in Golf

Embed from Getty Images
John Mahaffey at the 1981 Masters.

This is the sixth in a series on players from the 1971 Q-School. Read Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5. Nearly a half century later John Coyne tracked down Allen Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Leonard Thompson, Sam Adams, John Mahaffey, Steve Melnyk and Spike Kelly. How had pro golf and life turned out for these seven men?

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


THE ONE YOUNG PRO TO ARRIVE at the 1971 Q-School with an aura engulfing him was John Mahaffey, Jr. He was like the new good-looking kid in high school that had the girls in a titter. It wasn't his looks, nor his golf swing, but the whispered secret shared by the other players that Mahaffey was "Hogan's Prodigy."

Mahaffey, who had qualified at Quincy, Illinois, was 23 and had played at the University of Houston. He had been an All American in 1969 and 1970, the year he won the NCAA championship. After college, he went to work for Jimmy Demaret at the Champions Golf Club in Houston. 

It was at Champions that he met Hogan and played several rounds with him, Jackie Burke and Demaret. It was then that Hogan, after dinner one night at Champions, invited him to play in the 1970 Colonial tournament, where Mahaffey finished 11th. What most of all impressed Hogan -- besides his game -- was Mahaffey's quiet and polite manner on the golf course and in the clubhouse. 

Ben Hogan's attention to John Mahaffey followed him to Florida and to Q-School.

As John told me, "Hogan had asked Gardner Dickinson to look out for me and see that I didn’t do anything stupid. After the first round, Gardner called me at night in my hotel room. That day on the ninth hole I had driven into a fairway bunker and my next shot was over water. Well, I'm a kid. I'm thinking I can hit the ball over water. And I did. I got my par. Gardner told me that Hogan had suggested I don't have to make a crazy mistake. I didn't need to be low qualifier. I just had to qualify. Gardner told me not to do anything dumb."

And Mahaffey didn’t. He finished sixth with rounds of 73, 71, 73, 72, 73, 74. 

John returned to Texas where he signed a contract with the Ben Hogan Company and started the PGA Tour in January due to a family emergency for Lanny Wadkins that allowed John, as an alternate, to play in the tournament. That was their first connection and developed into a lifelong friendship. Today, both are broadcasters on the PGA Tour Champions; Lanny in the booth and John on the golf course. 

Another good friend from the Q-School and the early days of the PGA Tour was Tom Watson. They traveled together caravan style from one event to the next. What the young pros of the Q-School liked about Mahaffey, besides being a good guy and golfer, were his imitations of other players. Many thought his comic imitation of Chi Chi Rodriguez's swing was even better than the real thing.

"We were all lucky," John said. "The old pros took us under their wing. They taught us what to do, how to behave in public."

And back in Texas, Mahaffey had Hogan.

"I didn't have a pro teaching me how to play golf," John recalled. "I learned the swing from reading and studying Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf."

According to Curt Sampson, who wrote a biography of Hogan, "Five Lessons became the Gray's Anatomy of golf.  Hogan himself said, "I admit I wasn't prepared to see the members of the club on the practice tee, holding up the book."

John Mahaffey was one such student. He taught himself how to play from studying the medical illustration-style drawings done by Tony Ravielli, all based on Hogan's instructions. He also learned from playing golf with Byron Nelson and Lee Trevino.

"These guys worked the ball a ton. They moved it all over the golf course: left to right, right to left, high, low…and that's how I learned how to play golf as well."

Hogan, too, was impressed that John had learned the golf swing from his book.

"Hogan liked my work ethic as I wasn't afraid to practice until dark, and sometimes after.

"At one point, early in my career, Hogan called me into his office and asked me what my favorite courses were on the tour and I listed them. He told me that I had all the shots to play any course. What I needed was a go-to shot, especially for the back nine, and course management. No one was better than Hogan with course management. He told me he had watched me practice and play and that I had all the shots and not to be afraid to take on any course. Once I did I became a lot better player."

Mahaffey's first PGA Tour victory was at the 1973 Sahara Invitational, and then in 1975 he tied Lou Graham at the end of regulation in the U.S. Open, only to lose in the 18-hole playoff.

Mahaffey finished 10th in 1973 at the British Open, and didn't win again on tour until 1978. At the 1978 PGA Championship, Mahaffey won the playoff beating Jerry Pate and Tom Watson. And the following week he won the American Optical Classic. His final tour victory was in 1989, winning The Players Championship. He finished his PGA Tour career with 10 wins and 20 times being the runner-up.

Mahaffey moved on to the Champions Tour, winning once, and later began his current career as a commentator with the Golf Channel.

