Wednesday, November 26

Friday Foursome With Neil Sagebiel From ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG

LAST FRIDAY I WAS THE GUEST on Friday Foursome, a popular weekly hangout of the Google+ Golf Community. Thanks to host Ricky Potts and Friday Foursome regulars Les Bailey and Jason Boslow for having me on the show.

If you're curious about how ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG got started and led to a pair of golf books, you might enjoy listening. I was also asked about what's wrong with the U.S. Ryder Cup team and the state of golf, among other topics.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Tuesday, November 25

Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 4

In the continuation of this series, you'll learn more about Fred Hawkins and his experiences with golf legend Ben Hogan. Read Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

WHEN FRED HAWKINS TOOK A BREAK from the PGA Tour, or was preparing to go back out there, he often practiced with the most feared player on the circuit—Ben Hogan.

Fred Hawkins and Ben Hogan
at Colonial in 1959.
“I played a number of practice rounds with [Hogan],” Hawkins said, “because I lived in El Paso at that time, when he wasn’t playing very often. And he’d always ask me to come down to Fort Worth a couple of days early so he’d get a little competition [and] practice that way. And we’d play $5 Nassau, a normal game back in those days. It doesn’t sound like much now, but it was a pretty good game.”

Hawkins held his own against the legend.

“I beat him a lot of times,” Hawkins said. “He liked to have some competition before the tournament.”

Hogan was always tinkering, according to Hawkins, as was most everybody else who played golf for a living.

“Nobody gets their game going a certain way and says now I have it. I’m playing this way from now on. That doesn’t happen, if you really know anything about golf. The top players are making continuous adjustments. They may get it for a few days or weeks, and hold on to it even a little longer than that, where everything is working nice. And all of a sudden, nothing is working out right. You’re still trying to do the same things, but you’re not. 

“That’s why some of these coaches are quite an advantage to the modern day players. We never had them.

“But Hogan was always trying out something different. It sounds stupid to say that for a guy of his caliber, but that’s just the nature of the game. Everybody is making adjustments all the time.

“If they get something that will work good for a week, that’s part of the reason why you have so many different winners each week. That, plus the fact you can hit good shots and they may not work out well. Good shots may be going too far or too short, particularly back in those days.”

* * *

Golf courses were also vastly different in those earlier days.

“As much change as there’s been with the equipment in golf,” Hawkins said, “there’s probably been just as huge of an improvement in the condition of the courses—outside of playing occasionally good courses for the National Open, but even their fairways weren’t like they are today at all. The ball would nestle down in.”

Gauging distance was guesswork. The game was played by intuition and feel.

“The bulk of our tournaments that we played on the regular tour, they used to have signs, 150 yards, 100 yards. They took all those signs out before the tournament. There weren’t sprinkler heads marked for distance. Until Jack Nicklaus came along and started stepping off all his shots and distances, the game was entirely different. The fairways generally were not very good and neither were the greens for the bulk of our tournaments.”

Next time: More practice banter about Ben Hogan.

Other Installments:
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 1
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 2
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 3

Monday, November 24

Crooner and Golfer Bing Crosby Coming to PBS

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered premieres on Tuesday, December 2 at 8 p.m. (check local listings).

Crosby was an avid golfer and is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. In 1937, he hosted the first National Pro-Am Golf Championship (a.k.a. the 'Crosby Clambake'), which is today's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

The documentary features new interviews with Bing's son Nathaniel Crosby, who has an active career in the golf business, won the U.S. Amateur championship in 1981, and hosted and ran the Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournament after his father's death for several years. Nathaniel Crosby is also the former president of Nicklaus Golf and is currently pursuing a project that will cater to affluent golf connoisseurs.

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered explores the life and legend of this iconic entertainer through never-before-seen footage and interviews with his immediate family, Tony Bennett, Michael Feinstein and others. Narrated by Stanley Tucci, this new documentary reveals a man far more complex than his public persona.

Lydia Ko Grabs Title and $1.5 Million

Lydia Ko
LYDIA KO, THE 17-YEAR-OLD PHENOM from New Zealand, made the biggest haul in the history of women's golf on Sunday, a $1.5 million payout from winning both the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship and topping the season-long Race to the CME Globe.

Ko fired a 68 in the final round and then dispatched Julieta Granada and Carlota Ciganda in a playoff.

The million-dollar bonus for winning the "Race" got Ko's attention.

"When I saw that $1 million in the box," she said, "I was like, 'Wow, I wonder who the winner of that will be?' It's amazing. I've never seen that much cash in one place before.

"This year has been awesome. Three wins, Rookie of the Year, it's a huge honor for me to be here in this position. I'm looking forward to what's coming up next year."

Currently ranked No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings, Ko has yet to miss a cut in 42 starts on the LPGA Tour and now has five career victories, two coming as an amateur.

It was also a great year for Stacy Lewis, who finished second in the Race to CME Globe. The world No. 2-ranked Lewis won three LPGA titles in 2014 and took home Rolex Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy (awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average) and the LPGA money title.