TO BE CONTINUED


John Coyne is a bestselling author whose most recent golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Tuesday, April 17

Golf on TV: HUGEL-JTBC LA Open, Valero Texas Open, Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf, Trophee Hassan II



ORLANDO, Fla. – The LPGA Tour is in Southern California this week, staging the inaugural HUGEL-JTBC LA Open, airing in primetime on Golf Channel Thursday-Sunday. The PGA TOUR is in San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open, where Kevin Chappell defends. Carlos Franco and Vijay Singh are set to defend on the PGA TOUR Champions at the two-man team event, Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge. Thomas Pieters headlines the field at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco.

LPGA TOUR

HUGEL-JTBC LA Open
Dates: April 19-22
Venue: Wilshire Country Club, Los Angeles, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)                                   
Thursday         6:30-9:30 p.m. (Live) / 4-6:30 a.m. (Friday replay)
Friday             6:30-9:30 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          6-9 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-6 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            6-9 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-6 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes:
Inaugural event: This is the inaugural edition of the event, marking the LPGA Tour’s return to the Los Angeles area for the first time since 2011.
Headlining the field: Shanshan Feng, Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park, Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu, Ariya Jutanugarn, Cristie Kerr, Anna Nordqvist, Jessica Korda, Brooke Henderson and Michelle Wie.

PGA TOUR

Valero Texas Open
Dates: April 19-22
Venue: TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks Course), San Antonio, Texas

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Thursday        3:30-6:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-1 a.m. (Replay)
Friday             3:30-6:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-1 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday         1-2:45 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-2:45 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern)
Saturday         3-6 p.m.
Sunday            3-6 p.m.

Broadcast Notes:
Chappell defends: Kevin Chappell finished one shot ahead of Brooks Koepka to claim his first PGA TOUR win.
Headlining the field: Sergio Garcia, Si Woo Kim, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Beau Hossler, Shubhankar Sharma, Jim Furyk, Kevin Chappell and Adam Scott.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge
Dates: April 19-22
Venues: Buffalo Ridge (Springs Course); Mountain Top; Top of the Rock, Ridgedale, Mo.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Friday             12:30-3 p.m. (Live) / 1-3 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday         3-6 p.m. (Live) / 2:30-4:30 a.m. (Sunday replay)     
Sunday           3-6 p.m. (Live) / 2:30-4:30 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes:
Format: All teams will compete on the Springs Course at Buffalo Ridge (better ball) on Thursday, and will alternate between Top of the Rock (combination of alternate shot / better ball) and Mountain Top (better ball) on Friday and Saturday. The final round will be held on Sunday at Top of the Rock.
Franco, Singh defend: Carlos Franco and Vijay Singh teamed up to win last year (15-under), finishing one shot clear of three teams (14-under).
Notable Champions Division teams: John Daly/Michael Allen, Carlos Franco/Vijay Singh, Miguel Angel Jimenez/Jose Maria Olazabal, Davis Love III/Scott Verplank, Sandy Lyle/Ian Woosnam, Tom Lehman/Bernhard Langer, Andy North/Tom Watson and Steve Stricker/Jerry Kelly.

EUROPEAN TOUR

Trophee Hassan II
Dates: April 19-22
Venue: Royal Golf Dar Es Salam (Red Course), Rabat, Morocco

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Thursday         9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Friday              6:30-8:30 a.m. / 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Molinari defends: Edoardo Molinari defeated Paul Dunne with a par on the first playoff hole to earn his third career European Tour win.
Headlining the field: Thomas Pieters, Paul Dunne, Danny Willett, Chris Wood, Thomas Bjorn, Edoardo Molinari, Sean Crocker, Gavin Green and Yusaku Miyazato.

GOLF CHANNEL VIDEO: Matt Adams on Golf's Endorsement Hierarchy



WHAT ARE THE ENDORSEMENT TIERS for PGA Tour players?

Golf Channel's Matt Adams breaks it down, from PGA Tour winners to recent major champions (like Patrick Reed) to the superstars and golf gods.

Wednesday, April 11

A Magnificent Seven, Part 5: Sam Adams at the 1971 Q-School and His Life in Golf

This is the fifth in a series on players from the 1971 Q-School. Read Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4. Nearly a half century later John Coyne tracked down Allen Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Leonard Thompson, Sam Adams, John Mahaffey, Steve Melnyk and Spike Kelly. How had pro golf and life turned out for these seven men?

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


SAM ADAMS, FROM BOONE, NORTH CAROLINA, is a natural right-hander who played golf left-handed because "my father was left-handed and we only had one set of clubs in the family."

Sam was 25 when he attended the 1971 Q-School, having graduated from Appalachian State University where he was captain of the golf team. In 1967 he was the Conference Carolinas champion. After college he became the assistant professional at Boone Golf Club and, even at the Q-School, his ambition was to become a home professional and teacher. And that is exactly what he did in his life.

Getting to his dream job wasn't easy. Getting to the Q-School wasn't easy.

He tried the qualifying school three times, and on his third attempt he finished third in the regional qualifying at Tanglewood in Winston-Salem, a tournament won by Lanny Wadkins. Adams shot 12-under in the four-day event.

The day before Q-School he lost his favorite 3-wood and had to use a backup club, but it turned out okay. He shot 69 in the first round and that calmed him down. He was playing well and felt he could hold it together and earn his tour card.

"The golf course was far from easy," Sam remembered, "but a player who was playing well could shoot a good score, not a great score like 65 or 66. But the Q-School tournament to me was physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically draining. Six rounds just prolongs the agony."

After finishing second in the Q-School, tied with Wadkins, Adams joined the tour at the Azalea Open in Wilmington, North Carolina, in November of 1971. He never returned to his job at the Boone Golf Club. He played on the tour from then through 1977, having financial sponsors for the first two years, and then playing on his own.

As a rookie, Sam also finished second to Gay Brewer in the 1972 Canadian Open, another highlight of his first year on tour.

His greatest moment in the game came when he won the 1973 Quad Cities Open shooting 64, 64 in the middle two rounds and closing with 68 to shoot 268 (16 under par) and win by three shots.

"In doing that," Sam said, "I became the first American born lefty to win a PGA Tour event."

"Being left-handed probably worked to my advantage," Sam admitted. "I was more visible and got more attention than I would have had if I had just been another right-hander with the same level of success. When I joined the tour the only other lefty playing regularly was Bob Charles from New Zealand...He stopped playing regularly in 1974 or 1975 and for a time I was the only lefty playing the tour full time."

The strongest part of Adam's game was putting, and he was particular good on fast greens.

"The greens we putted on in the 70s," Sam said, "were probably between 9.5 and 10 on the Stimpmeter. Today's greens on the tour run 11.5 to 12.5, depending on the amount of slope and if the weather conditions allow.

"Also, the greens today are better conditioned than what we putted on....the make percentage from inside 10 feet is much higher today than in the 70's...that may, in part, be the players, but I think it is the improved putting surfaces."

It is not only the greens that have changed since the 1970s, but the players as well.

"PGA golfers are certainly better conditioned athletes than previous generations," said Sam. "Whatever training programs they are on certainly produces more club head speed and greater distance. The design of the equipment, particularly drivers and fairway clubs, have made it much easier for a skilled player to hit more accurate long shots. The hybrid clubs are so much easier to hit than a 1 or 2 iron that players can now hit and hold the green from much longer distances. Mowing heights have also played a role in how far the modern player drives the ball and necessitated the use of hybrids to loft the ball from tight lies."

After leaving the tour in 1977, Adams supervised the construction of Roan Valley Golf Club near Boone, North Carolina. He is still at the course as the head pro, and now the club is known as RedTail Mountain. It is located in the beautiful Appalachian Highlands, 20 minutes from Boone.

TO BE CONTINUED.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose most recent golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Monday, April 9

Throw Out the Script: Patrick Reed Wins a Green Jacket and Other Masters Surprises



Throw out the script. The Masters creates its own drama and unexpected story lines.

Rory McIlroy was supposed to finally get that green jacket slipped over his shoulders and complete the career Grand Slam after boldly playing his way into the final pairing on Sunday. Instead, Rory hit perhaps the worst drive of his professional career on the first hole. It wasn’t a blip. More like an omen.

Patrick Reed was the 36- and 54-hole leader after posting three splendid rounds in the 60s at Augusta National Golf Club. However, it was his first time leading a major on Sunday. The pressure and elite chasing pack would get to Captain America. He would fold like a linen napkin at the Champions Dinner.

Wrong. Dead wrong.

Reed withstood charges from Jordan Spieth (64) and Rickie Fowler (67) and made clutch par putts on 17 and 18 to close out his first major. His gutsy 71 and 15-under total were good for a 1-shot victory.

With seven Masters titles between them, a rejuvenated Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were supposed to contend for the green jacket. Instead, both of them barely made it to the weekend.

After a final-round 67 to finish at 2 over for the tournament, Phil said he lost his magic from recent weeks and admitted that he puts too much pressure on himself at the majors. It’s hard to blame him. He’s running out of opportunities. Meanwhile, Tiger did well to make the cut and shake off some competitive rust. Playing a complete major at this juncture of his comeback is a victory in itself.

Tony Finau was expected to hobble through part of his first round and then withdraw after dislocating his ankle at the par-3 contest while celebrating a hole-in-one. Instead, Finau opened with a 68 and went on to finish 7-under par and in a tie for 10th. He shot a 66 on Sunday, his best round of the tournament.

Somebody was supposed to win the par-3 contest.

But not 68-year-old Tom Watson, who carded a 21 playing alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. This old Tom only needed eight putts. Watson is now the oldest par-3 winner, surpassing that other ancient wonder, Sam Snead.