"That’s what I came here for," Lewis said. "I went into the week wanting to win these three awards. The $1 million and all would’ve been nice, but I would take these three over $1 million any day."

Lewis is the first American player to sweep the three honors since Betsy King did it in 1993. Yani Tseng, in 2011, was the last player to pull off the triple.

Friday, November 21

Charlie Sifford: 'I Was Made for a Tough Life'

Charlie Sifford will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 24. The following is from the archives.

I knew what I was getting into when I chose golf. Hell, I knew I'd never get rich and famous. All the discrimination, the not being able to play where I deserved and wanted to play — in the end I didn't give a damn. I was made for a tough life, because I'm a tough man. And in the end I won; I got a lot of black people playing golf. That's good enough. If I had to do it over again, exactly the same way, I would.
− Charlie Sifford, Golf Digest, December 2006

A BLACK CADDIE FROM A POOR FAMILY in Charlotte, North Carolina, Charlie Sifford dared to play professional golf with white men. It was not a friendly game for Charlie. He endured open heckling, insults and who knows what else.

But someone had to go first, so the resolute Sifford embarked on the PGA Tour in the 1960s and scratched out a living, including wins at the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 Los Angeles Open. In 2004 Charlie Sifford was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

I saw Charlie three times last year (2007), in Savannah, Hickory (North Carolina) and Baltimore. Twice I shook his hand and once I spoke with him. Charlie was stroking putts on the practice putting green at the Senior Players Championship in Baltimore last September. It’s a rare opportunity to talk to the Jackie Robinson of a sport, and I took it.

“How are you doing, Charlie?” I asked.

Charlie had a heart problem that prevented him from playing golf, but he wasn’t about to miss a Grand Champions event, an ambassador of sorts riding around in a cart and swapping stories in the dining room. I can’t remember our conversation exactly, except that he was getting along OK and hoped his doctor would clear him soon to play golf again.

I do remember it was just the two of us on that putting green on a bright September morning. I felt lucky to be in the presence of a true pioneer.

Thursday, November 20

Golf on TV: CME Group Tour Championship, DP World Tour Championship, Australian Masters

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

The LPGA Tour concludes its 2014 season with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, as the top-nine players in the season-long Race to the CME Globe points standings have an opportunity to win the $1 million bonus prize at week’s end. The top-three in the standings, Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko control their fate, as they are guaranteed to win the title with a victory this week.

The European Tour also wraps up its 2014 season with the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. While World No. 1 Rory McIlroy has already clinched the Race to Dubai title, the top-15 in the standings at week’s end will split a $5 million bonus pool, with $1.25 million going to McIlroy.

Adam Scott will attempt to win a record third-consecutive Australian Masters, after successfully defending his 2012 title in last year’s PGA Tour Australasia event.

* * *


CME Group Tour Championship
Dates: Nov. 20-23
Venue: Tiburon Golf Club (Gold Course), Naples, Fla.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         1:30-4 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-7 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              1:30-4 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-7 p.m. (Replay)            
Saturday          1:30-4 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-7 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1:30-4 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-7 p.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

Feng defends: Shanshan Feng finished one shot clear of Gerina Piller for her third career LPGA Tour win.

Headlining the field: Race to the CME Globe top-nine (those eligible to win the $1 million prize): 1. Stacy Lewis; 2. Inbee Park; 3. Lydia Ko; 4. Michelle Wie; 5. So Yeon Ryu; 6. Shanshan Feng; 7. Anna Nordqvist; 8. Chella Choi; 9. Karrie Webb.

* * *


DP World Tour Championship
Dates: Nov. 20-23
Venue: Jumeirah Golf Estates (Earth Course), Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         3-8 a.m. (Live) / 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              3-8 a.m. (Live) / 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday          3-8 a.m. (Live) / 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            2:30-7:30 a.m. (Live) / 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

Stenson defends: Henrik Stenson won by six strokes over Ian Poulter for his eighth career European Tour victory, wrapping up the season-long Race to Dubai title and in doing so became the first player to win both the Race to Dubai and the FedExCup in the same year.

Headlining the field: Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Graeme McDowell and Marcel Siem.

* * *

PGA TOUR Australasia

Australian Masters
Dates: Nov. 19-22
Venue: Metropolitan Golf Club, South Oakleigh, Australia

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Wednesday     9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Live)
Thursday         9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Live)
Friday              9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Live)
Saturday          9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Scott defends: Adam Scott finished two shots ahead of Matt Kuchar to successfully defend his 2012 title.

Headlining the field: Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Stuart Appleby, Greg Chalmers, Robert Allenby, Daniel Popovic, Michael Sim, Craig Perry, Peter Lonard and Nick O’Hern.