Wednesday, April 4

2018 Masters TV Schedule and Thursday and Friday Tee Times

Embed from Getty Images

THE 2018 MASTERS TEES OFF THURSDAY at Augusta National Golf Club. The field of 87 men that includes six amateurs will play for the green jacket on the storied course that measures 7,435 yards and plays to a par of 72. Sergio Garcia is the defending champion.

TV Schedule
All times ET.
Thursday, April 5: ESPN 3-7:30
Friday, April 6: ESPN 3-7:30
Saturday, April 7: CBS 3-7
Sunday, April 8: CBS 2-7

Live streaming:
Masters.com from Thursday through Sunday

Embed from Getty Images

Thursday and Friday Tee Times (ET)

8:30 a.m./11:15 a.m. -- Austin Cook, Ted Potter, Jr., Wesley Bryan

8:41 a.m./11:26 a.m. -- Ian Woosnam, Ryan Moore, Jhonattan Vegas

8:52 a.m./11:37 a.m. -- Mike Weir, Brendan Steele, Matt Parziale (a)

9:03 a.m./11:48 a.m. -- Jose Maria Olazabal, Kevin Chappell, Dylan Frittelli

9:14 a.m./11:59 a.m. -- Bryson DeChambeau, Bernd Wiesberger, Matthew Fitzpatrick

9:25 a.m./12:10 p.m. -- Mark O'Meara, Brian Harman, Harry Ellis (a)

9:36 a.m./12:32 p.m. -- Vijay Singh, Satoshi Kodaira, Daniel Berger

9:47 a.m./12:43 p.m. -- Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Pat Perez, Francesco Molinari

9:58 a.m./12:54 p.m. -- Danny Willett, Kyle Stanley, Jason Dufner

10:09 a.m./1:05 p.m. -- Hideki Matsuyama, Patton Kizzire, Paul Casey

10:31 a.m./1:16 p.m. -- Zach Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Branden Grace

10:42 a.m./1:27 p.m. -- Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

10:53 a.m./1:38 p.m. -- Sergio Garcia, Justin Thomas, Doc Redman (a)

11:04 a.m./1:49 p.m. -- Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day

11:15 a.m./2 p.m. -- Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman, Adam Hadwin

11:26 a.m./8:30 a.m. -- Billy Horschel, Chez Reavie, Cameron Smith

11:37 a.m./8:41 a.m. -- Sandy Lyle, Si Woo Kim, Doug Ghim (a)

11:48 a.m./8:52 a.m. -- Trevor Immelman, Ian Poulter, Patrick Cantlay

11:59 a.m./9:03 a.m. -- Angel Cabrera, Ross Fisher, Jimmy Walker

12:10 p.m./9:14 a.m. -- Fred Couples, Haotong Li, Joaquin Niemann (a)

12:32 p.m./9:25 a.m. -- Larry Mize, Russell Henley, Shubhankar Sharma

12:43 p.m./9:36 a.m. -- Bernhard Langer, Tony Finau, Yuta Ikeda

12:54 p.m./9:47 a.m. -- Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Yuxin Lin (a)

1:05 p.m./9:58 a.m. -- Kevin Kisner, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

1:16 p.m./10:09 a.m. -- Gary Woodland, Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

1:27 p.m./10:31 a.m. -- Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar

1:38 p.m./10:42 a.m. -- Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

1:49 p.m./10:53 a.m. -- Jordan Spieth, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen

2:00 p.m./11:04 a.m. -- Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Rafa Cabrera Bello

Masters Tickets
Masters tickets are still available. Take a look at TicketCity.

Final Round Masters Broadcasts Since 1968 Are Now Available on YouTube

THE GREEN JACKET MEN HAVE OPENED the archive on the Masters final round broadcasts from 1968 to 2017.

Below are three examples. There are 40 in all.



Watch the final round of the 1986 Masters as 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus comes from behind to win his record sixth Masters by one stroke over Tom Kite and Greg Norman.



Watch the final round of the 1968 Masters as Bob Goalby defeats Roberto De Vicenzo by a single stroke after De Vicenzo signs an incorrect scorecard, giving him a 4 rather than a 3 on No. 17. (Though the original broadcast was in color, archival footage is in black and white.)



Watch the final round of the 1997 Masters and see Tiger Woods become the youngest champion in Masters history, also setting tournament records for 72-hole score and margin of victory.

Tuesday, April 3

A Magnificent Seven, Part 4: Leonard Thompson at the 1971 Q-School and His Life in Golf

Embed from Getty Images
Leonard Thompson at the 2002 Ford Senior Players Championship.

This is the third in a series on players from the 1971 Q-School. Read Part 1Part 2 and Part 3. Nearly a half century later John Coyne tracked down Allen Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Leonard Thompson, Sam Adams, John Mahaffey, Steve Melnyk and Spike Kelly. How had pro golf and life turned out for these seven men?

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


ANOTHER WAKE FOREST ALUMNUS AND MEMBER of the golf team to qualify at the 1971 Q-School was Leonard Thompson, who graduated in 1969, turned pro in '71, and played professional golf for 26 years on the PGA, National and Senior Tours.

Thompson had never seen PGA National Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, until he came to the final tournament of the qualifying school.

"I did, however, know most of the guys at the Q-School," Thompson said. "We had all been playing against each other from junior golf and into college. I knew how hard it would be to qualify when I got to National. But what I was happy about was that the tournament was six rounds, not just four. The longer we played, the better it would be for seasoned players.

"And when the wind started blowing, if you're a better player, you're going to be happy about that because it makes the course much more difficult."

What Leonard remembered most about the Q-School tournament was the final round. The players had learned after the fourth round that Joe Dey, Jr., the Commissioner of the PGA Tournament Players Division, had decided that only the low 23 and ties would qualify out of the 75 players in the tournament. Based on his early rounds, Leonard was safely inside that number. In fact, on the fifth day, he shot his low score for the tournament, a 71.

Then on the final day he was paired with his good friend, Bruce Fleisher.

"We were both in the middle of the fairway on eighteen," Thompson recalled. "I knew I would qualify if I could make better than 7. I looked over at Bruce, and I said, 'You're going to have to wait until I hit this ball.' I was so nervous. Bruce could see how nervous I was and nodded okay. I knew that if I could get the ball over the lake I could qualify. I had to hit the ball right away and I did. My ball landed on the edge of the green and I made par and made the cut by three shots."

After Q-School Leonard's first professional tournament was the Azalea Open at Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington, North Carolina. It was the tournament he had gone to as a child growing up in Laurinburg, North Carolina. He shot an opening round 66 and made $700. The next week he traveled to Hilton Head and qualified with a 72, never having seen the course. He made the cut and because he did he got to play the following week at the first Disney World International.

At that time players had to make at least $5,000 to keep their cards. Leonard had made $700 at Wilmington, $1000 at Hilton Head, and by finishing seventh at Disney another $4500. It was enough to qualify for two years on the PGA Tour.

The following week, traveling to Bahamas, he made the cut and that got him into the first tournament of 1972, the LA Open.

"And that's when I got a dose of reality," Leonard admitted.

"I missed the cut at LA, the Crosby and Tucson. For a month I was all over the place and I realized that this pro tour wasn't going to be a walk in the park."

Nevertheless, he would play on the tour until 1997, a total of 26 years. He would also play on the Senior Tour until he was 63. In fact, he played for 42 years as a professional. And in doing so, he would earn eight million dollars.

Over those years, he won three times on the PGA Tour and three times on the Senior Tour. And he won the Buick Open in 1989 when he was 42-years-old by birdieing three holes in a row on the back side and beating out Hal Sutton and Payne Stewart.

Thompson was one of the young players out of the Q-School who had sponsors in order to be able to play the tour. The four sponsors owned Possum Trot where he had worked.

After he won Jackie Gleason's Inverrary Classic, they all flew down to Lauderhill and when he finished talking to the press, they met him outside the tent and handed him an envelope, telling him to open it.

"Inside," said Leonard, "was my contract torn into pieces. They told me that they had only given me money to help me get started on the tour. First prize at the Inverrary was worth $52,000. It was like winning a quarter of a million dollar to me at the time."

Leonard, like many of the young guns in the early 1970s, also received help from others besides sponsors.

"Arnie used to tell me, 'Leonard, you need to smile more.' And I'd say to him, 'Some people don't smile.' I never was mad at anybody but I really had to think about what I was doing.

"And Dave Marr and Chris Schenkel, two great guys up in the broadcast booth, were constantly on me to wear my visor higher so they could see my face on television. I told them, if I did, I won’t be able to see."

Today Leonard does not see much difference between the generations of players. Yes, the equipment is better and the training is better. But as Leonard said, "Jack would have been Jack in whatever age he played in. Lanny would have been Lanny then and now. Watson would have been Watson."

And Leonard Thompson would have been the same Leonard Thompson that everyone liked on the PGA Tour.

TO BE CONTINUED.
John Coyne is a bestselling author whose most recent golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Saturday, March 31

A Magnificent Seven, Part 3: Lanny Wadkins at the 1971 Q-School and His Life in Golf

This is the third in a series on players from the 1971 Q-School. Read Part 1 and Part 2. Nearly a half century later John Coyne tracked down Allen Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Leonard Thompson, Sam Adams, John Mahaffey, Steve Melnyk and Spike Kelly. How had pro golf and life turned out for these seven men?