Wednesday, November 19

Lucas Cohen Wants to Turn Every Kid Into a Player

PGA professional Lucas Cohen is passionate about teaching golf to kids.
By John Coyne

Text and images copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

STANDING ON A SLIGHT RISE in front of the pro shop at New York Golf Park and gazing the length of the driving range, landscaped with yardage markers and scattered golf balls, I can see a handful of thoroughbreds grazing in the bright fall sunlight.

This is Columbia County, New York, and this 10-acre golf park is wedged between farmland and apple orchards. The only sound to disturb the rural setting is the whacking of practice balls. That, plus the steady cadence of instructions from the driving range pro, Lucas Cohen, who is pacing the swing stalls, offering encouragement and advice to a dozen students, all members of the fledgling golf team of the local Hudson County high school.

Lucas has taken on himself the task of bringing par golf to teenagers more comfortable with plows and  pitchforks than 5-irons. This is his fall semester gig, golf coach to the local high school team. In the long summer months, he also provides free instruction to all the county kids if they are (or not) big enough to safely swing a club. Not only does he teach the boys and girls how to play the game, he also instructs them on the Rules of Golf. (Next he’ll be making them take the SATs of golf!)

Lucas, who was born within walking distance of this converted farm field, spent his teenage years in Florida where he learned the game and graduated from Santa Fe College in Gainesville. He still returns to Florida every winter when he works with the pro who first mentored him in the game. It was in Florida, after he graduated from college, that he turned his attention full time to golf and worked his way up through the lengthy accreditation process to become a certified PGA professional.

Creating a Golf Park and Golf Academy

New York Golf Park in rural Columbia County.
Built like Sam Snead with the personality of a Jimmy Demaret, he knew early on in his life that he was better suited as an entrepreneur than a country club pro, and went looking for a place of his own. He found one in rural Columbia County.

On a visit to the state in 2008 he drove by a vacant driving range and decided to come home again to New York.

It took him until 2011 before he could cement the purchase of the range. Then with help of childhood friends, he created New York Golf Park and his Start to Finish Golf Academy, installing two synthetic putting greens, a 5000 square foot natural grass tee, several target greens, and acres of open fairway stretching to the horse farm. 

In addition to the driving range, Lucas also has a new 19-hole miniature golf course, batting cages, and a pro shop for the players. There is room (and sports) for the whole family!

Besides free Saturday morning lessons, he offers summer long golf camps for boys and girls and fits in lessons for adults most other days of the week. 

Lucas Cohen has a well-stocked pro shop.
In an area of upstate New York where there is only one private course, few public ones, and fewer golf lessons, Lucas Cohen and his New York Golf Park are a welcome addition for the aficionados of the game. But what makes Cohen an appreciated hometown boy is his devotion to the young people of the nearby small towns. He wants to turn everyone into a player.

While the USGA and the PGA are scratching their heads about how to get young people into the sport and grow the game, Cohen is doing something about it every summer week in Columbia County. 

On the last Saturday morning of the summer, when I was working on my woods, I saw that the teenager golfers were growing weary and losing interest in practice until Lucas stepped up to the tee, told his students to "watch this" and then went through his deliberate pre-shot routine, picked out his target, and unleashed a high powering drive that brought oohs and aahs from the kids and revived their interest in the sport.

Out at the far end of the range, 300-plus yards from the tee, even the horses took notice. They, too, recognized a thoroughbred, not a race horse, but a seasoned PGA professional.

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

Monday, November 17

Golf Digest: Geoff Ogilvy on Those Three-Footers and More

Geoff Ogilvy
LIKE HIM OR NOT, GEOFF OGILVY has often come across as thoughtful and unfiltered. In the December 2014 "My Shot," Ogilvy, tagged "The Thinker," covered a lot of ground. Following are three hand-picked excerpts.

On three-foot par putts:
STUBBORNNESS AND DETERMINATION really come into play on the three-foot putt for par. But when you face 50 of them a week in competition for six straight weeks, they begin to erode you. Over the course of a 30-year career, they beat you up. I don't take them lightly, even in practice, because I don't want to form bad habits. So I grind over every one of them. I yearn for the day when I retire and play friendly games with my mates, and when I don't like the look of a certain three-footer, just raking it away and walking to the next tee. That is true freedom.
On the state of golf writing:
GOLF WRITING on the whole isn't as enjoyable as it once was. I love reading Bobby Jones' books, and it's a shame there's nothing like them being put out today. There are few masters of the craft left. Literary geniuses like Tom Callahan are disappearing because there are fewer platforms for them. Golf books, save for instruction titles, don't sell well, so writers are less motivated to develop that literary ability. It's all very fast. And let's face it, there are fewer golf legends to write about. The Internet has made it impossible for a mysterious person like Ben Hogan to exist.
And the best ball striker on tour?
SERGIO GARCIA has gone from being merely a superb ball-striker to being the best in the game. Sergio has always been a "flusher," someone who hits it solid. But today he plays golf utterly the way it was meant to be played, drawing or fading the ball at will, probably the way Hogan did it.
Read "The Thinker" at