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


LANNY WADKINS WAS ONLY 21 when he arrived at the 1971 Q-School from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He had attended Wake Forest University and played on their golf team. Already he had a stellar record as an amateur having won the 1970 U.S. Amateur with a record 279 score and being the medalist in the Regional PGA Tryout at Winston-Salem that got him to Florida.

Wadkins won the 1977 PGA Championship.
He would tie for second low qualifier at the Q-School, having deliberately played conservatively for six rounds.

"In the last round of the tournament, for example, I played away from water," Wadkins said. "I played away from bunkers. It was a round of golf I had never played before in my life.

"I played very conservatively because I was determined not to screw up. I shot 74 and finished second. But we weren't playing for money. We weren't playing to win. We were playing to finish 23 or better and earn our PGA card."

The next week, with his tour card in hand, he went to Silverado for the PGA Tour event.

"I had a sponsor's exemption and I missed the cut, then I went to Las Vegas and finished 9th. I won $3,300.

"What I remember most about my first year on the tour was that I was close to broke. I didn't have any money.

"And I didn't want a sponsor. Then I played a couple more tournaments and made a thousand in one, a thousand in another. That kept me going.

"We played next at the very first Walt Disney World Golf Invitational. Jack won it and I tied Arnold Palmer for third. That I'll never forget. I won $8,850 and it was enough money to get me through the winter.

"And once I got through the winter and starting the season in '72 I had back-to-back second place finishes on the West Coast at the Bob Hope and Phoenix and from that time on I was okay."

Lanny's first win would be at the Sahara Invitational in 1972 when he finished a stroke ahead of Arnold Palmer. The connection to Palmer for Wadkins went back a long way. Lanny attended Wake Forest on a Palmer scholarship. And Lanny was close to Palmer all of the King's life.

Little did I know back in 1971, when I asked Lanny in the days immediately after he had claimed his tour card at the school to give his advice on how to play the long irons in my instruction book, Better Golf, that on the PGA Tour for the next 20 years he would be considered one of the greatest long-iron players of his day.

In the book, Lanny makes the point that "On the tour we have to hit a bunch of long irons. Those courses are long, and many times our second shots into the target need to be two-or three irons. And they never give us much to shoot at. Accuracy is a problem. Not only must we hit the three-irons, say 210 yards, but we have to draw it in on a string to a tiny target."

But, as Lanny and the other pros from the Q-School have said, with course changes and the ability to drive the ball well over three hundred yards, many of the tour players now only have a short iron into the green.

"The ball has changed the most," said Lanny, "more than the driver."

And while the new ball and new equipment have resulted in course records being broken, there is one tournament record set by Lanny that is still unbroken. He holds the record for Riviera, shooting 264 for 72 holes in 1985.

What has changed is Lanny's career. After winning 21 PGA Tour events, one Senior Tour event and having been on a record eight Ryder Cup teams, he gave up tournament golf to spend his time as a golf analyst, first for five years with CBS and since 2011 as the lead analyst for Golf Channel's Champions Tour coverage. 

What hasn't changed according to the pros from the Class of ;71 is the friendships among young players. Today these older pros are impressed at how close the friendships are among the current crop of "young guns" who follow each other on tour, giving support and congratulations to each other. 

"Only time will tell," summed up Lanny, "whether these guys, most of whom are from the high school class of 2011, are as good as our Q-School players that had multiple major champions like myself, Mahaffey, Watson and David Graham. But what is certain, these young players are great guys."

TO BE CONTINUED.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose most recent golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Wednesday, March 28

'The Art of Putting' By Paul Trevillion From Penguin Books

IN A WAY IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE that an acclaimed artist would write a book on putting. And that book on putting is aptly titled The Art of Putting, currently on sale in the United Kingdom and soon to be released in the United States.

Paul Trevillion (right) with British golf legend Neil Coles,
holding The Art of Putting.

My friend Paul Trevillion, the British sports artist, recently alerted me to this, his new book. The split-hand putting grip is in vogue and used by some of the world's best golfers on all the major tours, including winners and major champions such as Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Laura Davies and others.

But this 21st-century putting phenomenon has 20th-century origins. Trevillion perfected and touted the split-hand pencil putting grip in the 1970s.

"An artist never gets the yips," Trevillion says. "I aim at the hole and draw a straight line."

In fact, Trevillion toured the United States four decades ago and challenged anyone, including professionals, to a putting contest. "Sink 1,000 and and I will sink 1,001!"

I met Paul when I was writing my book, Draw in the Dunes, about the 1969 Ryder Cup. He and Peter Willis, who were both at Royal Birkdale in September 1969, were tremendous resources and helped bring the narrative alive.

Here's the cover of Trevillion's new book:


Watch below as Paul Trevillion gives a putting lesson featuring the split-hand grip 47 years ago.

Tuesday, March 27

Bubba IS the Man and a Masters Favorite (Despite His Denials)


FOR A MAN CLOSE TO HANGING up his pink-shafted driver and walking away from the game, Bubba Watson is doing OK. Actually, better than OK. Bubba followed his February win in LA with another victory this past week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

"I got off to a hot start and I'm just focused on golf," Watson told Golf Channel after dispatching Kevin Kisner 7&6 in the final. "So focused on committing to shots. About four or five shots for the week where I wasn't committed, where I kind of blanked out. So that's pretty good over 100-some holes we’ve played."

Those Bubba shots? They're back in the bag.

"You've got to have confidence in yourself, knowing that I can hit certain shots and do certain shots again. Getting the strength back to hit the hard bomb or the big slice off the tee. Things like that."

Plus there's the flatstick.

"And then making the putts. Like I said, I got a new putter. First week I used it was L.A. They took two putters and milled it together, or welded it together. Whatever you want to call it. So I'm using this putter that's two putters in one. It’s worked out perfectly and the stroke looks good."

But don't call the man with two recent wins and a pair of Masters titles a favorite heading to Augusta National ...



Masters Tickets

Yes, Masters tickets are available for every day of the week. Take a look at TicketCity.

Thursday, March 22

Golf on TV: WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, Kia Classic, Rapiscan Systems Classic, Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship



From a Golf Channel press release.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The PGA TOUR is in Austin for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The field of 64 is separated into 16 four-man groups competing in round-robin matches with 16 advancing to single-elimination matches this weekend. Shanshan Feng and Lexi Thompson lead the field at the Kia Classic in Southern California, as players utilize the event as a final tune-up for next week’s ANA Inspiration, professional golf’s first major in 2018. The PGA TOUR Champions are in Mississippi for the Rapiscan Systems Classic, where Miguel Angel Jimenez looks to win for the third consecutive year.

PGA TOUR

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
Dates: March 21-25
Venue: Austin Country Club, Austin, Texas

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Thursday         2-8 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-4:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              2-8 p.m. (Live) / 12:30-3:30 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern)
Saturday          2-6 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            3-7 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Match play format: The 64-man field has been divided into 16, four-man groups competing amongst one another in a round-robin format Wednesday-Friday, with each player in the field guaranteed to play at least three matches. The player in each group with the most points (1 point for a win, ½ point for a halved match) advances to single-elimination match play: round of 16 and quarterfinals on Saturday, and the semifinals and final on Sunday. The top-16 seeded players (based on World ranking) are the top seeds in their respective groups, while the remaining 48 players were divided into three groups (17-32, 33-48, 49-64) and placed through a blind draw on Monday night.
Johnson defends: World No. 1 Dustin Johnson defeated Jon Rahm 1up in the finals last year to earn his 15th PGA TOUR victory.
Headlining the field: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey.

LPGA TOUR

Kia Classic
Dates: March 22-25
Venue: Aviara Golf Club, Carlsbad, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)                                   
Thursday         8:30-10:30 p.m. (Tape delay) / 7-9 p.m. (Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Friday             8:30-10:30 p.m. (Tape delay) / 7-9 p.m. (Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Saturday          7-9 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            7-9 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Lee defends: Mirim Lee finished six shots clear of the field in 2017 to win her third LPGA Tour win.
Headlining the field: Shanshan Feng, Lexi Thompson, So Yeon Ryu, Ariya Jutanugarn, Anna Nordqvist, I.K. Kim, Inbee Park, Cristie Kerr, Brooke Henderson, Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

Rapiscan Systems Classic
Dates: March 23-25
Venue: Fallen Oak, Biloxi, Miss.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)                                   
Friday             10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Tape delay) / 4:30-6:30 p.m. (Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Saturday          5-7 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            5-7 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Jimenez defends: Miguel Angel Jimenez defeated Gene Sauers with a birdie on the first playoff hole to defend his 2016 title and earn his fourth PGA TOUR Champions win.
Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Colin Montgomerie, Vijay Singh, Tom Lehman, Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly, Kevin Sutherland and Rocco Mediate.

PGA TOUR

Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
Dates: March 22-25
Venue: Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominic Republic

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)                                   
Thursday         10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Friday             10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          2-5 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            2:30-5 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
New event: Previously staged as a Web.com Tour event, this week marks the first time that the PGA TOUR will stage an official event in the Dominican Republic.
Headlining the field: Tony Romo, Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Emiliano Grillo, Davis Love III, John Daly, Paul Dunne, Retief Goosen, K.J. Choi, Mike Weir and Angel Cabrera.

Wednesday, March 21

Rory-Tiger Putt VIDEO: 'I've Seen Tiger Make This Putt Enough Times to Know What It Does' –Rory McIlroy

No wonder that putt on 18 looked so familiar…

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on


RORY MCILROY ENDED A LONG DRY SPELL on the PGA Tour by shooting a 64 on Sunday to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by three shots. Suddenly the ball was rolling into the hole for the 28-year-old Northern Irishman.

When Justin Rose was asked about the last time he saw Rory putt like this, Rose said, "Never."

A Magnificent Seven, Part 2: Allen Miller at the 1971 Q-School and His Life in Golf

This is the second in a series on players from the 1971 Q-School. Read Part 1. Nearly a half century later John Coyne tracked down Allen Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Leonard Thompson, Sam Adams, John Mahaffey, Steve Melnyk and Spike Kelly. How had pro golf and life turned out for these seven men?

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


"I STILL HAVE YOUR BOOK," ALLEN MILLER confessed when I reached him by phone in Florida, where he was spending the winter.

Allen Miller
Allen today is the director with his wife Cindy, an LPGA professional (cindymillergolf.com), of Allen Miller Golf (allenmillergolf.com) in Silver Creek, New York. They are, in fact, the only married couple to have played on all four major tours—the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions and Legends Tour.

In 1971, however, Allen was only 23, and ranked the No. 2 amateur in the United States by Golf Digest.  He had come to the PGA Tour Qualifying School that year with 357 other players seeking to earn a spot on the 1972 PGA Tour and had reached the last stage of the competition. He was ready to play in the 72-hole final event at PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens.

All that mattered for Allen and the other young competitors was not their ranking as amateurs, but the next six rounds of golf, where not money, but their futures, were involved. If they didn't win one of the 23 spots, they would have to wait a year for another chance to make the tour.

"I came to Florida with a game plan," he said. "It was not to have any double bogeys."

He and Lanny Wadkins were considered the two best ball strikers in this crop of young players and Allen showed it the first day, shooting 69. Only Chuck Thorpe, from Detroit, was better. He shot 68 to lead the tournament.

Allen's opening 69 put him in a great position to earn his card, and on the fifth day of the tournament he shot 67, the low round of the tournament. "Still all that mattered," Allen remembered, was "get the card."

At the time, Allen recalled, "Our only goal then was to get out of college and get on the PGA Tour. That's all we thought about."

But once on the tour, it wasn't an easy life. They all had to qualify on Monday for each tour event until they made the cut. And the tour then did not have the grand paydays that it has today. While almost none of these players had endorsements, some, like Allen, did have sponsors who financed them.

"I had a couple businessmen from Delaware. They put up money for me to play. They covered my expenses and shared in my winnings. They were great guys. They helped me. In '71, it cost about $20,000 to play the tour for a year. But once you won, you were a life member; you couldn't lose your card. And you got at least a two-year exemption."

The first challenge for the new pros was to qualify on a Monday for that week's event, and then to win a tournament. Allen's first win came at the 1974 Tallahassee Open. He shot 274, 14-under par and earned $18,000. It was his only win on tour.

In his 15th year on tour he lost his playing rights.

"That year, our second child was born and I was preoccupied with that birth. I didn't qualify and I said, 'That’s it. I'm done.'"

Having played in five Masters, as well as the U.S. Open, his tour career spanned 15 years and he officially retired in 1986 to teach full time. He was in his mid-thirties.

"I had to go to Buffalo to find a teaching job and that was at a driving range.

"I was there for the summer. I have been teaching in Buffalo for some 30 some years. We don't teach in private clubs, but at a public driving range and a golf dome."


Allen and Cindy have their own lesson business and are associated with The Golf Channel Academy.

Cindy is a veteran of five U.S. Women's Opens and plays today on the Legends Tour when she isn’t teaching. She is perhaps the best known of the two teaching Millers for her appearance on the Golf Channel's reality series The Big Break III: Ladies Only in 2005.

I asked Allen how golf had changed on the tour, with new golf equipment, golf course conditions and better techniques.

"Well the modern swing was around when I started. Swings go in cycles. Pros are hitting the ball 30 to 35 yards longer, courses are dryer and the ball is better and it rolls farther. But it is like trying to compare cars from the different decades, or comparing gravel roads and super highways. I'd say most greens are perfect now. We didn't have them in our days. Augusta National was great…now they have perfect greens. Modernization is everything. But there were good players in my days, and there are good players today.

"What has changed is prize money. In 1975 I finished 15th at the Masters and won $2,800. Even counting inflation, you can't compare the prize money of today to what we earned in the early 1970s.

"One thing that hasn't changed is the relationships of touring pros. We were all good friends coming out of the PGA School in 1971, and we stayed friends over the years, traveled together in caravans from tournament to tournament, helped each other. Today, my daughter, who works for the Golf Channel, tells me that most of the young pros are really nice kids.

"That's golf for you. It brings out the best in people."

TO BE CONTINUED.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose most recent golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.